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The Athenian Agora Intro Page 3

reconstruction of agoraIn the Archaic period (6th century BC) earlier houses and burial plots were abandoned and the area became known as the ‘place of assembly’ or ‘Agora’: a central square that served as political meeting place and market. Few buildings of the 6th century BC Agora are left to be seen, as they were largely destroyed and overbuilt in the 5th century BC. A large multi-room building (Building F, no longer visible), perhaps the mansion of the tyrant Peisistratos and his family, occupied the southwest corner. Around 550 BC, also in the time of Peisistratos, the Southeast Fountainhouse was constructed and the large Southwest Enclosure (the ‘Helaia’ or Aiakeion). Somewhat later are the Precinct of the Twelve Gods and the Great Drain, which runs along the western side of the Agora and still serves its purpose of carrying off excess rain water. There also were a number of small temples, dedicated to gods who were considered particularly important for the functioning of the government.

In 510 BC the period of tyranny came to an end with the expulsion of Hippias, the son and successor of Peisistratos. Soon after, in 508/7 BC, Kleisthenes proposed a new constitution, which was to form the basis of the Athenian democratic system. All Athenian free-born men were assigned to one of ten newly created tribes, each of which had 50 representatives in the ‘Boule’ or Senate. This means all citizens were represented and had an equal chance to become Senator themselves. The 500 senators served for one year and were supposed to meet in the Bouleterion (Senate House) every day. (Women were excluded, as were foreigners and slaves.)

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