Courtyard (and excavation debris pile), from E, Athens, State Prison

East side of building, from NW, Athens, State Prison

Southwest area of Agora and the Prison in center, from W, Athens, Agora, S...

Rooms 1E and 2E in foreground, from SE, Athens, State Prison

Rooms A2 and A3, from NW, Athens, State Prison

View across the great drain to the main rooms of Prison, from NW, Athens, ...

Context: Athens
Type: Prison
Summary: Almost rectangular building; just off the southwest corner of the Agora.
Date: ca. 450 BC

ca. 40 m x 17 m.

Region: Attica
Period: Classical


A long hall that led back to a courtyard. Five almost square rooms off the west side of the hall and 3 off the east side. At the northeast corner near the entrance, was a group of 4 rooms, possibly with a 2nd story.


The location of the building near the law courts, its plan of separate cells with an easily guarded single entrance, and its provisions for bathing provide all the necessities for an ancient prison. The excavation of a small statue of Socrates and a quantity of medicine bottles, likely vessels for the poisons used to execute prisoners, have led to the identification of this building as the State Prison, where Socrates was executed in 399 B.C.

Other Bibliography:

Camp 1986, 113-116; Agora Guide 1976, 172-175