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John M. Camp  






Excavations of the Athenian Agora  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
7 Jun 2004

  • Greece
  • Athens; Ancient Agora of Athens; near Temple of Hephaestus
  • 37.975617   23.721392
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Equipment Note
  • Split Track; Decoded MS Stereo

DAT # 7
Engineer: Rogosin
Date: June 7, 2004

Camp = John Camp
CJ = Chris Joyce
JG = Jessica Goldstein
JR = Josh Rogosin

JG, CJ, and JC talking about where they should start taping JG talks about scheduling.

Ambi: running water

CJ: We saw the whalebone.

JC: Yup, very good.

CJ: It was fun.

JC: Lot¿s of neat things here.

CJ: Oh yeah, where does it end? And so many that probably have stories we don¿t even know yet.

CJ: These are former.

JC: Former people who did something important. They have to be dead to be on the wall.

CJ: Oh, so I was going to say you¿re not there.

JC: No. It seems like I am but I¿m not.

CJ: No I wouldn¿t say so.

CJ/JS/JR/JC talking

Ambi walking

Ambi door opens to go outside, birds chirping.

Ambi: door slams.

Ambi: walking through gravel.

CJ: You don¿t get all that many visitors it seems.

JC: About a quarter of a million a year.

CJ: Is the pick up in the middle of the summer?

JC: Oh, very much so. We get, it averages about a 1000 a day. Last time I looked at the figures.

CJ: My guess is that you get a better-educated class of tourists I suppose who are interested in history rather than...

JC: could be

CJ: Just a cathedral perhaps.

JC: I¿ve never really analyzed who comes but people come down from the Acropolis. It¿s changed a lot recently because they now sell tickets, which entitle you to go to four or five sites rather than just one so you¿ve got a package and therefore it doesn¿t cost a separate entry to come so that¿s increased the attendance quite a lot.

CJ: Is that a good thing for you?

JC: Oh yeah, there¿s no point in finding this stuff if you don¿t share it with the public.

CJ: yeah.

CJ: Hello¿she¿s a journalism student.

JC: Is she? Oh very good.

CJ: We pry all sorts of information out of people.

CJ: And we¿re approaching the Heffistean.

JC: We¿re approaching the Heffistean.

CJ: And that is as it was 2,000 and 300 years ago?

JC: Pretty much. The ceiling and the roof had fallen in and the rood has been replaced then and in the medieval period but otherwise all the columns and the sidewalls have stood pretty much through antiquity. All the sculpture although somewhat battered and worn is still on the building and dates somewhere between 460 and 420 B.C.

CJ: And it sits on this hill above us but when the American school first came here in 1931 where we are was covered with dirt?

JC: It was covered with a lot of dirt and with private houses and the temple was always visible it¿s never been hidden but it used to overlook the main part of the old city 19th and earlier 20th century Athens.

CJ: And how much did people know about what lay underneath all that dirt?

JC: There had been a few excavations early in the 20th century so that there was some idea that antiquities were here. It wasn¿t absolutely certain where the marketplace or the agora might be found. But certainly 2 or 3 places there were antiquities that had been exposed or left open.

CJ: This could be a good spot I suppose?

CJ/JR/JC talking

CJ: What I¿d like you to do right now is just say who you are and what you do.

JC: My name is John Camp and I¿m the director of the agora excavations for the American school of classical studies here in Athens.

CJ: And we¿re standing at how would you describe it?

JC: We¿re now standing above the old square. We¿re west of it looking east and at the base of the hills right below us are the major civic buildings of the ancient city. In antiquity the area now covered with trees would have been a great big open square. Think of the small new England town or think of the mall in Washington and then imagine all the public buildings you need to run the city somewhere on one side or another of it. Just below us we have the senate building. We have the senate dining chamber, we have the archive building and we have one of the chief magistrates offices. Off to the south we have the bureau of standards, and the mint and across the square, some of the law courts of the ancient city. The square itself was used for a whole variety of functions. You could use it for market days you could use it for festivals and parades. It could be sued for athletic contests. It could be used for elections of various sorts so that basically for one reason or another, not always the same reason, the Athenians would come into the square pretty much every day.

CJ: They would look above them and on the hillside behind us is the acropolis at the top of the hill.

JC: That¿s right. Up there you would have the temples of major sanctuary of Athena so there¿s a massive gateway leading in and then there are 3 or 4 temples to Athena up on top of the hill. Just behind us here is another temple dedicated to Athena and the god Ephestus, he was the goddess of the forge, she was the goddess of arts and crafts so appropriately enough overlooking the marketplace where so much commercial activity took place you find a special temple for those two gods.

CJ: I suppose you could say Athenian technology with Athena and Ephestus together.

JC: Yeah, that would be appropriate. They¿re the two patron deities of those two activities.

CJ: And around the agora or agora. I¿ll try to be consistent with you so you put it on the ultimate syllable.

JC: Either one is fine.

CJ: Around the agora, when we¿re talking when I say what existed from the Hellenic or the classical period of Greece that we tend to think of as the birthplace or the birth time of democracy.

JC: Behind the public buildings on most sides you just have private houses. The city starts immediately and private houses encroach surprisingly close in behind the public buildings and in various directions where we¿ve extended the excavations we¿ve found several dozen private houses dating from 6th century BC to the 6th century AD.

CJ: So in addition to being the place where laws were made, there was also philosophy and poetry and this was cultural as well as a civic and legal center.

JC: Very much so. Yeah this is basically the center of all aspects of Athenian life and the many things we have derived from them but this is where they would put things on display. The actual, let¿s say the actual theatrical performances take place in the theater on the other side of the acropolis but here many of the victory monuments celebrating those victories would be put on display down below we have an inscription that could tell you who won the Oscars in 390 bc. So it¿s a pretty wide range of activities that took place in and around the square.

CJ: And the playwrights Aristophanes, Euripides, would they come here and ate or read poetry and perform their plays?

CJ: we don¿t know specifically that they did certainly there were public performances reading of plays. Herodotus is known to have read his histories in Athens. We aren¿t, my information isn¿t so specific as to whether they did it here in the theater or in some other part of town.

CJ: In the size of the whole city at the time with the agora was really thriving what period was that?

