Thursday, March 20, 2008

How Greek Agoras Changed the World

The latest from Livescience's series on items that have changed the world examines the impact of the Greek Agora - the central marketplace in the Greek city-states where not only goods were exchanged, but ideas. The agora also performed the role of the civic center, where politics and governing were conducted.

"Nearly every city of ancient Greece had an agora – meaning meeting place – by about 600 B.C., when the classical period of Greek civilization began to flourish. Usually located near the center of town, the agora was easily accessible to every citizen, with a large central square for market stalls bound by public buildings.

The agora of Athens – the hub of ancient Greek civilization – was the size of several football fields and saw heavy traffic every single day of the week. Women didn't often frequent the agora, but every other character in ancient Greece passed through its columns: politicians, criminals, philosophers and traders, aristocrats, scientists, officials and slaves.

Not only did the ancient Greeks go to the agora to pick up fresh meat and some wool for a new robe, but also to meet and greet with friends and colleagues. Akin to the modern high-powered lunch, much business got done in the casual setting."

The agora held not only the particpatory democratic assemblies, but the law courts as well. Laws were posted in the agora, and Athenian citizens voted for and debated such laws. Thus Athenian democracy started as an idea conceived, formulated, and then conducted in the agora. Most likely so did items such as the Hippocratic oath, and the Pythagorean Theorem (a squared plus b squared equals c squared), as the greatest scietific and philosophical minds met a discussed the issues of the day and taught students - all in the agora.

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