1. Agora means an assembly of any nature, and is usually employed by Homer
for the general assembly of the people. The agora seems to have been
considered an essential part in the constitution of the early Grecian
states, since the barbarity and uncivilised condition of the Cyclops is
characterised by their wanting such an assembly. (Hom. Od. 9.112.
) The agora, though usually convoked by the king,
appears to have been also summoned at times by some distinguished chieftain,
as, for example, by Achilles before Troy. (Hom. Il.
) The king occupied the most important seat in these
assemblies, and near him sat the nobles, while the people sat in a circle
around them. The power and rights of the [p. 1.45]
these assemblies have been the subject of much dispute. Platner, Tittmann,
and Nitzsch in his commentary on the Odyssey, maintain that the people was
allowed to speak and vote; while Müller (Dor.
3.1.3), who is followed by Grote (Hist. of
vol. ii. p. 91), maintains that the nobles were the only
persons who proposed measures, deliberated, and voted, and that the people
was only present to hear the debate, and to express its feeling as a body;
which expressions might then be noticed by a prince of a mild disposition.
The latter view of the question is confirmed by the fact, that in no passage
in the Odyssey is any common man represented as taking part in the
discussion; while, in the Iliad, Ulysses inflicts personal chastisement upon
Thersites, for presuming to attack the nobles in the agora. (Il. 2.211
.) The people appear to have been only called together to hear
what had been already agreed upon in the council of the nobles, which is
, γέροντες βουλευταὶ
), and θόωκος
sometimes even ἀγορά
). Justice was administered in the agora by the
king or chiefs (Hes. Th. 85
; Hom. Il. 18.497
, Od. 12.439
), &c., but the people had no share in its
administration, and the agora served merely the purpose of publicity. The
common phrases used in reference to the agora are εἰς
ἀγορὴν καλέειν; ἀγορὴν ποιεῖσθαι, τίθεσθαι εἰς τὴν ἀγορὴν
*c. (Wachsmuth, Hellen.
vol. i. p. 346, 2nd ed.; Hermann, Lehrbuch.
d. Griech. Staatsalt.
§ 55; Grote, Hist. of
vol. ii. pp. 91-101.)
Among the Athenians, the proper name for the assembly of the people was
and among the Dorians
The term agora
was confined at Athens to the assemblies of the phylae and
demi. (Aesch. c. Ctes.
§ 27, p. 50, 37;
Schömann, de Comitiis Athen.
Antiq. Jur. Publ. Graec.
pp. 203, 205; Böckh,
vol. i. p. 125.) In Crete the original
continued to be applied to the
popular assemblies till a late period. (Bekker, Anecdot.
i. p. 210.) [W.S
2. Agora was also the place of public assembly in a Greek city, both for
traffic and for the transaction of all public business. It answers to the
and, in fact, it is impossible to
keep these two subjects entirely separate.
In the earliest times, the agora was merely an open piece of ground, which
was generally in front of the royal palace, and in seaport towns close to
the harbour. The agora of Troy was in the citadel. Here the chiefs met in
council and sat in judgment, and the people assembled to witness athletic
games. It was evidently also the place of traffic and of general
intercourse; in one passage of Homer we have a lively picture of the idlers
who frequented it. It was enclosed with large stones sunk into the earth,
and seats of marble were placed in it for the chiefs to sit in judgment, and
it was hallowed by the shrine of one or more divinities, In the agora which
Homer particularly describes--that of the Phaeacians--there was a temple of
Poseidon. (Hom. Il. 2.788
; Od. 6.263
Out of this simple arrangement arose the magnificent ἀγορά
of later times, which consisted of an open space,
enclosed by porticoes or colonnades, divided into separate parts for the
various occupations which were pursued in it, adorned with statues, altars,
and temples, and built about with edifices for the transaction of public and
private business, and for the administration of justice.
Our information respecting these edifices is rather scanty. The chief
authorities are Pausanias and Vitruvius. The existing ruins are in such a
state as to give us very little help.
We have, first of all, in this, as in other departments of architecture, to
distinguish the ancient style from that introduced by the Greeks of Ionia
after the Persian war, and more especially by Hippodamus of Miletus [see
Dict. of Biog.
s.v.], whose connexion with the building
of a new form is marked by the
which was applied to the
agora in the Peiraeus. (Harpocr. s. v. Ἱπποδαμεία.
