What Was the Population of Athens in Ancient Greece?

Athens, the capital city of Greece, is known for its ancient history and rich culture. One of the most interesting aspects of this city is its population during ancient times.

The population of Athens in ancient Greece was a topic of great debate among historians and scholars. While there is no clear consensus on the exact number, there are several estimates that can give us an idea of what the population may have been like.

Estimates of Athens’ Population in Ancient Greece

One estimate suggests that the population of Athens during the 5th century BCE was around 250,000 people. This number included both citizens and non-citizens.

Citizens were individuals who were born in Athens to Athenian parents and had the right to participate in government and vote on important issues. Non-citizens were people who had moved to Athens from other parts of Greece or foreign lands and did not have these rights.

Another estimate puts the population at around 140,000 during the same time period. This estimate takes into account only adult male citizens who were eligible to participate in government affairs.

Factors That Influenced Athens’ Population

Several factors influenced the population of Athens during ancient times. One factor was war and conflict. Athens was often at war with other city-states, which led to a decrease in population due to casualties on both sides.

Another factor was disease and illness. Epidemics such as the Plague of Athens (430 BCE) caused significant decreases in population.

Migration also played a role in shaping Athens’ population. Many people moved to Athens from other parts of Greece or foreign lands for various reasons including seeking employment opportunities or better living conditions.

The Impact of Population on Ancient Athens

The size of the population had a significant impact on life in ancient Athens. A larger population meant more resources were needed to sustain it, which put pressure on agriculture and trade. The city was forced to import food from other regions, which made it vulnerable to supply chain disruptions.

A larger population also meant more people were vying for limited resources and opportunities. This led to social and economic inequality, which was reflected in Athens’ political system and often led to unrest and conflict.


While the exact population of Athens in ancient Greece may never be known for certain, estimates suggest that it ranged from around 140,000 to 250,000 people during the 5th century BCE. Various factors such as war, disease, and migration influenced the size of the population and had a significant impact on life in ancient Athens.