Home >> Encyclopedia-britannica-volume-01-a-anno >> African Languages to Agricultural Machinery And United >> Agora



AGORA, originally an assembly of the people of one of the Greek city States, called by the king or other authority to receive a decree or to discuss a policy. At an early period the word was used to describe the places where these meetings were held and in historic times any open space for general meetings, either official or commercial, was termed an agora. The agora of the historic Greek city was thus similar to the Roman forum or the mediaeval English market place. As the agora was the centre of the city life, it was surrounded by, or adjacent to the most important civic buildings, the prytaneum or official residence of the general, the basilica where the court sat, the bouleuterion or council hall, the thesaurus or treasury and the prison. As the market place, it had ranges of sheds or colonnades for shops; frequently the colonnades were divided into parts, each named after the particular merchandise sold therein.

After the Persian wars the architectural treatment of the agora became much more monumental and lavish colonnades were fre quently added to the older agorae, such as the Stoa of Attalus in the agora at Athens (between 1S9 and 138 B.c.). Of these later agorae many fine examples exist in various states of preservation. That at Ephesus was a square court over Soo ft. on the side, con nected with additional courts containing a gorgeous nymphaeum and the lavish Roman library. At Priene the agora was traversed by streets but arranged so that through traffic was carried below on a detour. The substructures of the hillside agorae at Aegaea and Alinda still remain almost complete. In these cases the agora on a high terrace had large storage warehouses below. The great terrace wall at Alinda, with its striking rusticated masonry and large Roman arched openings, is especially impressive. Most important of all, however, is the agora at Assus, of which exten sive remains still exist in a good state of preservation, with enough fragments to enable a complete and definitive restoration. This, like the two foregoing, is a hillside agora, supported on massive terrace walls. Its main architectural feature is the great two storey portico.

The forum at Pompeii, in plan, dates probably from the time of the Greek colony. It therefore forms a connecting link be tween the Greek agora and the Roman forum. With its sur rounding colonnade, its basilica, the city temple at one end the civic offices at the other, it gives a perfect picture of what the typical Greek agora was like. (For the agora at Athens see ATHENS.) For a general discussion, see Cornish, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1898) . The typical plan given is, however, absurd through its obvious misinterpretation of a passage in Pausanias in which he refers to colonnades separated by streets. Pausanias plainly refers to streets traversing the agora and thus dividing the enclosing colonnade into separate sections. See also S. H. Bacon and Robert Koldewey, Expedition of the Archaeological Institute of America (investigations at Assus in 1881-83, 1902-21) ; Anderson and Spiers, Architecture of Ancient Greece, new ed. by W. Dinsmoor (1927).

greek, roman, city, colonnades and agorae