The Athenian Agora Guide

This guide is worded like it was written during the time of Pericles (roughly from 461 to 429 BC).

agora map

Tour guide

Here, we are at the Athenian Agora, which is the main marketplace. This first building here is the temple of Aphrodite Urania, which is the part of Aphrodite which deals with spiritual and celestial love rather than physical lust. This temple like others here is created to show the piety of the Athenians. They show this with the statue inside of Aphrodite, which was made by Phidias. The first building that we pass on the left is the Stoa of Hermes. A Stoa is a covered walkway or portico, commonly for public use. They provide a space to meet up and be covered from the sun. This one is dedicated to Hermes, the god of business. This makes sense for many entertainment businesses and teacher (philosophers) gained money or costumes here. Next on the left is the Stoa Poikile. It is named after the panel paintings that are a key part of its decoration. These paintings were installed in the middle years of the 5th century B.C. They may show mythological and historical Athenian military triumphs. One of these paintings is the battle of Marathon by Polygnotes, which was a key battle against the Persians. It is often mentioned in different media. This is meant to create a sense of patriotism in the city by promoting the idea of Athens’ kleos and skill. Actual armour and weapons, which were taken from defeated enemies, were displayed on the building as a way to show their superiority over their enemies, giving the city more kleos. This building was created to be a place for people to gather and meet up. It is a popular hangout, attracting performers and entertainers such as jugglers as well as philosophers of Athens. The building on our right is Stoa Basileios or the Royal Stoa. This Stoa was not open to the public and as a rectangular building has eight Doric columns along the façade and four inside as you can see. This building is the headquarters of the ‘Archon Basileios’, which is how it gained its name. The king Archon was in charge of the religious affairs of the city. A large limestone block outside of the Stoa here may be the ‘lithos’ (stone) that many authors name as the place where the magistrates take their oaths of loyalty. This is a public place and links to the idea of demos kratia because the people can see the oath and are a part of the ceremony as spectators. Here according to Aristotle, the laws of Solon were set up in the building. Stone seats are near the front of the building may be used by the King Archon and his guests to view processions and performances held in the open area in front of the Stoa, like the Panathenaic procession. As we walk along the Panathenaic way, we pass the altar of the twelve gods. If you go within the walls that surround it, you will see an altar to the twelve Olympian gods. This was created by Pisistratus the Younger, the grandson of the tyrant Pisistratus during his archonship, in 522/1 BC, to show piety to the gods. This was important to the Greeks because the worship of every individual could affect the state if the gods were unhappy because of one person. These temples give people a place to pray and show worship. It is also a sanctuary in Athens, making it a place for supplicants. We also measure differences from this central point, showing the importance that they place on the gods to make it the central point of the city. As we talk along the Panathenaic way, we can see the Peristylar court. This is the court in the Agora. It is surrounded by pillars, which gives it the name ‘Peristylar’. It is largely an open courtyard which can hold around 501 Athenians, who make up a jury. These courts had the final say in the charging of anyone, and essentially represent the sovereign power of the state. This represents the demos kratia (the power of the people) because the Athenians are able to go to the courts and vote on important matters of the state. After we pass the Peristylar court, we can see the Mint, where the coins are made. This large rectangular building has the northern half of the building is open. The southwest room of the Mint contained furnaces and water basins. In there, you can find metalworking, metal slag and several tens of unfinished coins as well as the coins that run this city. Now we are going to circle back to the starting point of this tour. Next to the Mint is the Enneacrounos, which is the public main fountain of Athens built in the time of Pisistratus in the location of a spring was called Kallirhoè (beautiful flow). Enneacrounos is a Greek word that means “nine spouts”. This is accessible by everyone and it allows every to get water, showing that the state cares about every Athenian. This next building is the South Stoa. It (possibly) has a second story. This two-aisled Stoa opened north. It has a Doric outer colonnade, an inner colonnade and sixteen rooms, which one was a narrow room serving as a vestibule, while the other fifteen square rooms are used for public dining. If we continue onwards, you can see the Heliaea. This is another court in the Agora however it is the chief law court of Athens. Normally the Heliaea is composed of 1,501, 1,001, or 501 men in criminal cases and 201 men in civil cases. The key important court cases happen here. Again this represents the demos kratia (the power of the people) because the Athenians are able to go to the courts and vote on important matters of the state. The Strategeion is the house of the strategoi. The building here was erected in the Agora only recently. It is shaped like a trapezoid with a central courtyard and seven or eight rooms. The Strategeion stood on the in an emplacement cut in the slope of the hill. This building shows respect to the Strategoi because they have rewarded them with a building, building the role up and giving them kleos; They are already rich to have nice homes and therefore don’t need a house here. The Agora stone is here. This stone marks the boundary of the Agora. The Tholos is roundhouse of the prytanes (residents of the boulè) while they are in their term. It is also joking called ‘Skias’ (‘parasol’ or ‘sun-hat’) by Athenians. Inside there are six columns to support the roof of terra cotta roof tiles. The round shape of the building is uncommon. This also shows respect in the same way I mentioned earlier with the Stragetoi. Here on this monument, official official decrees and announcements are posted. This is monument is the monument of the Eponymous Heroes. This monument includes a statue of each one of the ten eponymous heroes of the ten tribes instituted by Cleisthenes. These are Erechtheus, Ægeus Pandion, Leos, Acamas, Oeneus, Cecrops, Hippothoon, Ajax and Antiochus. Eponymous means that they gave their name to the ten tribes. This is here to show kleos and demos kratia because it shows the important people of the City’s past and their legacy and it represents all of the ten tribes and therefore all the citizens of Athens. These next two buildings are similar. The first is the Old Bouleuterion while the second is the New Bouleuterion. This is the meeting room of the boulè (the Council of Five-Hundred) which gives it its name. When Cleisthenes reformed the boulè in 508 B. C., he also had a new meeting room built next to the older one. The Old Bouleuterion is divided into a north seating area and a south lobby while the New Bouleuterion is a theatre like building with 12 rows of seats, seating more than 500. Both of these building represent the similar value of demos kratia because of the same reason that the courts do. As we turn left and go up onto the hill, you can see the Hephaestion, which is the Temple of Hephaestus. The building was started in 449 B.C. by Ictinus and was one of the structures in the building program of Pericles. This building showed piety as it is dedicated to worship of Hephaestus and Athena. Both of the deities have bronze statues of them inside. The rectangular building is quite big with 6 columns in each end and 13 on each side. Around the back of the New Bouleuterion, you can see in the distance the Colonos Agoraios. This place is meeting place for the craftsmen, close to the temple of Hephaestus. The name comes for the greek ‘colonos’ (hill) and with ‘Agoraios’, it means hill next to the Agora. As we go back to the agora off of the hill, on our left, you can see the Temple of Apollo Patroos. This temple is created to show piety. Under this ephipet, Apollo is worshiped as the protector of families and founder of the Ionian race. This temple follows the tradition structure of a temple but attached at the side is a small, slightly older Temple of Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria. The statue dedicated to the god was made by the famous Greek sculptor Euphranor, furthering his kleos. The final building on this tour of the Agora is the Stoa of Zeus. This is another covered walkway but this one dedicated to Zeus Eleutherios (Freedom). This is a cult formed after the Persian war. Unlike most mainly religious buildings, it is not a temple. This is because despite this, it also has other civic purposes. It may have been built by Mnesikles, the architect of the Propylaia. This is the end of the tour. I hope everyone has a nice day. Goodbye.

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