) The general character of the Greek ἀγορά
is thus described by Vitruvius (5.1
): “The Greeks arrange their fora in a
square form, with very wide double colonnades, and adorn them with
columns set near one another, and with stone or marble entablatures, and
they make walks in the upper stories.”
Among the ἀγοραί
described by Pausanias,
that of the Eleians is mentioned by him (6.24) as being “not on the
same plan as those of the Ionians and the Greek cities adjoining Ionia,
but it is built in the more ancient fashion, with porticoes separated
from one another, and streets between them. But the name of the agora in
our days is hippodromos,
and the people of
the country exercise their horses there. But of the porticoes, the one
towards the south is of the Dorian style of work, and the pillars divide
it into three parts (in this the Hellanodicae generally pass the day);
but against these (pillars) they place altars to Zeus...To one going
along this portico, into the agora, there lies on the left, along the
further side of this portico, the dwelling of the Hellanodicae (ὁ Ἑλλανοδικεών
); and there is a street
which divides it from the agora . . And near the portico where the
Hellanodicae pass the day is another portico, there being one street
between them: this the Eleians call the Corcyraean portico”
(because it was built from the tithe of spoil taken from the Corcyraeans in
war). “But the style of the portico is Dorian and double, having
columns on the one side towards the agora, and on the other side towards
the parts beyond the agora; and along the middle of it is a wall, which
thus supports the roof; and images are placed on both sides against the
wall.” He then proceeds to mention the ornaments of the
agora,--namely, the statue of the philosopher Pyrrhon; the temple and statue
of Apollo Acesius; the statues of the Sun and Moon; the temple of the
Graces, with their wooden statues, of which the dress was gilt, and the
hands and feet were of white marble; the temple of Seilenus, dedicated to
him alone, and not in common with Dionysus; and a monumental shrine, of
peculiar form, without walls, but with oak pillars supporting the roof,
which was reported to be the monument of Oxylus. The agora also contained
the dwelling of the sixteen females, who wove in it the sacred robe for
Hera. It is worthy of remark that several of [p. 1.46]
details confirm the high antiquity which Pausanias assigns to this agora.
Hirt has drawn out the following plan from the description of Pausanias.
(Geschichte der Baukunst bei den Alten,
Taf. xxi. fig.
5.) We give it, not as feeling satisfied of its complete accuracy, but as a
useful commentary on Pausanias.
Ground-plan of the old Agora at Elis.
A, the chief open space of the agora, called, in
the time of Pausanias, hippodromus ; a,
separated by streets, b;
B, the stoa in which the Hellanodicae sat, divided
from the agora by a street o;
C, the house of the Hellanodicae; x,
the tholus; D, the
Corcyraean stoa, composed of two parts, c
into the agora, and d
looking away from it; e, g, h,
small temples; f,
statues of the Sun and Moon; i,
Oxylus; k, house of the sixteen women.
In this agora the stoa, B, answers to the later
and the house, C, to the prytaneium
other Greek ἀγοραί
. With respect to the
other parts, it is pretty evident that the chief open space, A, which Pausanias calls τὸ
ὕπαιθρον τῆς ἀγορᾶς,
was devoted to public assemblies and
exercise, and the στοαί
), with their intervening streets (b
), to private business and traffic. Hirt traces a resemblance of
form between the Eleian agora and the forum of Trajan. It is evident that
the words of Vitruvius, above quoted, refer to the more modern, or Ionian
form of the agora, as represented in the following plan, which is also taken
from Hirt (Geschichte der Baukunst,
xxi. fig. 1) :--
A, the open court, surrounded by double colonnades
and shops; B, the curia;
the chief temple, also used as a treasury; D, the basilica,
Plan of a Greek Agora, according to Vitruvius.
or court of justice; E, the tholus, in
connexion with the other rooms of the prytaneium, c,
The cut below, which is also from Hirt, represents a section of the agora
made along the dotted line on the plan.
Section of the same.
