Olympic Games
The Polis


Prehistoric Athens is not to compare with the size of Athens of today, the same as for all ancient cities. Around 600 BC Athens had 15000 Inhabitants in the whole catchment's area, the district of Attica had around 150.000 Inhabitants. Most of them were farmers occupied with agriculture and settled down all along the coast of Attica. The area of Attica at this time come to a size around 2600km2.

Beforer 600 BC Athens was ruled by individual rich noble families, who were only interested in maintaining and enlarging their power (Tyrants). Around 600 BC, through impoverishment of the general middle class and social and economical changes, the demand for fundamental changes came about. In this situation 594 BC, the Athenian Solon got elected as the head of the government and came up with a plan to change this miserable circumstances.

His plan was a new distribution structure of the political rights and duties. The standard of the political participation shouldn't be longer the origin of everyone's (till now just noble could vote), but the fortune of everyone's. The Inhabitant of Athens got classified in four financial groups, depending on their income. For sure this wasn't a democracy, even if its said later that Solon is the founder of it. The national assembly (ekklesia)and the People's Court (helia) were from now on accessible for everybody. The elections for the council of 400 was still depending of the income.

The different financial groups of Solon (Medimen) got classified by yield and the resulting income.

  • Pentakosiomedimnoi (500 Scheffler)

  • Hippeis (Rider in the army im Heer, more than 300 Scheffler)

  • Zengitai (Soldier, more than 200 Scheffler)

  • Thetes ( Worker, under 200 Scheffler)
    (Scheffler was the usual unity of this time)

The names also show the position in the army.

Many things got subjugated  to new rules. Some were completely new, some remained the same and others got adapted.  The important was, that all this rules were written down and got published, so that everybody could refer to it. And still it wasn't a democracy but at least non noble people, even if they were just rich people, had access to politics.

That this new freedom wasn't accepted that well especially of noble families is quite normal and in the first part of the 6 century Athens run danger to get lost in chaos and anarchy because of fights between those families.
So it happened  that 546 BC the Tyrant Peisistrades took over the ruler ship. He kept the spirit of Solon and gave priorities to the identification of the people with Athens. Sport festivals and cultural celebrations should make stronger the feeling of belonging together. The Tyrant formed the city to the cultural center Attica's. It was a peaceful ruler ship and violent clashes were missing. Athens experience an upswing in commerce, craft and business. New Technologies in treatment with vases, a lot of export of wine and olive oil, and a clever way of economical politics were responsible for this. But for a longer duration the people were not satisfied anymore with the political restrictions. Also however supported through the achieved prosperity, of the last years.
In 528/27 BC Peisistratos died and the power passed to his son Hipparchos.

The change came 514 BC with the assassination of Peisistratiden Hipparchos from the Athenian Harmodios and Aristogeiton. As a result, his brother Hippias increase the tyranny and introduce stronger punishments. Now even the noble families opposed against him and asked Kleomees I, King of Sparta for help. These forced him 510 BC to leave the city and helped 508 BC Isagoras to take the ruler ship.

He wanted to re-establish the old noble political system. His opponent Kleisthenes, of the gender of the Alkmaioniden demanded extensive new regulation and general participation in politics for all citizen. Once again with the help of  Sparta it succeeded to push Kleisthenes and his followers out of the city. As a result a armed rebellion came up and once again Kleisthenes took over the political power of Athens.

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