Athens, officially Athens–Clarke County, is a consolidated city–county and college town in the U.S. state of Georgia. Athens lies about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of downtown Atlanta, and is a satellite city of the capital. The University of Georgia, the state’s flagship public university and an R1 research institution, is in Athens and contributed to its initial growth. In 1991, after a vote the preceding year, the original City of Athens abandoned its charter to form a unified government with Clarke County, referred to jointly as Athens–Clarke County.
As of 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau’s population of the consolidated city-county (all of Clarke County except Winterville and a portion of Bogart) was 127,315. Athens is the sixth-largest city in Georgia, and the principal city of the Athens metropolitan area, which had a 2020 population of 215,415, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Metropolitan Athens is a component of the larger Atlanta–Athens–Clarke County–Sandy Springs Combined Statistical Area.
The city is dominated by a pervasive college town culture and music scene centered in downtown Athens, next to the University of Georgia’s North Campus. Major music acts associated with Athens include numerous alternative rock bands such as R.E.M., the B-52’s, Widespread Panic, Drive-By Truckers, of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Harvey Milk. The city is also known as a recording site for such groups as the Atlanta-based Indigo Girls. The 2020 book Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture describes Athens as the model of the indie culture of the 1980s.