The Ancient Agora, also known as the Greek Agora, is almost equal in importance to the famous Acropolis of Athens. It is a must-see archaeological site for anyone interested in ancient history, the origin of democracy and mythology of this beautiful city.
First of all it is necessary to clarify that in Athens there are two different agoras: the Roman agora and the Greek agora. In this article we will focus on the original one, that is, the Ancient Agora (today renamed the Greek Agora). The one that had already been in operation for centuries before the Romans decided to build their own…
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Meaning of the word “Agora”
From the Greek Αγορά the word agora means “public square”, “assembly” and “market place”. This gives us a clue to find out what this space was used for and what functions it had. Let’s take a look at it:
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Functions of the Greek Agora
It was a very wide and open space; full of public buildings, which was used as a center of political, administrative and commercial activity. We could classify its functions in 4 branches:
This was where merchants from all over the world sold their products to the Hellenes, since in ancient times there was a road connecting the Agora with the Piraeus (port of Athens where all the merchandise arrived by ship).
Because of its central location, in addition to the people attracted by the market, the ancient agora was also used as a social center. So that we understand each other, we could vulgarly say that it acted as “the town square”. Which brings us to the next point:
This was one of the places chosen by the Athenians to discuss their laws and, therefore, debate about their political future. This is where the famous “Ekklesia” was located, i.e.: the citizens’ assembly, composed of approximately 6000 adult males who had undergone a two-year military service and who enjoyed an economic status well above average.
This last point (the economic status) may bring disagreements… since:
Wasn’t it assumed that in democracy both rich and poor could participate?
Not always. Before the Athenian democracy was established, the legislator Solon introduced the concept of “thymocracy“. Also called the government of honor, it gave power and vote to every upper class citizen. This reform was already a very important advance of the time, since until then only the nobility had this privilege. It should also be noted that in the later democracy (that of Perciles) women, slaves (who were foreigners), children (obviously) and residents of Athens who did not have an Athenian father and mother and/or did not know the local language were not allowed to vote.
However, despite all that has been said, I want to break a Spartan lance in favor of this, the first democracy in the world: We are talking about MORE THAN 2,000 YEARS AGO, obviously it was not perfect. Moreover, how long ago were women allowed to vote in our current democracy? Think about it 😉
Another function of this important place was that of judicial headquarters, since here were the courts where trials were held. As a curiosity: it is believed that this may have been the place where the Greek philosopher who would mark a before and after among the lovers of wisdom, Socrates, would be sentenced to death.
Finishing with the functions of the ancient agora, we must mention that this enclosure had a high religious value (I am referring to ancient religion, what we now call mythology). Many temples dedicated to the most important gods were erected in this place, among others we can highlight: the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, the Temple of Apollo and the impressive Temple of Hephaestus, which deserves more than a simple mention:
Temple of Hephaestus
The Temple of Hephaestus, also called Hephaestion, is the best preserved temple in Greece. Hephaestus was the god of forging and metallurgy; the blacksmith of the gods who, with the help of the Cyclops (although as always there are different versions in Greek mythology), would build the 3 most powerful weapons known to mankind. We are talking about Zeus’ thunderbolt, Poseidon’s trident and Hades’ helmet of invisibility.
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Opening hours of the Ancient Agora of Athens
In high season (1 April – 31 October): Every day from 8:00 to 17:00
In low season (1 November – 31 March): Every day from 8:00 to 15:00
The Greek Agora and all other archaeological sites are open every day except for holidays and/or religious celebrations whose dates are as follows:
- March 25th
- May 1st
- Easter Sunday
- December 25th
- December 26th
Tickets to enter the archaeological site
The individual ticket, i.e., a single access to this site only, costs 8 euros during the high season (April 1 – October 31) and 4 euros in low season (November 1 – March 31).
The combined ticket, that is, the one that gives you access (once per site, without repeating) for 5 days to the 7 archaeological sites, costs 30 euros in high season (1 April – 31 October) and 15 euros in low season (1 November – 31 March). The archaeological sites that can be visited with this ticket are the following:
- The Ancient Agora
- The Acropolis of Athens
- The Roman Agora
- The Temple of Zeus
- Hadrian’s library
- The university of Aristotle
- The Kerameikos cemetery
Both tickets mentioned above are free for EU youth under 25 years old and halved price for those from outside the EU. In addition, admission is free for all the public on the following dates mentioned:
- March 6
- April 18th
- May 18th
- The last weekend of September
- October 28th
- Every first Sunday of the month in low season ( November 1 – March 31)