JC: The big period is from 480 just after the Persian wars down to the time of Alexander the great in the 320s bc. For a period of about a hundred and fifty years in the fifth and 4th centuries BC and by that time Athens was the biggest and by far the most powerful of the Greek city-states. There would have been a circuit wall of several miles surrounding the lower city a good 5-600 yard from where we¿re standing here. And it would have gone all around the acropolis if you would have imagine the acropolis as sort of the hub of a wheel then as much as a kilometer away all around on all sides would have been this big fortification wall.

CJ: This is a period, part of a much longer period where life in this region revolved around city states and they were numerous cities perhaps not equal to Athens but vying for equality um, how did Athens compare to Corinth or Mayo, I guess that wasn¿t the city there but I guess some of the other cities that were independent states. How did Athens compare to them. I guess this is you know archaeology in Greece 101.

JC: Well Athens was important because of its role in beating back the Persian threat in 490 and 480 BC. After that she was the main military rival of the Spartans and essentially that rivalry led to Athens developing a large sea empire, the Spartans creating a large land empire that inevitable those two clashed about 250 years later. So her main political and military rival would have been Sparta. In commercial matters the Corinthian were great traders with their two harbors, one facing east toward the Aegean, one facing west towards Cicely and the western Mediterranean. So that was a huge and rich commercial city. But Athens by virtue of it¿s empire, by virtue of it¿s military prominence drew in the best talent if you will from all sorts of other city states much the way America has at one time or another so that Aristotle for instance was not an Athenian. Polignotis the great painter was not an Athenian. There are many of the great names that we associate with Athens that worked and practiced here but they weren¿t in fact Athenian citizens.

CJ: So a combination of if I dare say Washington and New York with a bit of LA thrown in?

JC: Yeah, probably all three. Why not?

16: 09
CJ: I¿m curious when you look from this perspective down on the foundations of so many different buildings and what we¿re seeing are blocks of limestone for the most part some granite

Interrupted by bell ringing.

CJ: That would make it 3. We¿re looking down at these foundations and obviously a highly built area and when archaeologists first came here in 1931¿you came here in 1968 was it?

JC: 66

CJ: 66. What did it look like in 1966?

JC: It was fairly similar to this. We¿ve landscaped it so it serves as a park and not just a bomb site so the trees have grown up considerably since I was first here and on the periphery of the excavations, big sections off to the east and two large sections to the north, we¿ve extended out trying to find the last of the public buildings that we set out to find when we first began in 1931. But the main square the temple on the hill and the great colonnaded reconstruction across the square that serves as our museum were all standing.

CJ: That, the museum and the workspace where your offices are the stoa of Attilus?

JC: He was a king of Asia Minor and reigned from 158-138 B.C. But before that he studied here in Athens under the philosophers and then he went home and became king he gave the Athenians this handsome building pretty much in appreciation of his happy college days. So you can think of it as an alumnus gift.

CJ: And you could expect on any particular day if you came here as an Athenian during and this was the Periclean period was it? During the golden age of Pericles. You could expect to find Aristotle, Socrates, Plato people of this ilk all would come here.

JC: They would be here conducting business of various sorts. We know Sophocles for a while was general of his tribe so he would abandon the Stratagean.

CJ: The Stratagean being.

JC: The Stratagean being, I¿m sorry the office building where the generals, stratagos is the general so the Stratagean is general¿s headquarters. Socrates we know from the dialogues spent time in certain of these buildings and very often we¿ll hear about some activity usually indirect by a well known person in one or another of these buildings.

CJ: What we should do then is go down and perhaps talk about some of the particular buildings but before we do that, well we need to get ambience but feel free to offer¿I can¿t ask all the right questions and you know far more than I know. What have we missed here? I¿d be curious to know if I could ask you somewhat less professional questions. You¿ve been at this place since 66 so we¿re going on 38 years. What kind of emotions does it bring up for you when you look at this and all the work that you and others have done here to create something that 90 or 100 years ago was underneath mud?

JC: It¿s a source of pleasure because these ruins here by no mean well preserved are about the most important I can think of for the history and development of western civilization. You take what they did in Athens, it¿s borrowed and adapted by the Romans. It goes through a dark age and is picked up by the renaissance and carried into Western Europe and then from there it¿s taken across to America. And whether you¿re looking at law architecture. Show business and theater. Philosophy. Almost any aspect of our achievements, you can trace them back to Athens in about 500 BC, you can¿t go much earlier either in time or in space. You can see fabulous palaces in the Middle East and you can see wonderful periods in Egypt but their relevance to us is not so great. Everything here is pretty familiar; the only thing that¿s really changed is the technology so that as I say we can tell you who was the best producer, the pest playwright and the best actor in 390 BC. And there¿s the academy awards and the beginning of show business. Democracy of course is the biggest notion where the and right are as or more important than the state and pretty much all aspects of how we do things in America are recognized in here in a simple form. The form of the columns. You look at these columns and you¿re looking a t a first national city bank. Or at least the origins for it. We¿re about to have the Olympic games that¿s not exactly Athenian but the concept of organized athletics is a Greek concept and the competition involved the Athenians and most of the Greeks are intensely competitive people and that was surely one of the major factors in how they managed to achieve so much in what was really a primitive and difficult part of the world to live in.

CJ: As much as we might dwell on things like the Spartans, the code of the Spartans and you know throwing their daughters over the cliff and militaristic notion of the Spartans. You know the Greeks had a tremendously strong feeling about fairness it seems. When I read for example here there were votes there was actually a mechanical machine that they devised in order to insure that the people picked for juries came from all ten tribes and that they were fairly represented and that people who were tried in court got a fair hearing and laws that came before the senate came before over 500 lawmakers. It just seemed that this idea of political fairness and social fairness and athletic fairness was really born here, the way we think of it anyway.

JC: I think that¿s probably very true. I think that the key concept is the rule of law and that the rules should apply to everybody, which is not an obvious concept of all other societies and all other periods. But I think that¿s a very valid point for the classical Greeks.

CJ: And it disappeared after they disappeared it seems for a long time.

JG: There¿s so many words that were actually created from this one area. Greek words that we use now that have been integrated into English.

JC: You wanna talk about ostracism?

