Heliaia

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Description

Around 500 BC, the Heliaia, the main civil court of Athens, was located on a walled terrace in the southwest corner of the Agora. After the Persian occupation, the Athenians managed to repair the Heliaia and it continued to be in use throughout the Classical Period.

N.B.: Lately, the precinct has been identified as the Aiakeion, a sanctuary dedicated to Aiakos, a Aeginetan hero. This reopens the debate about the location of the Heliaia.

The Heliaia was a walled open-air precinct measuring 26.5 m by 31 m, floored with clay and gently sloping to the northeast. The walls consisted of Aeginetan poros squared blocks crowned with a double cornice. It was 0.48 m thick and probably more than 2 m high. The main entrance was located in the middle of the north side and was preceded by three steps. Another smaller entrance could be found on the east side.

Fragment of an allotting device found on the Agora of Athens
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Fragment of an allotting device found on the Agora of Athens

The minimal size of a jury was 201 citizens, the normal size 501. Juries were selected using an allotting device. This device consisted of a square stone pillar incised with a grid of slots. A bronze ticket could be inserted into each slot. Once placed into these slots, the tickets were matched with black and white marbles. The jury to whom belonged a ticket matched by a white marble was selected.

A clepsydra was used to measure the time allowed to each speaker.

Later Features

A monumental water clock was erected against the north side of the Heliaia around 310 BC.

Around 150 BC, the enclosure was surrounded by a peristyle and roofed with a lantern.

References

American School of Classical Studies at Athens; The Athenian Agora: A Guide to the Excavation and Museum, 1990

Camp, John M.; The Archaeology of Athens, Yale University Press, 2001, p. 261

Connolly, Peter and Hazel Dodge; The Ancient City - Life in Classical Athens & Rome, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998

To Do

  1. Include an illustration of such a clepsydra
  2. Include an illustration of such a ballot box
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