Ancient History Encyclopedia has a new name!

We are now World History Encyclopedia to better reflect the breadth of our non-profit organization's mission. If you have bookmarks or links to our site on your blog or website, please update them. Learn More

The Classical Agora, the Final Chapter: The Beginning of the End For the Heyday of Ancient Athens


published on 18 January 2012
Send to Google Classroom:

Just as the Athenian Agora was home to the many legal and political headquarters of the polis, it also was home base to the all-important Athenian army. In the chronicles of ancient history, we can see how armies and navies played a vital role on the succession of power of important ancient civilizations, and Athens is no exception. The Athenian military power was a vital ingredient in the success of Athens. In ancient history, no respectable city would have gone unfortified by walls, or unprotected by an army.

Army & Navy HQ

The Athenian navy, which was supervised by the Boule, maintained its center of operations at the nearby port city of Piraeus. With the navy posted there, it was obviously able to be ready to defend the Athenian-controlled waters, and to be able to leave port to fight battles abroad at a moment's notice.

Remove Ads


Temple of Hephaistos & Athena, Athens
Temple of Hephaistos & Athena, Athens
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

The Athenian army was based out of Athens itself, with its executive offices located in the Agora. The army of Athens was primarily Athenian male citizens, who were made to enlist at the beginning of the year following their 18th birthdays. For two years, new cadets (known as ephebes) trained full time for strategy and warfare. After training, they rejoined public life, though they were committed to the army for 40 years. At any time, they could be called to duty to defend the great Athens.

Remove Ads


The army was directed by the Polemarch, an archon that was a notch lower than the Basileus in rank. Along with the Polemarch, 10 generals supervised the army, one appointed from each of the 10 Athenian tribes. This staff of officials had an office known as the Strategeion, located just southwest of the Tholos and Bouletrion in the Agora.

Another, more elite, corps of soldiers, known as the Hippeis (from the Greek, hippos "horse") or the Athenian cavalry, was based out of the Agora as well. The Hipparchs, who made their headquarters in a building known as the Hipparcheion, managed this prestigious company of upper class Athenians. Located in the northwest Agora, there is very little evidence of its exact location. But through literary accounts and archaeological evidence in the form of inscriptions, we know that this important building existed.

Love History?

Sign up for our free weekly email newsletter!

Commerce in the Agora

During the Classical period of Athenian history, there were various buildings in the Agora that were dedicated to the pursuit of commerce and industry. Several industries, such as pottery and sculpture, were highly successful and influential in terms of the quality and styles of objects produced, and became the cornerstone of Athenian commerce.

Model of the Agora of Athens
Model of the Agora of Athens
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

The South Stoa was a likely gathering place for officials groups of men that had such duties as managing the official weights and measures, among other daily operations of Athens. Near the South Stoa stood the official Athenian Mint, where Athenian coinage was manufactured.

Remove Ads


In addition to the official Athenian commercial buildings in the Agora, there were several privately owned businesses. There were potter's shops, barbers, forges, sculptor's studios, cobblers, wine shops, and many other businesses run by private citizens.

By the end of the 5th century BCE, Athens had suffered greatly as a result of the Peloponnesian Wars against Sparta. The polis struggled to recover and rebuild citywide, and, unfortunately, building in the Agora was largely disregarded until the middle of the 4th century BCE.

Editorial Review This article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.
Remove Ads




We want people all over the world to learn about history. Help us and translate this article into another language!

Support Our
Non-Profit Organization

World History Encyclopedia is a non-profit organization. For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide.

Become a Member  

Recommended Books

Sorry, we haven't been able to find any books on the subject.

Cite This Work

APA Style

writer873, . (2012, January 18). The Classical Agora, the Final Chapter: The Beginning of the End For the Heyday of Ancient Athens. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

writer873, . "The Classical Agora, the Final Chapter: The Beginning of the End For the Heyday of Ancient Athens." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified January 18, 2012.

MLA Style

writer873, . "The Classical Agora, the Final Chapter: The Beginning of the End For the Heyday of Ancient Athens." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 18 Jan 2012. Web. 16 May 2021.