CJ: Yes and stoicism and ecles and¿

JG: Just some of the words that are kind of that are integrated into our everyday or almost everyday vocabulary.

JC: Let¿s talk about ostracism. What was the other one?

CJ: Stoicism and eccles, ecclesiastic I presume comes from eccles. I don¿t know.

JC: Ok some of the concepts that we use or first used here are also made their way into our vocabulary not always meaning the exactly the same thing. When we used the term ostracism now we¿re thinking sort of a social phenomenon. In antiquity it was a serious political event, something maybe we should think about bringing back. The Athenians not only elected their officials every year, once a year they had the option of voting somebody out of office and what they would do was meet in the great square here and a simple yes or no vote would be taken. Is anybody aiming at a tyranny? Is anybody a threat to democracy? And if the simple majority voted yes, then they would meet two weeks later, excuse me two months later and bring with them an ostracon which is the Greek word for a pot sherd on which they had scratched the name of the person who should leave town and the man with the most votes lost and he was exiled for 10 years and that was thought to calm down any tyrannical leanings he might have

Interrupts because the kids are making noise. Try to find a new place to start.

25: 25
JC: And the man with the most votes lost. And he was exiled for 10 years and that was thought to calm down any tyrannical or undemocratic leanings he might have and except for Pericles pretty much every major statesman took one of these 10 year vacations courtesy of the Athenian people. Once the vote was over the ballots were absolutely useless, they¿d just been scratched on a broken piece of pottery and so they¿re used to grade roads, to fill potholes or what not so any time we did in the levels of the early 5th century b.c. we find these interesting reminders of the process of ostracism.

CJ: And the word eccles described.

JC: Ecclesia?
CJ: Ecclesia.
JC: Ok.

JC: Another word that has been adapted, I guess from Greek would be our word ecclesiastic, which refers to a meeting of the full popular assembly. All the citizens would meet about every ten days on a ridge just outside the agora in an assembly known as the ecclesia. And there they would vote on the legislation that had been proposed by the boulet which was a senate of 500 which met pretty much every day except festival days in the agora so the political system was a bicameral one not unlike our own with a senate but instead of a house of representatives the Athenians voting themselves in assembly or in an ecclesia every ten days.

CJ: Free male.

JC: Free male citizens absolutely, the Athenian democracy was not that democratic if you eliminate the women the slaves, the resident aliens from other states.

CJ: But you had to start somewhere.

JC: you had to start somewhere.
CJ: What else was there¿

JC: Stoicism?

CJ: Yeah, I thought that was fascinating because you mentioned that this morning. And also if you would, what came to my mind this morning was and then how did it get to our represent day notion of stoicism I guess what would you call it mental toughness.

JC: One of the architectural forms that you find very frequently around this and all agoras is a stoa. A great big long colonnaded building. It provides shelter from sun and summer and rain in winter. At the same time provides plenty of light and fresh air for people congregating in the building. There are a half a dozen of them ringing this square. Perhaps most interesting is a building known as the painted stoa from the wall paintings that are hung on the back wall of the building. It was built as a true public building. It was intended as a hang out and no one group had any priority over the other. So the Athenians when they had nothing better to do would congregate in the painted stoa. And anybody whose trade required an audience or a crowd would also show up there. Jugglers, sword swallowers, beggars, fire-eaters are all attested of hanging out at the painted stoa. Those who show up there were the philosophers of Athens who would get a ready audience. In particular the philosopher Zeno who came to Cyprus from Cyprus in about 300 BC and so preferred the painted stoa as his classroom that he and his followers became known as the stoics. And our concept of stoic behavior stoicism comes from that philosophy, the name comes from the building where they met.

CJ: How did it come to mean what we give it?

JC: Oh those are some of the tenets of the ancient philosophy.

CJ: Be tough.

JC: Be tough, suck it up, deal with it. Absolutely.

Interruption. People walking by. Move to a different area of the path.

CJ: Yeah, tell me a bit about the structure here. We¿ve got 4, 8, 12 columns on a side.

JC: 13

CJ: Thirteen and is that always that the case?

JC: The cannon is that however many you put across the front you double it and add one on the side. So there¿s 6 columns across the front so that means 13 down the side.

CJ: And the height was a very particular height not just any height not just any height.

JC: It¿s all proportional and done in ratios so whatever diameter you pick for your column will be a multiple of that usually about 7 lower diameters for the height of the column and then above that all the arrangement of the entablature the frieze and all the bits and pieces follow the same rhythm and the same set of proportions and ratios.

CJ: And then the Periclean age in the height of the time when the agora was used this purpose of this building was a meeting place of some kind?

JC: No a temple is primarily to house a cult statue or in this case two cult statues. The actual liturgical activity should take place outside the temple at the altar so the temple itself is primarily to house the cult statue and to serve as a repository for any votive gifts or treasures that belong to that deity. It¿s kind of a strong box.

CJ: Any idea why when so much else was destroyed by the Visigas and the Gauls who came here, why this was left?

JC: I think this was a tough one to take down so that you would have to really want to do it and I think two other things are probably a major factor. One is that Athens is not an earthquake zone and secondly this was converted into a Christian church at a fairly early date and that saves it from the fate of many of these temples which is to be recycled for building material.

CJ: Um, We¿ll try to find someone to read this with a Greek accent but if you wouldn¿t mind and set it up. I don¿t know who Borlis was.

JC: One of the best definitions of the agora and how it worked and the mix of daily public life and political life is found in small fragment of a comic poet named Ubulus who was active I think in the 4th century b.c. He says as follows ¿You will find everything sold together in the same place in Athens. Figs, summoners, bunches of grapes, pears apples witnesses roses, meddlers, hagglers honeycombs chickpeas lawsuits, beasting (?) and beasting pudding, myrtle, allotment machines, hyacinth, lands, water clocks laws and indictments.

CJ: It doesn¿t leave out anything but the kitchen sink.

JC: Pretty much. That¿s¿ the message of the agora this is absolutely the center of town in all respects¿

CJ: Although maybe beastings is the kitchen sink.

JC: It could be?

CJ: Shall we get some ambience here?

Talking about getting ambience.

JR: This is MS ambience for the interview, the first part of the interview by the temple at agora. MS stereo.

Ambi: bird sounds.

