With the oldest known human presence in Athens being the Cave of Schist dating somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BCE it has been continuously inhabited in some form or another for at least 7000 years and by the middle of the 2nd millennium would become an important centre to the Mycenaean civilization whose fortress originally sat upon the Acropolis – evidence of which can still be found among sections of the characteristic Cyclopean walls employed during their reign. Some debate remains as to whether Athens suffered destruction around 1200 BCE during a Dorian invasion, but it like many other Bronze Age settlements went into economic decline during this period and would remain so for approximately 150 years. While the city would resurface around 900 BCE to again become a leading centre for trade and prosperity in the region it would still be plagued by widespread social unrest in the sixth century which would led to the Solon reforms and the eventual introduction of democracy by Cleisthenes in 508 BCE.
Thanks to its central location in the Greek world and access to the sea Athens became a significant naval power and a prominent player in the region helping the Ionian cities in their rebellion against the Persian Empire. In the ensuing Greco-Persian Wars that followed, Athens in concert with their longtime rival Sparta led a coalition of Greek states to victory. The decades which followed became known as the Golden Age of Athenian democracy with Athens going on to become the cultural centre of the Ancient Greek world as playwrights like Sophocles and historians like Herodotus flourished while philosophers like Socrates debated one another. It was during this period that Pericles guided the city upon the ambitious construction of the Parthenon. Unfortunately their decision to use the Delian League originally intended to protect the Greek coaltion against further Persian incursions instead for their own imperial ambitions, sparked the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE) and saw their defeat at Sparta’s hands.
However unlike their prior decline it would take over a millennium before it would return to relatively prosperity, but even that would be short lived with the 1458 CE arrival of the Ottoman Empire. With the return of Independence in 1834 Athens would be chosen as the capital of the newly independent Greek state and the first steps toward the city we’re familiar with today as the Neoclassicism architecture style popular at the time was introduced to the burgeoning capital. By century’s end it would host the first modern Olympic games. But despite all of this true growth in the population wouldn’t occur until the decades following World War II. Unfortunately such expansion brought unexpected challenges like ever increasing levels of pollution as the use of factories and cars expanded, thankfully measures taken during the 1990s to address the congestion have considerably alleviated the smog and helped transform Athens into a much more functional city.