We gain further information respecting the buildings connected with the
agora, and the works of art with which it was adorned, chiefly from the
statements of Pausanias respecting those of particular cities, such as
Athens (1.5.2), Thebes (9.17.1), Sicyon (2.7.7, 9.6), Argos (2.21), Sparta
(3.11), Tegea (8.47.3,) Megalopolis (8.30.2), to which passages the reader
is referred for the details. The buildings mentioned in connexion with the
agora are:--1. Temples of the gods and shrines of heroes [TEMPLUM
], besides altars and
statues of divinities. The epithet ἀγοραῖος
is often applied to a divinity who was thus worshipped
in the [p. 1.47]
agora (Paus. ll. cc.;
976; Soph. Oed.
, where mention is made of the circular
throne of Artemis in the agora), and Aeschylus expressly refers to the
θεοὶ ἀγορᾶς ἐπισκόποι
271, 272). 2. The senate-house (βουλευτήριον
), and other places for the meetings of the
governing bodies, according to the constitution of the particular state: in
the agora at Sparta, for example, there were the senate-house of the
Gerontes and the places of meeting of the Ephori, the Nomophylaces, and the
Bidiaei. 3. The residence of the magistrates for the time being [PRYTANEIUM]. 4. Courts of justice [BASILICA
.] 5. The public
]. 6. The
]. 7. The
police-station, if such a term may be applied to an ancient agora. At
Athens, for example, the station of the thousand Scythian bowmen, who formed
the police force of the state, was in the middle of the agora; this does
not, however, seem to have been a permanent building, but only a number of
tents. 8. Buildings used for the regulation of the standards of measure, and
so forth; such as the building vulgarly called the Temple of the Winds at
], and the
Milliarium Aureum at Rome, which seems to have been imitated from a similar
standard at Athens [MILLIARIUM]. To these various
buildings must be added the works of art with which the open area and the
porticoes of the agora were adorned; which were chiefly in celebration of
gods and heroes who figured in the mythology, of men who had deserved well
of the state, of victories and other memorable events, besides those which
obtained a place there purely by their merits as masterpieces of art. As a
specimen we may take the agora at Athens, a portico of which, thence called
the στοὰ ποικίλη,
was adorned with the
paintings of Polygnotus, Micon, and others, and in which also stood the
statues of the ten heroes (ἀρχηγέται
after whom the Phylae of Cleisthenes were named, of Solon, of Harmodius and
Aristogeiton, of the orator Lycurgus, and of very many others. It was
customary also to build new porticoes out of the spoils taken in great wars,
as examples of which we have the Corcyraean portico at Elis, mentioned
above, and the Persian portico at Sparta.
The open area of the agora was originally the place of public assembly for
all purposes, and of general resort. Its use for political purposes is
described in the preceding article. Here also were celebrated the public
festivals. At Sparta, the part of the agora in which stood the statues of
Apollo, Artemis, and Leto, was called χορός,
because the choruses of the Ephebi performed their dances
there at the festival of the Gymnopaedia. (Paus.
.) Lastly, it was the place of social and fashionable resort. At
Athens, fashionable loungers were called ἀγάλματα
Originally the agora was also the market, and was surrounded with shops, as
shown in the above plan. As commerce increased, it was found convenient to
separate the traffic from the other kinds of business carried on in the
agora, and to assign to each its distinct place, though this was by no means
universally the case. The market, whether identical with or separate from
the agora for political and other assemblies, was divided into parts for the
different sorts of merchandise, each of course furnished with colonnades,
which the climate rendered necessary, and partly with shops and stalls,
partly with temporary booths of wicker-work (σκηναί,
Harpocr. s. v. οκηνίτης;
Demosth. de Cor.
Each of these parts was called a κύκλος.
is generally stated that this term was applied only to that division of the
market where meat, fish, and such things were sold; but Becker has shown
that it was used also for other parts of the market (Becker--Göll,
ii. p. 195). The several divisions of the
market were named according to the articles exposed for sale in them. (Poll.
9.47, 10.19.) Of these divisions, the following were the most important.
The part in which fish and other delicacies for the table were exposed for
sale was called ἰχθῦς ὄψον,
or ἰχθυόπωλις ἀγορά,
and was the chief centre of
business. It was open only for a limited time, the signal for commencing
business being given by the sound of a bell, which was obeyed with an
eagerness that is more than once pleasantly referred to by the ancient
writers. (Plutarch, Sympos.
4.4, 2; Strab. xiv. p.658
.) The coarseness and
impositions of the fishsellers, and the attempts of purchasers to beat them
down, are frequently alluded to by the comic poets. (Amphis, ap. Ath. vi. p.