Talking about how they want to get the train sound.

JR: Ok this is the front of the temple. I¿m waiting for the train. MS Stereo.

Ambi: the train approaches.

Ambi: train trails off.

CJ/JC talk about the report, the web. Jess takes pictures.

CJ/JC Talk about where they are going to go next.

CJ: And the statues that we see here. Were they taken from this site?

JC: Yes they were all found here. This is a big statue of the emperor Hedrion. It¿s kinda neat because if you look at the breast plate what you see is a very powerful statement in iconography where you get the wolf of Rome suckling the twins Romulus and Remus and then standing on the back of the wolf is Athena the patron goddess of Athens with her snake and with her owl being crowned by two female winged figures which are victories. So you have a very strong visual image of the triumph or significance of Greek culture for Roman culture.

CJ: And this was crafted or carved by Romans.

JC: By Romans and allowed to be displayed in this part of the world and this is one of several that we have and I can think of 3 or 4 others that have been found in Greece or in the Eastern Mediterranean that have the same iconography that have Athena on top of the wolf of Rome or supported by the wolf of Rome.

CJ: And the suggestion being that if there was any civilization greater than Rome it then why not then Greece (?)

JC: That¿s certainly the way I¿d read it.

CJ: And rare for the Romans to admit such a thing I suppose. Certainly for the more militant Romans. Maybe some of the¿Truvius didn¿t he write about Greece?

JC: He wrote in the time of Augustus about a century earlier than the statue. He did a lot about both Greek and Roman architecture.

CJ: And so this was found here but actually much later than when the agora was begun.

JC: Yes much later is just became one of the statues. There would have been dozens if not hundreds of statues that would have adorned this square because if you want to honor somebody the best place to put up a statue is where lots of people are going to be going by everyday. So Polsaneus who visited Athens just after the statue went up in 150 Ad describes dozens of statues that he saw on his visit to the city.

CJ: We should just make mention of Polsaneus. Could you have done your work without Polsaneus?

JC: It would have been a whole lot harder. Poisonous was a doctor from Asia Minor, so he wrote and presumably thought in Greek and what he liked to do is travel and in the years 150-170 AD he went all around Greece and he wrote us a guide book and the big difference of course being that when he wrote and traveled all these buildings were still standing and in use. So as a documentary source he¿s invaluable.

CJ: So you¿ve basically taken the text and say aha we should 30 meters in this direction and find Metholos or some other building that we know about.

JC: That¿s what we hope. It¿s a little hard to work on the distances and his prepositions but yes he is definitely our guide.

CJ: Does he ever frustrate you?

JC: Only occasionally when we¿re not 100% certain of what direction he¿s turned or how far he¿s walked but overall he¿s absolutely essential. We love him dearly.

CJ: How many acres, do you measure this in acres?

JC: I can¿t remember I always forget. I think it¿s 25 acres. I can¿t remember. It¿s a little over 500 meters on a side.

CJ: Yeah, something like 4 or 5 city blocks.

JC: Yeah, it¿s easy enough to measure out and I have trouble thinking in acres so I never remember that figure.
CJ: You¿ve been here too long. Well a hectare. I think it¿s 2.4 hectares per acre. Is that right?

CJ: So we¿re walking northwest?
JC: No, right now we¿re walking south and on our right here to the west on the base of the hill crowned by the Hefestian.
43:31 Bell rings.
CJ: Oh it¿s just one.
JC: It¿s the half hour.

JC: Just below the hill here we have this round building and that¿s nice because Polsaneus mentions only none round building so we are probably identifying this one correctly.

CJ: And round because the foundation is round. We¿re not seeing a building but we¿re seeing of¿.
JC speaks in Greek to guard

CJ: She doesn¿t look like a guard.

JC: Well, she¿s got that little thing on. That tells us. These are the summer guards. That¿s why we¿re having to introduce ourselves after 38 years but they are doing just what they are supposed to do.

CJ: Let¿s stay in the shade here. Now we were talking here about the Thollos and what¿s left is basically a circular foundation two or three blocks high perhaps.

JC: That¿s right and it was built originally about 470 bc and what it served as was a senate dining chamber. Immediately adjacent are some ruins that are very poorly preserved where a senate of 500 met. They were known as the boulet and they were chosen just to serve for one year. Their names were pulled out of a hat from among all the citizens and they would meet every day and discuss legislation and for a period of 34-36 days each contingent from one tribe of the ten tribes of Athens served as the executive committee of the Senate and during their month in office they used this round building the Trollops as their dining chamber and headquarters. So they actual got meals at public expense here and we have some of the official dining wear. It¿s scratched with the letter delta epsilon for the start of the word Demosthinian which means public property. So you were fed at public expense but they marked the crockery to make sure you didn¿t walk away with it at the end of the meal.

CJ: Oh this is the equivalent of the cafeteria?

JC: Absolutely. A little bit more because 1/3 of that contingent of 50 or at least 17 members were expected to sleep in the building and they were on duty 24 hours a day so that if some emergency arose and a messenger came in with bad news in the middle of the night he didn¿t have to run down unlit unmarked streets looking for that year¿s chief magistrate. He could come right to the agora, right to the Thollos where he would find 17 senators on duty ready to deal with any emergency. So in a sense this is the heart of the Athenian democracy.

CJ: And was 17 senators a quorum? Was it enough to make a decision?

JC: That was enough to start to send out more messages to pass the word around to decide what actions were going to be taken to summon the necessary people to get the government to deal with whatever the crisis was.

CJ: Do you know of a particular instance when somebody had to do that with just the minimum quorum in the middle of the night?

JC: There is one instance where Phillip the Second the father of Alexander the Great had taken an important city in northern Greece that opened the way to Athens. And when the messenger came down, I don¿t know that it was in the night but the senators on duty here had to take some quite precipitous actions to get things moving.

CJ: What city was that that was, that fell.

JC: It¿s called Eletea and it¿s not far from the pass of Thermopile.

CJ: And in the middle you¿ve got just a portion of a column. You¿ll notice that there are moldings around the bottom and that means it¿s actually a round altar. And in antiquity pretty much everything, there¿s pretty much no separation of church and state. Cult and state are one in the same. Everything is done after you¿ve propitiated the god so it¿s perfectly fine to find altars and sacred things in public buildings.

