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The original Athenian council was founded in 594 BC by Solon, who was Archon at the time. It consisted of 400 men, of which each of the 4 original Athenian tribes chose 100. This council met on Pynx Hill, near the Acropolis. When Cliesthenes instituted his reforms in the shape of a new constitution around 507 BC, he included in it a provision for a Council of 500 to be formed. The greek word for council is Boule (prounounced boo-lay); the new council was made up of 50 men chosen from each of the newly-created 10 tribes, or phylai. These council members served a one-year term, during which they lived in Athens and held meetings at the Bouleuterion. Furthermore, for each period of the year, usually consisting of around 35 days, each tribe's representatives held the position of executive committee, or pyrtaneis. The position was rotated through the council.

The first bouleuterion was built as a meeting place for this 'council of the people,' on the west side of the agora, just below the Kolonos Agoraios. It had a simple, almost square building plan, organized in order to accomodate the 500 person council, and was approximately 23.8 by 23.3 meters in size. The building consisted of an oblong-shaped antechamber (or pronaos), followed by a main council chamber. The main hall was a large, rectangular room; wooden benches were arranged in rows along the walls. The roof of the buildling was supported by five colums placed around the center of the main chamber. The building itself faced south; the main council chamber was north of the small lobby.

In the late fifth century, a new bouleuterion was built to the west of the old building; although smaller, it was a much more sophisticated structure. It measured approximately 16 by 22 meters, and originally consisted of only a main council chamber. The main hall was innovative in its design; seating was arranged in an amphitheater-like system, with twelve levels of semicircular benches filling the room. The rooms also contained several windows. There is some doubt as to which direction the seats were facing; some suggest east while others interpret the arrangement to be facing east. However, there is consensus that the capacity of the chamber exceeded 500 persons. It is also agreed that a porch was later added to the buildling, somewhere around 300bc; modern reconstructions generally show this to be a porch with an open interior colonnade so that those seated in the council chamber could see outside.

The new bouleuterion complex was completed with the construction of a monumental gateway, or Propylon, in the Ionic style; the old bouleuterion was converted into a Metroon, or a shrine to the mother goddess. However, it continued to serve a state function, as it was used to store the council's official archives and other state records.

insert picture of bouleuterion complex

The Bouleuterion complex also included a Tholos, a round building where the council members were housed and dined at public expense. Though the majority of the council members lived in Athens, it was required that at least one-third of the council sleep in the tholos, so that they might be ready to deal with any emergencies that arose. In addition, the tholos also held an official set of weights and measures, and so served an additional function as a Bureau of Standards (J. Camp).

Posted at Nov 14/2005 04:27PM:
chris witmore: Nice entry Aditi. I have only a few minor comments. I think a very brief description of the architectural fabric of the 1st Bouleuterion would be a good thing. No big deal here just layout and measurements. You do this with the 2nd Bouleuterion, but how big was it? What was it made out of? A separate page would be in order for the Tholos. With regard to the issue if physical description, here is an example from my Dissertation which might be of use...

"A three-sided enclosure, which terminates at the edge of a cliff, sits at the highest point of Kokkygion. The southwestern wall, just over 4m in length, joins the northern wall, the longest at 33m, at an angle that is a few degrees over ninety. At the northeastern end of this wall, a third turns at slightly more than a right angle toward the edge of the precipice. It is approximately 14m in length. The walls, .85m wide, are comprised of staggered, unhewn, grey limestone orthostats, which were broken from the bedrock along parallel bedding planes and set upright to form a double facade on either side of a rubble core. Many of these have fallen over under the immense weight of time. Inside, a level shelf of limestone bedrock terminates in a shear drop on the southern edge in the direction of the lower Pikrodhafni valley, the ‘crescent-shaped beach’ and the Potokia or Kapari bay. Within the holes left by plant collectors in the crevices among the bedrock a layer of ash was apparent in the early 1980’s. From inside this enclosure, identified as the shrine of Zeus (Faraklas 1973; Jameson, Runnels and van Andel 1994; Munn 1986), an unencumbered view encompasses much of the southern Argolid."

Your entry need not be so detailed, but this is one way to get at physical description... Hope this helps. Chris

aditi: Hi Chris, hope you had a great Thanksgiving! I've made some substantial changes to the bouleuterion entry, and I was wondering if you had any thoughts on it... I haven't been able to figure out what it was made of, but I'm working on it :) See you monday!

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