224e; Alexis, ibid.;
p. 225c; Alexis, ibid.
p. 226a, b;
comp. Plat. Leg.
xi. p. 917.) It is not quite clear whether
meat, poultry, and so forth, were sold in the same place as the fish, or had
a separate division of the market assigned to them. Bread was partly sold in
the assigned place in the market, which was perhaps the same as the
meal-market (τὰ ἄλφιτα
), and partly
carried round for sale: the sellers were generally women, and were
proverbially abusive. (Aristoph. Frogs
1389.) In another part of the market,
were the women who sold
garlands of myrtle and flowers for festivals and parties. (Plut. Arat. 6
; Aristoph. Thes. 448
Near these, probably, were the sellers of ribands and fillets for the head.
(Demosth. in Eubul.
p. 1308.31.) The wholesale traffic in
wine, as distinct from the business of the κάπηλος
carried on in the market, the wine being brought in from the country in
carts, from which it was transferred to amphorae; the process is represented
in two pictures at Pompeii. (Alexis, ap. Ath. x. p. 431e; Mus.
vol. iv. Relaz. d. Scav. A., and vol. v. p. 48.) [AMPHORA
] The market for pottery
was called χύτραι;
and must not be
confounded with the place where cooks sat and offered themselves for hire,
with their cooking utensils : this latter place was called μαγειρεῖα.
(Poll. 9.48; Alexis, ap. Ath. iv. p.
164f.) In short, every kind of necessary or luxury was exposed for sale in
its assigned place. Thus we find, besides those already mentioned, the
market for onions (τὰ κρόμυα
), for garlic
), for nuts (τὰ κάρυα
), for apples (τὰ μῆλα
), for fresh cheese (ὁ
), for oil (τοὔλαιον
, for perfumes and unguents (τὰ
), for frankincense (ὁ
), for spice (τὰ
), for couches (αἱ
), for new and old clothes (ἀλορὰ
Poll. 7.78), for books (βιβλιοθήκη
), and for slaves (τὰ
Poll. 10.19). Lastly, a part of the market was
devoted to the money-changers [p. 1.48]
] Mention is sometimes made of the women's market,
a term which has
given rise to much doubt. (Theophr. Char.
2; Poll. 10.18.)
The common explanation is, that it was the part of the market to which women
resorted to purchase what they wanted for household uses. But it appears
clearly that purchases were seldom made in the market by women, and never by
free women. The only plausible explanation is, either that a distinct part
of the market was assigned to those commodities the sellers of which were
women, such as the ἀρτοπώλιδες, λεκιθοπώλιδες,
and others, or else that the
term was applied to that part of the market where articles for the use of
women were sold. But the matter is altogether doubtful. The above list of
commodities, sold in the respective divisions of the market, might be still
further extended. Indeed, with reference to the Athenian market, to which
the description chiefly applies, there can be no doubt that every article of
home produce or of foreign commerce from the known world was there exposed
for sale. (See Thuc. 2.18
; Xen. Oecon. Ath. 2.7
64; Ath. xiv. p. 640b, c.)
It is not to be supposed, however, that the sale of these various articles
was confined to the market. Frequent mention is made of shops in other parts
of the city (e. g. Thuc. 8.95
); and some
articles, such as salt fish, seem to have been sold outside the gates.
(Aristoph. Kn. 1246
The time during which the market was frequented was the forenoon; but it is
difficult to determine precisely how much of the forenoon is denoted by the
common phrases πλήθουσα ἀγορὰ, περὶ πλήθουσαν
ἀγορὰν, πληθώρη ἀγορᾶς.
.) Suidas (s. v.) explains
as ὥρα τρίτη,
but elsewhere (s. v. περὶ πλήθ. ἀγ.
) he says that it was either the
fourth, or fifth, or sixth hour. We might infer that the whole period thus
designated was from nine to twelve o'clock (equinoctial time); but
Herodotus, in two passages (3.104, 4.181), makes a distinction between
(Comp. Liban. Ep.
1084.) The time of the conclusion of the market was called ἀγορᾶς διάλυσις
, comp. Xenoph. Oecon.
and for a further discussion respecting the time of the full market, see
; Wesseling, ad
; Perizon. ad
Ael. VH 12.30
; Gesner and Reiz, ad
11, vol. iii. p.