CJ: Muslims do that too. The separation of church and state is¿

JC: Not so significant.

CJ: Well if the Catholics and Christians hadn¿t been so brutal, they wouldn¿t have to separate church and state. That¿s one philosophy. From one of your Princetonians, Anthony Lewis.

JC: Yeah that¿s true.

CJ: Crisis of Islam.

JC: Do you want to go look at the house of Simon the Cobbler.

CJ: Simon the cobbler.

CJ: You ever counted how many columns there are or portions of columns?

JC: No, I never have.

CJ: There¿s a lot.

JC: There are a lot. There absolutely are a lot. I have no idea what the total number is.

CJ: And do you have the province (?) of each.

JC: No, not by a long shot. We have a fair number but by no means all of them.

CJ: Now we¿re standing at the spot here where we found in situ one of the boundary zones of the square and you see that block down there has early letters on it that say I am the boundary of the agora.

CJ: And that block was originally there.

JC: That was where it was found. That¿s a cast now. The original has been taken into the museum for it¿s protection but that¿s exactly where it was found in the 1930s. We¿re now standing in the square everything on the other side is beyond the limits of the public space. Just beyond it outside the square you can see walls that are part of a private house and when we excavated that in the courtyard here where these two walls come together we find a series of floor levels and we found a well. And out of those we got a series of bone eyelets and some iron hobnails suggesting that we have a cobbler at work in this building, shoemaker in the 5th century b.c. And then in the street out in front of the house we found the base of a pottery cup a drinking cup and scratched on the bottom we found ¿I belong to Simon.¿ And we say this is the house of Simon the cobbler. Then we turn to text of Diogenes Liarchious who wrote about Greek philosophy and he tells us that when Socrates wanted to meet those pupils who were too young to go into the agora. They hadn¿t yet done their military service. They weren¿t yet full citizens so they couldn¿t participate in the public life of the city that he would meet them at the house of Simon the Cobbler, which lay, near the agora. Now the evidence is circumstantial but we have a 5th century cobbler, his name is Simon and he certainly lived as close to the agora as you can possibly get.

CJ: And you have the reference from literature?

JC: Absolutely so we¿re inclined to identify this as one of Socrates informal classrooms where he met his underage pupils.

CJ: And Socrates is actually did quite a lot at the agora. It wasn¿t just that he was a one of a group of philosophers. He was the philosophers' philosopher.

JC: Absolutely. He was the gadfly. He was the one that bugged everybody if he could. He was out here questioning everybody and engaging anybody he could find in conversation.

CJ: You know judging from what you¿ve dug up here and obviously what you¿ve read how would you describe Aristocracies. What kind of guy was he?

JC: Who?

CJ: I mean Socrates.

JC: Socrates.

CJ: How would you describe Socrates?

JC: I think he probably was a little bit of a pain in the ass. I think he would just engage you in conversation and tie you into verbal knots and it must have been no fun getting caught in a discussion with him.

CJ: Would you like to have met him?

JC: Oh yeah. Definitely.

CJ: He does seem a character. All of these characters seem larger than life when we look back at them but what I think is interesting is that you found people who are the simple people that lived with them. It makes them a lot more approachable and human.

JC: Yeah what¿s nice about this site is you get the context where they functioned every day and they function a variety of ways. That¿s absolutely true. It fills out the picture considerably.

CJ: Have you found any¿I guess you have found because you showed one of a skull but you found people buried here but they¿re somewhere before agora.

JC: You were not allowed to bury within the city walls of Athens between about 500-600 b.c. and 5-600 a.d. and therefore we don¿t find that many graves except for the earlier ones of the iron age or the bronze age or very late ones.

CJ: And before the agora this place was used. There was a history even before the Greeks.

JC: Yeah, it was a cemetery and then in the period from about 1000 b.c. to 500 b.c. it was used just for houses it was a residential neighborhood.

CJ: Known as the dark ages or the dark period.

JC: We tend to call it that and toward the end we call it the archaic period. The public space of the agora and the first public buildings date to around 530 b.c.

CJ: And even before that it was also a burial site.

JC: Yes. Long before that, for a thousand years. At least a thousand years.

CJ: What do we know about the people that were living here, or doing the burying?

JC: We assume that part of the culture, we have the so-called Bronze age, which is the period of most of Greek mythology. It¿s the period of the Trojan War, it¿s the period of Jason the Argonauts. It¿s the period of Thesus and the Minotaur, if you want to believe in those things which many of us do. And therefore it goes with a great big palace that Agamemnon had at Myceone and the one the Menalaus had at Sparta, the one that Odysseus had at Ithaca. It goes with the big palace at Troy and there would have been a similar palace here up on the Acropolis and we don¿t have the palace anymore. We have some of the massive fortification walls that protected it. Down here is where most of the people would have lived and been buried

CJ: I suppose it might be a naïve question as opposed to an archaeologist but nonetheless. With all of Greece to build in, it seems like civilizations one after the other kept picking the same spot. Why is that?

JC: Well, the real emphasis changes slightly. That is to say that¿s one of the reasons for believing the Homeric epics is the time where the Greeks believed Agamemnon and Myceone was a powerful city, let¿s say between 1500-1200 b.c. and archaeologically that¿s when you can show is the case. That¿s when it was extremely powerful and influential and rich and at no other period is it so powerful. So if you say the Homeric epics or later they don¿t exist at all you have to ignore some of the archaeological evidence Myceone. Then you¿re actual 500-700 years later when the emphasis has shifted here to Athens. So the shift, you¿re right it¿s not far but within Greece, the most powerful state changed every couple hundred years or more or less. And it¿s one of the hardest things about studying antiquity is to remember that it took as long for a century to go by then as it does today.

CJ: Yeah. And it would help Americans to think about how long Greece and Athens survived as a leader and you know we¿re pin pricks so far. But I supposed culture¿s also built on top of old sites like this because there¿s a lot of building material to come and take up and rip up and use. It¿s a lot cheaper that carving it up out of a mountain.

JC: That¿s very true. A lot of good building material here and a lot of what was recycled which is why the ruins are so poorly preserved.

