Southwest Area - Industry and Houses

Leaving the area of the boundary stone, one can head southwest up a valley leading toward the Pnyx, meeting place of the Athenian assembly. Here are the complex remains of a residential and commercial area, used for hundreds of years (Fig. 27). Excavation of the houses has shown that metalworkers, makers of terracotta figurines, and sculptors worked in the area. These Athenian private houses were small, turning their blank faces to the street and deriving light and fresh air from an interior courtyard. Walls were of sun-dried mudbrick on stone foundations, with tiled roofs; most floors were of beaten clay with only occasional mosaics.

Figure 27. The "Industrial District," southwest of the Agora. The Poros Building at the top (north) has been tentatively identified as the State Prison. The other walls and wells represent private houses dating from the 5th century B.C. to the Byzantine period.

One larger structure, the so-called Poros Building, has a long corridor flanked by square rooms, with a courtyard at the rear (Fig. 28). It has been suggested that this might be the State Prison (desmoterion), where Sokrates and others convicted of political crimes were executed. The date, location, and plan are all appropriate, though the building may equally well have served some commercial function.

Figure 28. The Poros Building, possibly the State Prison, seen from the north, 5th century B.C.
Excavations in the Athenian Agora are conducted by the American School of Classical Studies.
Primary funding is provided by the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI).