A view of the Parthenon from The Greeks documentary
A view of the Parthenon from The Greeks documentary

In the year 507, Athens shook under an extraordinary event.

As the reformer Cleisthenes agonised in exile with the 700 families called 'The Accursed', his arch-enemy and current ruler of Athens, Isagoras, continued to dismantle the last vestiges of the city's traditional government with the help of his Spartan allies.

Neither man had quite realised the power or feelings of the ordinary Athenians. So when a riot turned into a full-scale revolt both leaders were taken by surprise.

For two days and nights, people who they had always considered their inferiors trapped Isagoras and his Spartan allies on the Acropolis. Unprepared and overwhelmed by the united opposition against them, they were forced to agree to a humiliating truce. The Spartans left Athens, while Isagoras' allies were executed. The would-be tyrant somehow managed to escape.

It was a new dawn for Athens. The ordinary Athenians had rescued their city and seized power for themselves. Now they turned to the man whose unique experience and disappointments had helped give them a new vision of themselves.

Cleisthenes was recalled from exile and asked to build the world's first government of the people - the demos - a system of government we now know as democracy.