Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Prytaneion

The Prytaneion, was the meeting house and dining room for the Senators. Prytaneion means 'Magistrates Hall' or 'Town Hall'. It is said that no city could be called a Greek city without a Prytaneion. They were usually positioned in the centre of the city, near to the Agora (market place).

This one possibly dates between 180 BCE (2nd Century BCE) and 150 AD (2nd Century AD). Although, it is documented, that there were possibly two phases of construction here with the later being during Roman times. Evidence of this has been found in reused building materials.
It is situated on the corner of Athena Street and the street heading towards Watergate Street to the south.

The building appears to have been rectangular shaped, 17.5 m by 24 m (57.41 ft by 78.74 ft), with a central paved area, a colonnaded courtyard (meaning that columns were placed at regular intervals), surrounded by three small rooms along the back edge, facing the Upper Gymnasium, two on the side against the Bouleuterion and three along the bottom against the Sacred Stoa, suggesting that the Prytaneion was a later construction than these two buildings. The Prytaneion was entered through the middle of the three rooms which backed onto the Sacred Stoa.

Inside the room to the right of the entrance to the Prytaneion was said to have been the shrine of Hestia, where the eternal sacred flame was burned. It was believed that the common heart of the city symbolised the city and if the fire of the common heart died, then so would the city.

Hestia was the virgin goddess of the hearth and the home. She presided over the cooking of the bread and the family meal. She was also the goddess of the sacrificial flame and therefore received a share of every sacrifice to the gods.

Here is a photo of the sign at the Prytaneion giving you an idea of the layout.

These next two photos show a close up of the vessel like objects just off to the right centre of the above picture.

I have found writings that said that the square vessel below is a marble basin of re-used balustrade slabs, possibly used to collect rainwater from the roof.

The inscription on this stonework below was translated by Runscheid and Koenigs, 1998: 49-50. It is said to be from around the 3rd Century AD and is an honorific inscription for Marcus Aurelius Tatianus the younger. It has been translated as follows:

“The famous city of the Prienians, noble Ionians, and the egregious council and the Emperor-loving Corporation of the Elderly – in accordance with what has frequently been expressed by them in their documents, ratified in common sense of Council and Assembly of the people and by decrees passed by the people – (have) honoured M. Aur. Tatianus, (grand)son of Euschemon, (great-grand)son of Euschemon, (great-grand)son of Polion, market inspector, for his expenditure for the city when in office; to him, who has been head of the ceremonies in honour of Athena Polias and temple warden of the goddess and senior prytanis and wreath-wearing chairman of the council, farewell.”

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