Physical Setting of the Agora, and Its Importance for the City of Athens

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Physical Setting of the Agora, and its importance for the city of Athens The Athenian Agora was the heart and mind of classical Athens. It was a place for social gatherings for hundreds of citizens to assemble. It was also a marketplace dedicated to political happenings and a natural environment for citizens to participate in government. Not everyone in the classical world enjoyed the political freedom of Athenians. Even in the rest of Greece, many city-states were under monarchial rule. Lang writes, “…the Athenian reputation for litigiousness was well earned is clear from the number and variety of extant forensic speeches dealing with every kind of case from assault and battery to murder, from small debts to contested fortunes.” The idea of trial by jury began in Athens and most trials were held somewhere in the Agora making it an important political center for the ancient world, but also the base for modern judicial ideas. The art of rhetoric began here as well, where speeches were planned and delivered in court as persuasive techniques. Antiphon was the first such speech writer that was known. Another important aspect of the Agora was that the freedom of speech was not limited to the rich or powerful. This is shown on page 11 of Life, Death and Litigation in the Athenian Agora, where there is a picture of a crippled individual protesting in the Agora over a proposal that he be taken off welfare rolls. The Agora was also a marketplace and place for assembly. However, assembly is important for ancient Greeks because it gave them the ability to think and spread ideas among each other. Lang writes that Socrates “…was most truly at home in Athens’ agora…”(3). He explains that the agora was as important for the spread of ideas as it was the exchange of money and goods. This is again shown in fragments of peoples’ writing that Socrates ‘was frequently seen sacrificing on public affairs on the public altars of the city’ (Lang 3). The Agora and meeting places like it...
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