Sacrality and the Greek Polis

RMA Dissertations

Athenian Synoecism

Cults, Myths, and the Elite in Sixth-Century Attica

Lin Kragset

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When we speak about Ancient Athens today, it is generally understood to mean the city of Athens and her countryside – the geographical area known as the Attic peninsula. However, this area is remarkably large for a unitary city-state in Ancient Greece. In fact, it could easily have supported several independent poleis, which would have remained relatively shielded from one another by natural borders in the Attic landscape. Moreover, archaeological excavations have revealed that Attica did, in fact, contain several independent settlements in the Bronze Age. The Athenians themselves also recognized this fact. Their synoecism myth told how the independent poleis of Attica were united by Theseus at some point in the legendary past. Many scholars have gone looking for the specific moment in time when Attica was incorporated into the Athenian city-state. However, though it is certainly clear that by the fifth century the inhabitants of Attica were all considered and called Athenians, all expected to fulfil the same civic duties and embodied with the same civic rights, the synoecism of Attica has been placed variously between the twelfth century and the sixth. In this thesis, I have followed in the footsteps of these scholars, and my research question asks when exactly the Attic peninsula became politically united and centred upon Athens, and how such a unification came about.