The agora (Ancient Greek: Ἀγορά, Agorá) was a central spot in ancient Greek city-states. The literal meaning of the word is "gathering place" or "assembly". The agora was the center of athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city. The Ancient Agora of Athens was the best-known example, birthplace of democracy.
Early in Greek history (10th century–8th century BC), free-born male land-owners who were citizens would gather in the agora for military duty or to hear statements of the ruling king or council. Later, the agora also served as a marketplace where merchants kept stalls or shops to sell their goods amid colonnades.
From this twin function of the agora as a political and commercial space came the two Greek verbs ἀγοράζω, agorázō, "I shop", and ἀγορεύω, agoreúō, "I speak in public". The word agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces or public situations, derives from the meaning of agora as a gathering place.
The Forum was the Roman equivalent of the agora and the word is often used in older texts to refer to Greek agoras.
The pattern of the agora is still present in the vast majority of all Mediterranean social and urban structures. This main square tends to be heavily used all year round. This in contrast with, for example, colder places in Europe due to weather conditions.
See also