38; Bahr, ad
). During these hours the market was a
place not only of traffic but of general resort. Thus Socrates habitually
frequented it as one of the places where he had the opportunity of
conversing with the greatest number of persons. (Xen. Mem. 1.1
, § 10; Plat. Apol.
It was also frequented in other parts of the day, especially in the evening,
when many persons might be seen walking about or resting upon seats placed
under the colonnades. (Demosth. in Con.
1258.7; Pseudo-Plut. Vit. X. Or.
d; Lucian, Jup. Trag.
16, vol. ii. p. 660.)
Even the shops themselves, not only those of the barbers, the perfumers, and
the doctors, but even those of the leather-sellers and the harness-makers,
were common places of resort for conversation; and it was even esteemed
discreditable to avoid them altogether. (Aristoph. Pl. 337
1439; Xen. Mem. 4.2
, § 1; Lysias, in
§ § 3, 7, pro Inval.
§ 20; Demosth. in Aristog.
i. p. 786.52.)
The persons who carried on traffic in the market were the country people
), who brought in their
commodities into the city, and the retail dealers (κάπηλοι
) who exposed the goods purchased of the former, or
of producers of any kind (αϝ̓τοπῶλαι
of foreign merchants (ἔμποροι
), for sale
in the markets. (Plat. de Repub.
ii. p. 371; Xen. Mem. 3.7
, § 6; Plut. Arat. 8
] A certain degree of disgrace was attached to
the occupation of a retail dealer, though at Athens there were positive
enactments to the contrary. (Andoc. de Myst.
p. 68 ; Aristot.
1.10, 3.5; Plat. Leg.
918, 919; D. L. 1.104
; Aristoph. Kn. 181
Demosth. c. Eubul.
p. 1308.30.) There is an interesting but
very difficult question as to the effect which the occupation of selling in
the market had upon the social position of women who engaged in it.
(Demosth. in Neaer.
p. 1367.67; Plut.
; Harpocr. and Suid. s. v. Πωλῶσι;
189 foll.) The wholesale dealers also sold their goods by means of a sample
), either in the market, or in
the place called δεῖγμα
attached to the
port. (Harpocr. s. v. δεῖγμα
: : Poll. 9.34;
Plut. Dem. 23
; Plat. Leg.
vii. p. 788; Diphil. ap. Ath. xi. p. 499e; Böckh, Econ. of
p. 58, 2nd ed.) The retail dealers either exposed their
goods for sale in their shops, or hawked them about. (Aristoph. Ach. 33
; Plut. Apophth.
62, p. 236.) The privilege of freely selling in the
market belonged to the citizens: foreigners had to pay a toll. (Demosth.
p. 1309.34; Böckh, Econ. of
Most citizens either made their own purchases in the market (Aeschin.
§ 65; Aristoph. Lys. 555
employed a slave, who was called, from his office, ἀγοραστής
(Xen. Mem. 1.5
§ 2; comp. Ath. iv. p. 171; Poll. 3.126 ; Terent.
2.2, 31.) Sometimes female slaves performed this office
(Lysias, de Caed. Eratosth.
p. 18; comp. p. 11), but such an
appearance in public was not permitted to any free woman, except a courtesan
(Machon, ap. Ath. xiii. p. 580.) The philosopher Lynceus, of Samos, wrote a
book for the guidance of purchasers in the market. (Ath. vi. p. 228.) It was
esteemed disreputable for people to carry home their purchases from the
markets, and there were therefore porters in attendance for that purpose,
who were called προὔνεικοι, παιδαρίωνες,
xvii.-xxii.; Hesych., s. v. προὔνεικοι.
) The preservation of order in the market was
the office of the AGORANOMI
Both the architectural details of the agora and the uses of its several parts
might be further illustrated by the remains of the ἀγορά
is even doubtful whether there were two or only one) at Athens; but this
would lead us too far into topographical details. This part of the subject
is fully discussed in the following works:--Leake, Topography of
Müller, in Ersch and Grüber's
Hirt, Lehre d. Gebäude,
supp. 1; Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterthumsk.
vol. i. supp. 6, b,
For the whole subject the chief modern authorities are the following :--Hirt,
Lehre d. Gebäude
[p. 1.49]d. Griechen und Römer,
v.; Stieglitz, Arcäol. d. Baukunst;
Public Economy of Athens;
4th scene, ii. pp. 177-212.