Athens - Pnyx

The Pnyx is the central of the three hills which lie in a line south west of the Acropolis and the Areios Pagos. Situated between the hill of the Nymphs and Muses, the Pnyx was the place where the Assembly of Athens (Ekklesia) met after the reforms of Kleisthenes and Ephialtes by the beginning of the 5th century BC.

The Pnyx was the central symbol of the Assembly, of the Demos and of Democracy itself. It is here that all free adult male citizens of Athens gathered to discuss and vote on the most important matters of the city concerning cult, finance, elections, military and naval issues, foreigh policy and justice. Discussion subjects were placed on the agenda in the form of preliminary decrees by the Council (provouleumata). The resulting decrees started with the formula "edoxe tei bouli kai toi demoi" (It was decided by the Council and the people). By the fourth century BC, all participants were paid for attending the Assembly, a full compensation for half a day's lost employment.

The excavators have identified three main construction phases in the area. During the first phase (Pnyx I; ca 460-400 BC), the audience faced north: people sat in a semicircle directly on the rocky surface, whereas a low retaining wall to the north supported the terrace where the platform (bema) of the speaker was. During phase II (Pnyx II; ca 400-345 BC), the Pnyx faced the opposite way: a semi-circular retaining wall, built to the north-east, closed the auditorium to the west, north and east, and people had their backs turned to the Agora. Furthermore, the bema was moved to the centre of the semicircle. Two series of steps along the wall provided access to the auditorium. During its last phase of construction (Pnyx III; ca 345 BC onwards), the Pnyx took its monumental form: An enormous embankment covered the auditorium of Pnyx II, a monumental central stairway replaced the two series of steps, and two large stoas to the south were constructed but never completed.