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The Why Athena? page explained some of the reasoning behind the why things are the way they are. The framework also has a few conventions related to a more organizational point of view.


The most obvious may be how each component is organized from a namespace perspective. All component namespaces exist within a common top level Athena namespace. Each component uses additional sub namespaces for organizational reasons, and as a means to have a place for common documentation.


Due to how Athena defines its namespaces, they can require a fair amount of typing due to the longer paths. To help alleviate this, each component defines one or more top level aliases to reduce the number of characters needed to refer to a component's types. For example, a controller needs to inherit from the Athena::Framework::Controller type, or ATH::Controller if using the ATH alias. Similarly, Athena::Routing::Annotations::Get could be shortened to ARTA::Get via the ARTA alias.

In most cases, the component alias is three or four characters abbreviating the name of the component, always starting with an A. Components that also define numerous annotations may have another alias dedicated to those annotations types. This alias usually is the component alias with an A, short for annotations, suffix. E.g. ATHA or ARTA. Each component may also define additional aliases if needed, check the Aliases page in each component's API docs to see specifically what each component defines.

Framework Architecture#

At a high level the Athena Framework's job is to interpret a request and create the appropriate response based on your application logic. Conceptually this could be broken down into three steps:

  1. Consume the request
  2. Apply application logic to determine what the response should be
  3. Return the response

Steps 1 and 3 are handled via Crystal's HTTP::Server, while step 2 is where Athena fits in.

Powered By Events#

Athena Framework is an event based framework, meaning it emits various events via the Event Dispatcher component during the life-cycle of a request. These events are listened on internally in order to handle each request; custom listeners on these events can also be registered. The flow of a request, and the related events that are dispatched, is depicted below in a visual format:

High Level Request Life-cycle Flow

1. Request Event#

The very first event that is dispatched is the ATH::Events::Request event and can have a variety of listeners. The primary purpose of this event is to create an ATH::Response directly, or to add information to the requests' attributes; a simple key/value store tied to request instance accessible via ATH::Request#attributes.

In some cases the listener may have enough information to return an ATH::Response immediately. An example of this would be the ATH::Listeners::CORS listener. If enabled it is able to return a CORS preflight response even before routing is invoked.


If an ATH::Response is returned at this stage, the flow of the request skips directly to the response event. Future Request event listeners will not be invoked either.

Another use case for this event is populating additional data into the request's attributes; such as the locale or format of the request.

Request event in the Athena Framework

This is the event that ATH::Listeners::Routing listens on to determine which ATH::Controller/ATH::Action pair should handle the request.

See ATH::Controller for more details on routing.

2. Action Event#

The next event to be dispatched is the ATH::Events::Action event, assuming a response was not already returned within the request event. This event is dispatched after the related controller/action pair is determined, but before it is executed. This event is intended to be used when a listener requires information from the related ATH::Action; such as reading custom annotations off of it via the Config component.

Action event in the Athena Framework

This is the event that the ATH::Listeners::ParamFetcher listens on to resolve request parameters such as ATHA::QueryParams.

3. Invoke the Controller Action#

This next step is not an event, but a important concept within the Athena Framework nonetheless; executing the controller action related to the current request.

Argument Resolution#

Before the controller action can be invoked, the arguments, if any, to pass to it need to be determined. This is achieved via an ATH::Controller::ArgumentResolverInterface that facilitates gathering all the arguments. One or more ATHR::Interface will then be used to resolve each specific argument's value.

Checkout ATH::Controller::ValueResolvers for a summary of the built-in resolvers, and the order in which they are invoked. Custom value resolves may be created & registered to extend this functionality.


An additional event could possibly be added after the arguments have been resolved, but before invoking the controller action.

Execute the Controller Action#

The job of a controller action is to apply business/application logic to build a response for the related request; such as an HTML page, a JSON string, or anything else. How/what exactly this should be is up to the developer creating the application.

Handle the Response#

The type of the value returned from the controller action determines what happens next. If the value is an ATH::Response, then it is used as is, skipping directly to the response event. However, if the value is NOT an ATH::Response, then the view is dispatched (since the framework needs an ATH::Response in order to have something to send back to the client).

4. View Event#

The ATH::Events::View event is only dispatched when the controller action does NOT return an ATH::Response. The purpose of this event is to turn the controller action's return value into an ATH::Response.

An ATH::View may be used to customize the response, e.g. setting a custom response status and/or adding additional headers; while keeping the controller action response data intact.

This event is intended to be used as a "View" layer; allowing scalar values/objects to be returned while listeners convert that value to the expected format (e.g. JSON, HTML, etc.). See the negotiation component for more information on this feature.

View event in the Athena Framework

By default the framework will JSON serialize any non ATH::Response values.

5. Response Event#

The end goal of the Athena Framework is to return an ATH::Response back to the client; which might be created within the request event, returned from the related controller action, or set within the view event. Regardless of how the response was created, the ATH::Events::Response event is dispatched directly after.

The intended use case for this event is to allow for modifying the response object in some manner. Common examples include: add/edit headers, add cookies, change/compress the response body.

6. Return the Response#

The raw HTTP::Server::Response object is never directly exposed. The reasoning for this is to allow listeners to mutate the response before it is returned as mentioned in the response event section. If the raw response object was exposed, whenever any data is written to it it'll immediately be sent to the client and the status/headers will be locked; as mentioned in the Crystal API docs:

The response #status and #headers must be configured before writing the response body. Once response output is written, changing the #status and #headers properties has no effect.

Each ATH::Response has a ATH::Response::Writer instance that determines how the response should be written to the raw response's IO. By default it is written directly, but can be customized via the response, such as for compression.

7. Terminate Event#

The final event to be dispatched is the ATH::Events::Terminate event. This is event is dispatched after the response has been sent to the user.

The intended use case for this event is to perform some "heavy" action after the user has received the response; as to not affect the response time of the request. E.x. queuing up emails or logs to be sent/written after a successful request.

8. Exception Handling#

If an exception is raised at anytime while a request is being handled, the ATH::Events::Exception is dispatched. The purpose of this event is to convert the exception into an ATH::Response. This is globally handled via an ATH::ErrorRendererInterface, with the default being to JSON serialize the exception.

It is also possible to handle specific error states differently by registering multiple exception listeners to handle each case. An example of this could be to invoke some special logic only if the exception is of a specific type.

See the error handling section in the getting started docs for more details on how error handling works in the Athena Framework.

Further Reading#

The Athena Framework also more tightly integrates the rest of the components into itself. This section of the documentation includes sub-pages for each applicable component to describe how that component was integrated into the framework.