The golden age of Athens

Szabo Gabor By Szabo Gabor, 13th Nov 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

Why was Athens a cultural centre in the Antiquity?

Famous people

Fifth century BC Athens was one of the first societies to have a golden age. Philosophy, or literally the ‘search for truth', was born with philosophers like Protagoras, Socrates and Plato. Hippocrates, 'the father of medicine', the historian Herodotus and others began the systematic study of the world. With the playwrights Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides came the birth of serious drama in western culture, attracting thousands to see their masterful tragedies and comedies. Sculpture and painting both flourished and a great programme of public building was undertaken, culminating in the magnificent temple of the Parthenon.

The reason

Why did this all happen in Athens and not somewhere else? To start with, Athens could afford it. The city state of Athens was the greatest trading centre in the Mediterranean with an empire which provided plentiful food and other goods. Rich Athenian citizens had plenty of time for leisure and culture as most of the work in the city was done by slaves and much of the business and trade conducted by 'metics' or foreigners. Many of these foreigners, such as Herodotus, were drawn to the cultural magnet of Athens and played a vital role in the cultural life of the city.


Socially, Athens was in a period of transition between a conservative, aristocratic society and an urban, commercial society in which citizens were equal by law. Athens became the first direct democracy in history where major political decisions were taken by large numbers of citizens. At the same time, Athenian society was moving awav from the old beliefs in the gods and ancient myths towards values based on rationality and a belief in human nature


Ancient, Ancient Civilizations, Ancient World, Athens, Culture, Philosophy, Society, Twittley

Meet the author

author avatar Szabo Gabor
I like reading, writing and sharing interesting articles. My favourite topics: environment, animals, plants, science, technology, useful tips and mysteries. Now I’m learning natural science at the university.

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