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CATEGORY: structure
DEFINITION: In ancient Greek cities, an open space, serving as a commercial, political, religious, and social center. The word, first found in Homer, was applied by the Greeks of the 5th century BC in regard to this feature of their daily life. It was often a square or rectangle, surrounded by public and or sacred buildings and colonnades. The colonnades, sometimes containing shops (stoae) often enclosed the space, which was decorated with altars, fountains, statues, and trees. There were several kinds of agora, (1) archaic, where the colonnades and other buildings were not coordinated, and Athens is an example of this, (2) Ionic, more symmetrical, often combining colonnades to form either three sides of a rectangle or square, often with two or more courtyards, such as Miletus and Magnesia. In highly developed agora, like that of Athens, each trade or profession had its own quarter. It also served for theatrical and athletic performances until special buildings and places were made for those purposes. Under the Romans, it became a forum where one side was a vast basilica and the rest colonnades.

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