CJ: What was the hardest thing that you think that you¿ve had to do in terms of archaeology here since you¿ve been like 38 years here.

JC: I don¿t know. In what sense?

CJ: The most difficult challenge. The most difficult challenge as an archaeologist trying to recreate or at least uncover what existed here.

JC: I suppose it¿s partly the bureaucracy involved in tearing down a building and doing all that¿s necessary to get the tenants out, to get the building down dig through several layers of later occupiers of Athens. By the time you get down to the classical levels it¿s been so chewed up by later intrusions by the Turks, by the Venetians, by the Romans, by the Byzantines that you¿re lucky to get more than a meter or two of undisturbed classical fill. So the challenge here always is removing the later intrusions before you go after the period of the building that you¿re actually interested in. It¿s an ongoing process. I can¿t think of any one instance, which was tougher than any other.

CJ: No, I mean I think about archaeologists that work in South America among Mayan ruins or even Inca ruins. You probably don¿t have so many years of people building on top of what you want to get at and of course it gets intermingled and¿

JC: Yeah the super imposition of cultures here, it makes for very complicated stratigraphy and very poorly preserved buildings. And that¿s the fun part of course you¿re dealing with the puzzle. And you¿re given maybe 15 percent of the pieces as opposed to 85 percents of the pieces. And you try to put them together to make the best picture you can.

CJ: Did you do crossword puzzles as a kid?

JC: Not so much when I was a kid, I do a lot now.

CJ: To relax from doing this?

JC: Yeah, absolutely. Fill in the blanks. That¿s what it¿s all about.

CJ: One of the questions that we often ask people who do field work of all scientific kinds is what is the most useful took that you have and it can be a physical tool any kind of tool that you can think of that you have to have.

JC: A pencil and a tape measure.

CJ: You need that pencil to keep the record and make the drawing as you¿re removing the layers or as you¿re removing the layers or as you¿re recovering an antiquity and you need the layer to see how thick the layer was or how thick that wall is so you¿re basically recording data and interpreting it comes later but you need pencils and tape measures just to record properly.

JC: So not that different from what Shimon or anybody else did a hundred years ago in terms of tools.

CJ: Probably not. No I think not I mean obviously there more effective and faster one¿s now with computers and ways of plotting exactly where you are but it¿s still a pretty basic way of going about things.

CJ (to Jess): Do you have any questions?

JG: I do.

Trying to find a different place to stand.

JG: Just um. I was wondering, talking a little bit about this. I think it¿s really hard to understand why we should care about a site like this. I mean archaeological sites in general, the connection to democracy I think is obviously a direct link. But is there a reason that you personally care so much about this site and it¿s connection. It¿s significance.

JC: I think as I mentioned. I think except for the change in technology that not that much else has changed. Certainly human nature hasn¿t changed. The roots of understanding of like something like what is going on in Iraq are to be found hundreds if not thousands of years ago. When Herodotus starts to describe the Persian Wars, which take place in 490 back. he says all the trouble began when Paris abducted Helen and started the Trojan War and that is the beginning of the conflict between East and West and he¿s referring to an event that took place 700 years before his time. I think in America I think we have perhaps a very telescope sense of time that sometimes prevents us from understanding modern events, which have their roots, hundreds if not thousands of years ago. Whether we¿re talking about the Balkans and Bosnia, whether we¿re talking about Cyprus, whether we¿re talking about the Palestinian situation, whether we¿re talking about conflict between Greece and Turkey the Eastern Mediterranean is the contact and conflict point between east and west and it has been for thousands of years.

CJ: Who was it who said if you remember the past you¿re fated to repeat it.

JC: I don¿t know who that is and even those who know the past we still repeat it but we¿re still better off I think we can understand a little better than people who don¿t know it at all. So for me this is really not that irrelevant and we were talking about this with somebody just recently, the patriarch up in Istanbul in April of this year accepted the apology from the Pope which was made two years ago from the destruction of Constantinople which took place in 1204 A.D. 800 years ago. So for those guys it¿s living history. They are finally resolving a conflict that is 800 years old. We simply don¿t have that time scale in America.

CJ: And some might argue that it¿s a good thing that we don¿t. For example if you were to ask the Serbs did you have to insist on attacking the Muslim Albanians the Kosovar Albanians they would quote a battle that took place in the 14th century.

JC: And a battle that they lost. It¿s incomprehensible to Americans but at the same time if we¿re going to engage this part of the world, it behooves us to understand where they¿re coming from rather than where we¿re coming from.

CJ: So long as we don¿t feel fated that there¿s no escape from human behavior well I know again you could say that the Greeks, we¿re not that different from the Greeks, perhaps that¿s just human nature.

JC: Yeah, I think that¿s probably true. It is human nature and I think that it helps to understand the causes of some of the conflicts no matter how old they are as you say of the off chance of avoiding them in the future. Always that hope. There has to be that hope.

CJ: And if you, while you were waxing slightly philosophical here I¿d love to hear from an archaeologist such as yourself the connection between the physical evidence for what we¿ve read about. Those of who went to college and read a bit of the ancient Greeks or the people who¿ve told us about the ancient Greeks and the importance of creating a physical setting for that. So that it doesn¿t just live in a book.

JC: Yeah, I think the best example I would say is that you have a whole different feeling about the civil war if you visited the battlefield of Gettysburg. If that just changes your whole conception and go to the cemeteries and stand on the spot that the events took place, it has to give you a different impression from just reading about it in a book.

CJ: and the same applies here.

JC: The same would apply here. If you know you¿re standing where Demosthene spoke. If you know you¿re in the building where Socrates was indicted for impiety, how can that not make a difference?

CJ: By the way that building where Socrates was indicted, which one is that here?

JC: That¿s the royal stoa, which is just across the modern railroad tracks in the fairly recent area of excavations.

CJ: That¿s where you¿re excavating now?

JC: Not quite that far over. It¿s in that same general area and we had to go over another modern street to go where we¿re digging now.

CJ: Um¿perhaps tomorrow it might be nice to¿

JC: Go to the royal stoa, because we¿ve got (?), we¿ve got academy award winners, we¿ve got Socrates. We¿ve got all those things.

CJ: Yeah I¿d like to do that cause at least for most listeners I think Socrates will ring a bell.
JC: Exactly.

