Located in Greece, Athens would have been a short walk from the fertile crescent. We know that a lot of early civilization, the development of grain crops and animal husbandry happened 10,000 years ago in the two rivers region that drained into the Persian Gulf. There are a lot of rivers in the region, but the ancient lore of the Tigris and the Euphrates combined with a Persian Gulf where ocean levels slowly rose combined to create a great marsh region that made irrigation easier and supported a large population of early civilization.
There are always people coming and going. Humans that migrated north could cross Turkey and find themselves in modern Istanbul. In today’s world, Istanbul is on two continents, with part of the city connected to Turkey and the Middle East, and the other side connected to Europe, still a part of Turkey. It is thought that the land bridge that separated the two sides of Istanbul broke around 5,600 BC and the Black Sea region flooded with water from the Mediterranean Sea.
In 1997 a bunch of nutty professors from Columbia studied the Bosporus Straight and came up with the idea that the Black Sea flooded in a kind of recent time. They proposed that over the course of 300 days, the sea flowed into the valley of the region now under the Black Sea and they first said they thought this happened 7,200 years ago.
At any rate, the people that were crossing the land bridge had crossed into Greece, where human remains have been found that are 7,000 years old, even older. Scientists study the Cave of Schist, where also they think some of the evidence could be 11,000 years old. It could be that heavy rains tended to wash stuff into the cave, and a great deal of evidence is found from all over the valley near that cave. While everybody looks at the Acropolis when they visit Athens, some overlook the fact that below that hill lies an interesting geology of what is called tectonic caves.
The cave network in a schist region collects a lot of rainwater. Rain washes evidence of civilization down hill. But more recent civilization is also documented about Athens. After 2,000 BC the area was dominated by the Mycenae and they were always fighting with the Dorians and the Ionians. In the end, the Ionians must have gotten the upper hand, as later the Athenians referred to themselves as ‘true Ionians’ and we know that history is always written by the victors.
Socrates, of Bill and Ted fame, was born is 470 BC and lived until he was around 70 years old. According to legend, Socrates met his end when he drank poison, his sentence at trial for saying nice things about Sparta. The conflict had come about as the Athenian culture fought with themselves about a sustainable form of government. Socrates had talked about the positive things in democracy. It is widely thought that two crimes were identified, corrupting the minds of the youth and impiety. The impiety charge might indicate that a clique of holy men were behind the charges and ultimate execution.
So Socrates drank Hemlock and died. Some still argue as to whether he committed suicide or was sentenced to death. But we still have the Socratic Method, which was adopted by Plato, as Plato did the most to document the life and death of Socrates. Plato, it might be argued, was the first great journalist, using the tools of written language for the first time to write about stuff without a big holy bend to the story.
Plato and Socrates developed the dialectic method of asking questions to figure out moral underpinnings to situations. In the ancient world the notions of right and wrong had more to do what the powerful man said to do than it did any sense of morality.
The Gods of ancient Greece were Athena, Poseidon, Hermes, Zeus, Aphrodite, Hera, Artemis and several others. They did not hand down a written morality, as we might see in contemporary Hebrew culture of the first millennium BC. In this way, we see that like pyramids, we have different cultures hurtling towards the same things while worlds apart.