ARCH 0420: Archaeologies of the Greek Past


February 19, 2014 · 10 Comments

A day in the Agora: a farmer

I get up early and start my day by coming in to Athens from Attica.  Luckily I live and farm close to the city.  There are others that have a sizable journey to Athens when it is their turn to be on the council.

I set up my olive oil at a stall in the middle of the Agora in my usual spot in a circle with other olive oil sellers.  We start to sell our products.  At one point, a customer contests the amount of oil in my jars, so we go to the metronomoi in the South Stoa.  The benches set up in that stoa are dedicated to commerce regulations. The metronomoi fetch their weights from the Mint next door and ascertain that my jars are the weight I say.

Bronze weights from early Classical



Eventually it is time for the Boule to assemble.  I am one of the 50 representatives from my tribe this year to serve in the Boule. The stalls are packed up and the red rope is dragged through the marketplace to ensure everyone who needs to be participating in civic pursuits is where they should be. It is good that the market is so close to the Bouleuterion because it allows me to make a living while participating in the democracy.

As I enter the Bouleuterion, I feel a sense of pride and importance from being one of the 500 Athenian citizens chosen to represent the people. We have much to do today, including planning for the upcoming ekklesia (assembly of all the citizens) which is happening tomorrow in the Pnyx. The Pynx is located on a hill in central Athens and is able to hold thousands of citizens who all had the right to speak. Since I am a farmer, my responsibility for the ekklesia is the grain supply. Throughout the planning and the discussion for the ekklesia, I can’t help but feel a sense of corporate identity that transcends my life as a farmer

Headed home with tired eyes and worn out eardrums, I get some supper and rest for the announcement some of of our Boule members will be making to inform the general public of our ideas and conversations.


The next day, as we assemble as a group to approach the people, I quickly gather my ideas to make sure I can remember all the necessary points if I am asked to explain anything in my area of expertise. I look out over the thousands of citizens here at the Pnyx, who are ready to consider and vote on the topics we will be discussing today. While I am one of the 500 Athenian citizens chosen by lot to represent tribes this year, the citizen body gathered today for the ekklesia helps to choose what actions will be carried out regarding both executive and legislative decisions. The out of town citizens emerge from the stoas, and everyone waits to hear the proposals discussed previously in the Bouleuterion.

Remains of the Pnyx


After the ekklesia is completed and the citizens begin to disperse, I remain to speak with some of my fellow members of the Boule. We watch as the 50 members of the Prytaneis (executive committee) of the Boule heads back to the round building of the Tholos in order to dine together. While they are all fed at public expense, some of the Prytaneis must sleep in the Tholos each night in case there is an emergency.Athens and its democracy, thus, is always running, no matter what time of day or night it is. I consider for a moment whether the Prytaneis feels pride as I do in being a member of the Boule, but I am happy to retire once again to my own home.

3D Representation of Classical period Tholos



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