Traces of human occupation are attested from the Neolithic on the site of the Acropolis (see Pélasges). But it was only after the Ionian invasions that Attica was organized into cities, including Cecropia, the future Athens.
Athens was formally founded around 800 BC by the synoecism of several villages, partially preserved by the invasion of the Dorians. In doing so, taking advantage of the natural fortress of the Acropolis, they were able to resist the hordes of looters who terrorized the region. The plural of the word Athens, according to Thucydides, is a trace of the ancient villages that merged to found the city. According to legend, it was the hero Theseus, destroyer of the Minotaur, who led this unification of Attica.
Athens was one of the dominant cities in Greece during the 1st millennium BC. Its golden age was reached under Pericles, in the 5th century BC. J.-C., where its domination was at the same time political, financial (thanks to the silver mines of Laurion and the tribute), military and cultural. It was at this time that Athens was called the "capital (ἄστυ [astu]) of Greece" (Isocrates). Quickly, Athens transformed the league of Delos into a real empire which was dissolved at the end of the Peloponnesian War which opposed it to Sparta.
The philosopher Aristotle born in 384 BC. J.-C. participated a lot in the intellectual life of Athens in particular thanks to his book Politics where he criticized the Athenian democracy.
The Battle of Chaeronea won in 338 BC. J. - C. by Philippe II brought Athens into the new Macedonian empire. The city, which remained the great center of Greek civilization, benefited until the 2nd century BC. new developments and embellishment works carried out under the leadership of Lycurgus. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. J.-C. and the division of the Macedonian empire, the city, still under the domination of the kings of Macedonia, sinks into oblivion.
Conquered by the Roman Sylla, in 86 BC. AD, Athens lost its ramparts and its political role but nevertheless remained a real intellectual beacon thanks to the pax romana that was established. Seduced by the Athenian culture and art of living, the Romans copied its works of art and customs and never ceased to embellish the city:the Tower of the Winds, the temple of Rome and Augustus on the Acropolis , the Roman agora, the Odeon theater in the old agora are among the monuments built at this time. Around the year 1, the city thus had about 300,000 inhabitants.
From 53, the sermons of Saint Paul before the Areopagus gave only a weak echo to Christianity in Athens; he succeeded, however, in converting a member of the venerable tribunal, Dionysius the Areopagite or Dyonisius, and a woman Damaris (original text Acts chapter 17:33,34). Later, the Emperor Hadrian (117-138), particularly attached to Greece, continued the urban planning works of his predecessors:the library that bears his name, the Olympion (temple of Zeus), a gigantic marble stadium located beyond the Ilissos, new roads and aqueducts were built during his reign.