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The early years

According to mythology, the name Athens springs from an ancient rivalry between the gods Poseidon and Athena for the guardianship of the city.

Poseidon offered the Athenians a salt water spring or a horse, while Athena gave them an olive tree. The Athenians preferred the olive tree, which symbolized peace and prosperity, and the city was named after Athena. The first permanent settlements in Athens were established on the north and south slope of the Acropolis. The high ground of this natural citadel was the ideal location for the first inhabitants to settle because it offered them protection as well as access to spring water.

The early settlements were gradually transformed, during the Bronze Age, into a Mycenaean city with dwellings on the Acropolis, the Hill of the Muses (Philopappou Hill), around the Olympion and the Agora site. The rise of a city brought the first in a series of fortifications in Athens’s winding history. Parts of the Pelasgian wall, erected on the Acropolis in the 13th century BC, the first in a long line of defensive structures that were built and sacked over the city’s long history, can still be seen today.

From the 11th century BC onwards, the Acropolis assumed its enduring role as sanctuary while the city began to take shape: a number of public buildings specifically designed for administrative, political and commercial activities, were raised. The majority of the population still lived in overcrowded, mostly unplanned neighbourhoods that stretched between the Hill of the Nymphs and Pnyx Hill but the idea of the Agora as a focal point in public life gained momentum.

Contact Details

Athens Development and

Destination Agency


Xenofontos 7, 105 57

Athens, Greece


+30 210 32 53 123

+30 210 52 01 611

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