The history of Athens affords the most striking illustration of the different revolutions of which we have been speaking.
Little is known of Athens before the age of Solon. Its legendary tales are few, its historical facts still fewer. Cecrops, the first ruler of Attica, is said to have divided the country into twelve districts, which are represented as independent communities, each governed by a separate king. They were afterwards united into a single state, having Athens as its capital and the seat of government. At what time this important union was effected cannot be determined; but it is ascribed to Theseus, as the national hero of the Athenian people.
A few generations after Theseus, the Dorians are said to have invaded Attica. An oracle declared that they would be victorious if they spared the life of the Athenian King; whereupon Codrus, who then reigned at Athens, resolved to sacrifice himself for the welfare of his country. Accordingly he went into the invaders' camp in disguise, provoked a quarrel with one of the Dorian soldiers and was killed by the latter. Upon learning the death of the Athenian king, the Dorians retired from Attica without striking a blow: and the Athenians, from respect to the memory of Codrus, abolished the title of king, and substituted for it that of Archon or Ruler. The office, however, was held for life, and was confined to the family of Codrus. His son Medon was the first archon, and he was followed in the dignity by eleven members of the family in succession. But soon after the accession Alcmaeon, the thirteenth in descent from Medon, another change was introduced, and the duration of the archonship was limited to ten years (B.C. 752). The dignity was still confined to the descendants of Medon; but in the time of Hippomenes (B.C. 714) this restriction was removed, and the office was thrown open to all the nobles in the state. In B.C. 683 a still more important change took place. The archonship was now made annual, and its duties were distributed among nine persons, all of whom bore the title. The last of the decennial archons was Eryxias, the first of the nine annual archons Creon.