A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 262 pages of information about A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life.

[*]The mere matter of climate would of course have to come in as a serious factor.  The Athenian would have found his life becoming infinitely more complex along the material side when he tried to live like a “kalos-k’agathos”—­i.e. a “noble and good man,” or a “gentleman,”—­in a land where the thermometer might sink to 15 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (or even lower) from time to time during the winter.

Chapter III.  The Agora and its Denizens.

13.  The Buildings around the Agora.—­Full market time![*] The great plaza of the Agora is buzzing with life.  The contrast between the dingy, dirty streets and this magnificent public plaza is startling.  The Athenians manifestly care little for merely private display, rather they frown upon it; their wealth, patriotism, and best artistic energy seem all lavished upon their civic establishments and buildings.

[*]Between nine and twelve A.M.

The Agora is a square of spacious dimensions, planted here and there with graceful bay trees.  Its greatest length runs north and south.  Ignoring for the time the teeming noisy swarms of humanity, let our eyes be directed merely upon the encircling buildings.  The place is almost completely enclosed by them, although not all are of equal elegance or pretension.  Some are temples of more or less size, like the temple of the “Paternal Apollo” near the southwestern angle; or the “Metroon,” the fane of Cybele “the Great Mother of the Gods,” upon the south.  Others are governmental buildings; somewhat behind the Metroon rise the imposing pillars of the Council House, where the Five Hundred are deliberating on the policy of Athens; and hard by that is the Tholos, the “Round House,” with a peaked, umbrella-shaped roof, beneath which the sacred public hearth fire is ever kept burning, and where the presiding Committee of the Council[*] and certain high officials take their meals, and a good deal of state business is transacted.  The majority of these buildings upon the Agora, however, are covered promenades, porticoes, or stoe.

[*]This select committee was known technically as the “Prytanes.”

The stoe are combinations of rain shelters, shops, picture galleries, and public offices.  Turn under the pillars of the “Royal Stoa” upon the west, and you are among the whispering, nudging, intent crowd of listeners, pushing against the barriers of a low court.  Long rows of jurors are sitting on their benches; the “King Archon” is on the president’s stand, and some poor wight is being arraigned on a charge of “Impiety"[*]; while on the walls behind stand graved and ancient laws of Draco and Solon.

[*]The so-called “King Archon” had special cognizance of most cases involving religious questions; and his court was in this stoa.

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A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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