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



Categories: Weekly posts

10 responses so far ↓

  • Ashley Urrutia // May 2, 2014 at 2:40 pm |

    I liked the post was written in a different perspective and enabled me to see what it would be like to be a member of that community. I especially commend you on the part where you immerse the reader to the Bouleterion with the other 500 Athenian citizens. Great job!

  • Aubree Colleen Moore // March 8, 2014 at 3:59 pm |

    Great post guys! I really enjoyed the day-in-the-life format and I think it helped me to get a better understanding for what the daily routine of an average citizen would have been like in Athenian society. I felt that this post helped me to form a greater connection with the Greek past through the idea that the citizens of ancient Athens had normal, daily responsibilities, just as we do in the present day. Although these responsibilities were obviously not the same as ours, there is still common ground that can help us relate to this culture. I also liked the part of this post that discussed the activities of the Boule and the occurrence of the ekklesia. I gained a greater perspective on these two types of government activities, which piqued my interest in the subject.

  • Grace Elizabeth Cinderella // March 4, 2014 at 12:50 am |

    I really liked that the blog post was written in the first person. I find that when I am reading on archaeology it becomes too easy to make generalizations in my mind about “the Greeks,” and it is sometimes difficult to think of the people that we are studying as individuals who each had their own thoughts and goals that may or may not have followed completely in line with the philosophies that scholars later prescribe to their prospective eras. Reading the information this way offers a new perspective. It was also a benefit to consider the buildings one citizen may have visited or used in the average day.

  • Gabrielle Celine Spencer Hick // March 3, 2014 at 1:18 pm |

    I enjoyed reading this post, and I thought it was pleasantly creative. It was an interesting way to describe the daily life of an Athenian citizen, and it helped to review all of the structures important in the contemporary period.

  • Alexandra Evelyn DeFrancesco // March 2, 2014 at 9:35 pm |

    I find this post to be a great way to understand the Ancient Greeks. The Agora, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting Classical sites, as it is an excellent representation of Athenian democracy as well as the lives of ordinary citizens. It is a testament to the astounding loyalty Athenians showed to their state, exemplified by the dedication shown by the farmer in this post.

  • Michael Giannazzo // February 27, 2014 at 10:33 pm |

    Very interesting! It’s always exciting to read these “day in the life” accounts, since it’s so easy to become detached when dealing with archaeology and look at civilizations more as piles of artifacts than as living, breathing societies. Sometimes, simply imagining the routine of ancient people can be illuminating. Having said that, this particular farmer seems to be awfully optimistic, I imagine most people would lose some enthusiasm for the legal process after a few goes (as seen in the average American’s view of jury duty).

  • Todd Alexander Stewart // February 26, 2014 at 11:37 pm |

    Hey friends! Pretty neat post. I particularly liked the last section, dealing with the Prytaneis of the Boule. When I first read about the democratic duties of the Boule my first thought wasn’t exactly admiration… truthfully I felt that being called to be one of the 500 would probably be a little tedious, and take away from an average citizen’s primary duties of day to day life – something similar to today’s dreaded jury duty. This blog helped illuminate the average Athenian’s daily activities within the economic and democratic spheres of Athens, and even though the farmer was a total keener and just loved listening to boring old politics in the Boule, I enjoyed reading it!

  • Emile // February 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm |

    I liked the way this post summarized some of the important points from our discussions last week. The structure and format were a welcome change from the usual posts and I applaud you guys! The things they do differ greatly from a lot of the things we do personally today, so it’s easy to forget that these people had normal, daily routines as well. I liked how this post allowed me to sort of live vicariously and understand that these citizens had ordinary things (by their standards) to do too. Also, the pictures were a plus too!

  • Thomas Pettengill // February 19, 2014 at 3:03 pm |

    Hey guys! The was a really cool post that took a new take on how to view Athenian lifestyle and politics. it was an immersive read that allowed me to get a feel of the physical and mental geography of an Athenian day. I really appreciated the inner, almost personal, thoughts of the farmer. It really got me thinking about the nationalism and pride that we discuss in class and allowed me to relate to that more directly. This post really brought Athenian culture back to life and down to Earth – a useful combination that helps us visualize what can’t always be seen.

  • Müge // February 19, 2014 at 9:49 am |

    Thanks for this post, Abby, Angela and Sophie! I enjoyed reading a first-hand account immensely. One of the most interesting aspects of this post is that it made me think about mobility in the ancient world. From the people coming to the city from the countryside to the goods that were carried, exported/imported, classical Athens seems to be a great case study for mobility, accessibility and the overlapping networks of objects and people that moved through the landscape.

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