Dēmos · Classical Athenian Democracy · a Stoa Publication
→ Meeting Places.
Christopher W. Blackwell, edition of March 26, 2003
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The traditional meeting-place for the Assembly was the open space on top of the hill of the Pnyx, (Thuc. 8.97), and the Pnyx seems to have been considered the proper place for the business of the Assembly: Aeschines mentions a law requiring that anyone awarded a crown by the Assembly be given the crown on the Pnyx and nowhere else (Aeschin. 3.34). In fact, if we compare Aeschin. 3.34, which specifies that the crown be awarded “on the Pnyx” (ἐς τὴν Πύκνα), with Aeschin. 3.32, which specifies that it be awarded “in the Assembly” (ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ), we might conclude that “Assembly” and “Pnyx” were used synonymously. The Pnyx was open to the sky, and thus meetings of the Assembly must have been influenced by the weather; the laws that mandated “good weather omens” before the election of military officers (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 44.4) might have been as interested in ensuring a comfortable day for discussion as in ascertaining divine favor.
When the Assembly was to meet on the Pnyx, “hurdles” (τὰ γέρρα) were set up on the hill to separate the citizens, meeting in the Assembly, from non-citizens, who presumably would gather as spectators (Dem. 59.90). Hurdles were also set up in the marketplace (ἀγορά) before meetings of the Assembly, perhaps to channel citizens toward the Pnyx (Dem. 18.169). In 5th century comedy we also find jokes about people in the marketplace fleeing a “red rope” (τὸ σχοινίον φεύγουσι τὸ μεμιλτωμένον) (Aristoph. Ach. 20), a rope dipped in wet red paint, which seems to have been used to herd people out of the marketplace and to the Assembly. In the 4th century, when payment for attendance was sufficient motivation to ensure attendance, this red rope seems to have been used to keep people out of a meeting that was already full (Aristoph. Eccl. 379).
But the Pnyx was clearly not the only place at which an Assembly could convene. Before a meeting of the Assembly, the Prytanies (οἱ πρυτανεύοντες) were supposed to post the upcoming meeting’s agenda and the location of the meeting (ὅπου καθίζειν) (Aristot. Ath. Pol. 43.3). Demosthenes mentions a law (νόμος) mandating a meeting of the Assembly in the Theater of Dionysus on the day after the Festival of All-Zeus, (the Πάνδια); this assembly is to deal with, first, any religious matters, and then hear any complaints that arise from the procession or contests at the festival (Dem. 21.8). Aeschines mentions a session of the Assembly held in the Theater of Dionysus after the festival of the City Dionysia (Aeschin. 2.61). He also reports a “vote of censure” (καταχειροτονία) being passed against a certain Meidias in the Theater of Dionysus (Aeschin. 3.52).
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