A JOURNEY IN THE ANCIENT AGORA
The Agora (marketplace) was the focal point of public life for ancient Athens. It was the space where administrative, political, judicial, commercial, social, cultural and religious activities took place.
The area of Agora was occupied without interruption in all periods of Athenian history. Long before it became the civic center of Athens, while during the Late Bronze Age (1600-1100 B.C.) was used as a cemetery. Early in the 6th century B.C., in the time of Solon, the Agora became a public area.
Extensive building activity occurred after the serious damage made by the Persians in 480/479 B.C., by the Romans in 89 B.C. and by the Herulians in A.D. 267. After the Slavic invasion in A.D. 580, it was gradually abandoned. During the Byzantine period until 1834, when Athens became the capital of the newly independent Greek State, the Agora was again developed as a residential area.
It was the Greek Archaeological Society that in 1859-1912 carried out the first excavation campaigns followed by the German Archaeological Institute in 1896-1897. In 1931, the American School of Classical Studies started the systematic excavations in the archaeological site and continues its activity until the present.
One of the most important buildings of Agora is the Stoa of Attalos built during the reign of Attalos II of Pergamon (159-138 B.C.), who studied in Athens under the philosopher Karneades before he became a king. That was a gift from a loyal alumnus who gave the Athenians a “shopping mall”. Double colonnades on two stories provided shaded walkways in front of 42 shops rented out by the City. Moreover, white Pentelic and blue Hymettian marble were used along with limestone for the walls. The Stoa served the main commercial center for the Athenians for centuries till it was destroyed by the Herulians in A.D. 267. The Stoa of Attalos was fully restored in 1953-1956 to serve as a museum. The reconstruction demonstrates the effectiveness of the Stoa as the ideal architectural form for a public building in Greece.
‘’My own view is that nothing has changed since antiquity except the technology. You take it through Europe to Renaissance, from Renaissance to the Romans, from the Romans to Greece and you get back to Athens at about 500 B.C., and then you cannot go any further in time or space for how we do things. Our whole political system and most aspects of modern life are very familiar in the period around 500 B.C. in Athens. The Agora was the center of those origins if you will.’’
John McK. Camp II, Director of the Athenian Agora Excavations, School of Classical Studies, Athens.
For the Agora Research Laboratory team, the archaeological site of Agora is a source of inspiration not only for its great historical value but mostly for its plurality of information that provides for multiple aspects of everyday life. While being in the heart of the city of Athens, critical decisions were made there and trends were formatted, allowing Agora to take the pulse of the period and enabling researchers to make a deep dive into valuable insights such as human/consumer behavior, decision making and market and trend analysis.