The Ancient Agora
Today was our day back to reality after an interesting and busy weekend traveling. We all woke up dreary-eyed and exhausted for our Greek language class. Today we learned to count to 1000, how to hold a simple conversation on the phone, and then found out we have an oral presentation tomorrow that includes everything we have learned so far. I have to be able to introduce myself, say where I’m from, where I currently live, and my relationship status.
After our class, 5 of the six girls decided to walk straight to the Agora, where our next class was, and then get something to eat. We were told it was under the Acropolis so we walked in that general direction. Once we got to the base of the Acropolis, we asked a Greek lady where it was. She pointed us to a street and told us it was about 5 minutes away. After about 10 minutes of wandering, we figured we were in the wrong place, so we went in and asked another Greek café owner. He pointed us in the opposite direction. So we walked that way until we came across a group of policemen, and then they pointed us to the right of where the older man said. So we decided to follow the directions from the authorities and we walked through a very hilly neighborhood until we finally came to an opening with a few white columns. We walked up to the entrance and the sign read, “Roman Agora”. Our faces dropped in confusing and anger as we all stood there in disbelief. We had gone to the wrong Agora! We called Matt and he tried directing us the right way, but it still took us ten more minutes of wrong turns and asking the locals before we got there. We were only twenty minutes late, but we still made it.
The Greek Agora was a small village that birthed the ideas of our modern day democracy. Ioanna first took us to the museum, which was situated in the Stoa of Attalos. This is a building that was restored by the Americans, so the columns were white as pearls and looked as though it were just built. There were small stalls that, when active, acted as small stores. Walking through the museum, there were many artifacts from the village that held a lot of importance. One of them was the Ostraka. This was a brown piece of clay with a persons named inscribed on it. The person’s whose name was inscribed on the clay, was being “ostracized” and banned from the city of Athens for 10 years. This happens when 6000 people of the city vote against that one person because they fear that he/she is trying to hold all the power to themselves and were compromising the democracy.
Another interesting piece of the museum was the Kieroteria. This is a big, white grainy piece of stone with 2-inch slots in rows and columns that sat outside the courts. In each slots, those eligible for the jury service inserted bronze identity pieces. Then, two bronze balls, white and black, were release by a crank, and depending on which color emerged, the citizens were allowed into the court. This was used to identify who would be the jury of the court randomly.
After we walked through the museum, we walked around the ancient city. Ioanna stopped us on the gravel road and told us to look up and down and really take everything in. The reason for this is because the roads have not been restored and we were walking the same streets the ancient Romans did. She also told us not to pick anything up from the ground because the small red shards in the gravel were broken pottery and it was illegal to take. The view from in side of the Temple of Hephaistos was amazing. Looking up to the right, I could see the Acropolis. To the left, I could see over the town of Athens, and hear all the loud sounds of the city. I took a second to just take it all in and think of what it would be like to be standing in that very place, overlooking the Argo in 500 B.C. as the Athenians did. There would be no big building structures, or the loud metro passing by, only fields beyond the quarters of the town, and a peaceful village to look over. It was very sobering knowing that people were walking these very streets over 3000 years ago.