CJ: Thosenius won¿t, Herodotus might not

JG/CJ/JC talking about what to do next.

JG: My other question, you had mentioned this before about one of the challenges you¿ve had is to have to move some of the people and you mentioned to me on the phone that there are some 400 houses that you¿ve had to move. If you could just set it up, it¿s an overwhelming amount

CJ: Yeah, the reason it¿s taken us 74 years so far isn¿t just that this isn¿t a simple excavation in an open area. We¿ve had to remove about 400 houses and then dig down anywhere from 8-25 feet to get to the ancient remains. For the most part we buy the houses on the open market when we can. Otherwise they¿re expropriated for us by the Greek government and we put up the money. Nowadays most of the buildings that we¿re after are commercial property with non resident landlords so we¿re not dealing with the question of putting people in the street for a house they¿ve lived in for generations so the emotional issues are not as strong as it might be or as it probably was in the 30s.

CJ: But costly.
JC: very costly
CJ: Then the American school has to pay for all of it.

JC: The American school does, most of our support comes from the Packard humanities institute, which was founded by David Packard of the Hewlett Packard company and is administered by his son.

CJ: NPR gets money.
JG: We get money from them too.
CJ: We have in the past
JC: They¿re very responsible useful donors.

JG: If we could just record some ambi just walking.
CJ: Do you want to get some just sitting here for a second?

Ambi: birds chirping.

JR: This is MS Stereo.
Ambi: birds chirping

JG asks for ambience of walking without talking.

Ambi: walking, crunching gravel.

Ambi: sounds of train approaching.

Ambi: bell rings as train goes by.

JG talks wants to records over again.

Ambi: sounds of keys jangling and gate opening, people talking in the background.

Ambi: train up close

Ambi: birds chirping.

Ambi: sound of shaking metal

Ambi: more walking, talking in the distance

Ambi: Cat making deep growl (?)

JR: Switch to split track wireless.

JC: We¿re now at what¿s known as the royal stoa. It¿s another one of these colonnaded buildings and this one was built sometime probably in the late 6th century b.c. for the 2nd in command of the Athenian government (interruption).

JC: This building here is the royal stoa which is a colonnaded building built somewhere around 500 b.c. and it was the headquarters of the second in command of the Athenian government. The man responsible both for religious matters and the laws and he was the vice president of the Athenian democracy so we¿re talking about Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft rolled into a single individual.

CJ: You¿re scaring me.

JC: Well, I can¿t help that, that¿s the powers this man held and among other things because he was chief religious magistrate cases of impiety came before him and you¿ll remember that Socrates was tried for impiety for importing new gods into the city, for corrupting the youth of Athens. And so when two of the dialogues of Plato, Protheotetus and the Uthafro, Socrates says he can¿t stop to take part any longer because he must go to the Royal stoa to answer the charge of his accuser Melatos. And Socrates and his accuser would meet here at a specified time and the kind Arcon having heard the case would decide if there was enough evidence for a trial and if so where it would take place, when it would take place, rules of evidence and the like. The trial took place in a law court that we haven¿t yet identified. What you have here is the equivalent in the American judicial system of the indictment. The preliminary argument is before the magistrate or a grand jury that led to the trial and because of two inscriptions on the building and Polsanious¿ account we can be absolutely certain that this is the royal stoa and therefore we can be sure that this is the building where Socrates was indicted in 399 b.c.

CJ: And the inscriptions were, are here.

JC: They were found right on the steps of the building.

CJ: And we¿re standing on a step here.

JC: Yeah you can see one of them here, your audience can¿t ¿
CJ: That¿s all right ¿

JC: Onisipus, the son of Itious of the town of Cafesia (there¿s the word we want) Basaleus, the King.

CJ: We¿ll have to do that again. This is just a nice moment.

Ambi: train passes by.

JC: This statue base, which is resting right on, the steps of the building says Onisipus, the son of Itious of the town of Cafesia, the king Basaleus set this up. So this, which has been in place since it was set up, pretty much insures the identification of the building. It¿s a nice block because as chief religious magistrate the king Arkon also was responsible for producing the plays which were sacred to the god Dionysus, patron deity of wine women and good times. So down below you get the two categories. There is comedy, there is tragedy and here is the name of the winning producer in those two categories. So these are essentially the academy awards or the Oscars of 390 b.c. The date we get here, the comic poet Nicocares lost to Aristophanes play the Plutas in 388 b.c.

CJ: And so each year at least for a certain number of years the winners would be inscribed. The names of the winners would be inscribed in this stone.

JC: That¿s right here and we have other buildings where they actually had a building where they would just inscribe every year complete lists of the winners and the producers in comedy and tragedy.

CJ: And to make sure I understand when you were talking about Socrates, you¿re fairly sure about the building being the royal stoa because¿

JC: Because of this block and Polsanious¿ description of this part of town.

CJ: And from the literature of Plato, that it was in this building that Socrates was indicted.

JC: That¿s right.

CJ: We put the two together and we can imagine him being right here.

JC: Absolutely

CJ: Then the actual trial as I read from the other trial courts that were in the Agora, the people who were the jury and the juries were large many of them right. Many of them right?

JC: Yes. Minimum is 201. Socrates was tried before 501.

CJ: And when they cast their ballot for¿ Describe how they cast their ballot for guilty or innocent.

JC: When they went into the court they were given two discs which had axles and one axle was solid and one axle was pierced and as they left the court they would hold them with their thumb and forefinger over the ends of the axle so nobody could see which way they were voting throw one into the pile and that counted one into the discard pile. Pierced axle (there¿s a hole in the story) that¿s for guilty. Solid axle is for acquittal and so they would simply count the votes and a majority vote would determine the outcome of the case.

CJ: To make sure I understand an axle without a visual cue, a disc with a hole in it would be the open axle.

JC: That¿s right. Absolutely.

CJ: And a solid disc with no hole in it¿

JC: That is true

CJ: But there¿s no axle running through it.

JC: Well it¿s not, there¿s a protrusion at either end so there is an axle and it¿s only about an inch and a half long but enough so your finger and your thumb would be about 2 inches apart as you held this then.

