Athens is a city in McMinn County, Tennessee, United States. It is the county seat of McMinn County and the principal city of the Athens Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is part of the larger Chattanooga-Cleveland-Athens Combined Statistical Area. The city is located almost equidistantly between the major cities of Knoxville and Chattanooga. The population was 13,220 at the 2000 census and 13,458 at the 2010 census.
The Cherokee were living in McMinn County at the time of the arrival of the first Euro-American explorers. The Athens area was situated nearly halfway between the Overhill Cherokee villages of Great Tellico to the north in Monroe County and Great Hiwassee along the Hiwassee River to the south. In 1819, the Cherokee signed the Calhoun Treaty, selling the land north of the Hiwassee (including all of modern McMinn County) to the United States. McMinn County was organized on November 13, 1819 at the home of John Walker in what is now Calhoun. The Native American village, Pumpkintown (a corruption of Potemkin town), was located on a farm about two miles east of present-day Athens. It is sometimes incorrectly identified as a forerunner of Athens. Athens was laid out and chosen as the county seat in 1822.