The paper deals with the history of archonship, the supreme office in Athens for a long period, from the first half of the first millennium BC. The author investigates how the board of archons was generally emerging from the ancient institution of kingship. The process included several parallel, though mutually connected developments, such as: shortening of the term of office for one person (life-long to ten years to one year), widening of the circle of potential candidates (from the Medontidae to all aristocracy) and growth of the number of members (one to three to nine, and even to ten in the very end of the Archaic period). A new interpretation of Solon’s reform of archonship is proposed: Solon was elected archon eponymous, as were all archons before and after him till 487. The novelty was that he was elected not by the Areopagus, as before, but by the Assembly for the first time in the Athenian history. Such an appointment was an extraordinary measure, but after the event the new order became normal. Finally, the paper shows in detail how after the creation of classical Athenian democracy the archonship lost its political (but not civic) importance.