CJ: And you actually found terra cotta enclosures with some of these balanced still in them

JC: Yeah, we have. We have a little ballot box, two drain tiles set on them to make a container and we found six bronze ballots in that and we have the water clocks that they used to time the speeches and we have the allotment machines whereby they pick their juries. It was a very elaborate system to make sure that the juries were properly composed.

CJ: Yeah, the water clock was the drawing; the photograph that was in the book was fascinating. There was a large water clock, which I think ran that was more like an hourglass in the sense that it ran 17 hours.

JC: That¿s right. That¿s a whole day clock.

CJ: There¿s also a system for using a water for measuring the amount of time that an orator could speak.

JC: Absolutely. No filibustering. You got a certain amount of water for your speech and depending on how important the case was, you got a lot of water or a little water. The one example we have and it¿s a unique one runs for about 6 minutes so it must be the second rebuttal of a minor divorce case. But from the ancient art we know there were much bigger ones.

Ambi: Train approaching interrupts interview

CJ: I don¿t know if you had more to say on that but I remember the two cups cause that was fascinating. There was a cup that was above another cup.

JC: That¿s just one emptying into the other.

CJ: And so one cup has a hole in the bottom?

JC: And any water clock will have an overflow hole at the top so you can make sure everybody gets the same amount of water and an outlet hole at the bottom and then inscriptions telling how long they should run.

Ambi: train passes.

JC: One of the things that makes this excavation somewhat unique it¿s fully urban, we have a river running through the middle of it and we also have the Athens Piraeus railroad, which was built in 1891, which is to say 40 years before our excavations began. It¿s kind of a logistical nightmare archaeologically it¿s not such a problem given the fact they put their train right through the middle of ancient Athens, they put it in the very best place. My predecessors actually would dig for two minutes and wait for the train to go by and dig for two more minutes and so we know what lies underneath it and so the loss has been relatively minimal compared to what one might think.

JR: These are subway trains though right?

JC: This is both subway and surface. It runs from here on the surface to Piraeus and it goes underground here as it goes through Athens.

JR asks JC to repeat something because of interference.

JC: This building is the royal stoa. It¿s another one of these colonnaded buildings and it was the headquarter of the second in command of the Athenian government the king Arkond. He was responsible for both religious matters and the laws.

CJ: Who was the first in command?

JC: His name was the Eponymous Arkond because the year was named after him. So when they date here they will say the year in which so and so was chief magistrate and he had other duties, political duties and administrative duties.

CJ: These were elected posts.

JC: Not elected no, names pulled out of a hat.

CJ: Name from out of hat?

JC: Which means you can¿t in theory, that means that the chief magistrate of the state is by happenstance. It¿s whoever¿s name happens to be pulled and there¿s no chance of making sure your name is going to be pulled. What it means in reality is that other positions become more important.

Ambi: Interrupted by approaching train.

JC: No matter how pure the democracy there are some positions you cannot leave to the luck of the draw. You have to have people who know how to manage money to be your treasurers. You have to have competent people managing your water supply. You need good leaders to be generals in battle, so as much as they wanted to make all positions allotted, it was necessary to have some of the positions elected. And so the powerful politicians were not in fact nominally the chief magistrates of the state. The eponymous Arkon the King Arkon and the like. There were the water commissioners the treasurers and the generals bc they could be elected year after year and thereby show their political power.

CJ: Though power was fairly well distributed.

JC: Very well distributed by most standards

CJ: And deluded to a certain amount.

JC: Absolutely.

CJ: Questions? I¿m done. I¿m toast.

JR: Are these buckets seats or what?
JC: These are thrones for the king Arkon and his assistants and they go back to the sixth and 5th centuries b.c. and then in the 4th century they were replaced by marble thrones, pieces of which we have. These were then brought outside the building and the cuttings that are now in the seats are to carry inscriptions. They¿re just base blocks for inscriptions. This is limestone. The marble are what we have pieces of that replace these. That big block there is the other thing that the king Arkon was responsible for and that was to administer the oath of office to all the incoming magistrates. You swore allegiance to the democracy and you wouldn¿t transgress the laws and if you did either of those things you¿d set up a golden statue to the gods. The oath that is administered by the king Arkon, so we¿d look for it here somewhere. Aristotle is more specific he says that the oath is taken prostolitho (?) on the stone and given the size and prominent position of that block right in the middle of the front of the building we are inclined to identify that as the oath stone of the Athenians.

CJ: And they would stand on that.

JC: They would stand on that and take their oath of office or stand right in front of it.

JR: Can you picture in your mind the building? I can¿t.
JC: Yes. I can show you a model of it that will help. There are eight columns. Here¿s a column here, there¿s a stump of a column. If you come down here you can see the tool marks where a column protected the surface as opposed to here where it¿s worn completely smooth by foot traps as people came in and out of the building.

Ambi: Train passes.

JR: This morning you were talking about the position of things based on the ancient river.
I don¿t know if you want to cover that tomorrow but I found that fascinating how everything was situated differently.

JC: You see all these buildings are facing true east. The building across the street should face true south but instead it¿s going off to the northeast because of the line of the river and we¿ll be over there tomorrow so we can do that there.

CJ/JG talking about ambience. Talk about getting picture taken.

This is MS ambi at the Basilias stoa. We wanna get the gate as well.
Jess talks about the ambi she wants.

JR: MS Stereo
Ambi: birds chirping sounds of people talking and laughing in the distance.

Ambi: Train approaches

JR: OK. Is this the ancient river right here?

CJ: Big turtle.

Ambi: Walking. Mic movement sounds.

Ambi: More walking.

Ambi: Gate unlocks; train passes by.

Ambi: person speaking Greek, train passing by.

Ambi: Gate opens, motorcycle passes by.

Ambi: another train comes.

Ambi: gate opening, keys jangle, gate shuts. Key locks gate. (finally good)

JG: How high up is the acropolis?

JR: It¿s 140 meters above sea level and we¿re at about 50 meters above sea level.

Ambi: walking.

Ambi: Keys jangling, gate opens and closes. Someone with a British accent informs them that the lights are about to go out.

Ambi: walking up stairs.

Ambi: half hour bell rings.

Ambi: something banging in the background. Footsteps continue upstairs

JR: Ok, that was MS Stereo stopping down.

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