Although each city in Ancient Greece had its own unique features and buildings, they also had many things in common. In the later periods of Ancient Greece, new cities were planned out on a grid system with streets and houses aligned to take advantage of the winds, the sun, and the local scenery. Many Greek cities were located near the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.
The center of activity in any Greek city was the agora. The agora was a large open area that served as the marketplace and meeting place for the town. Around the outside of the agora were long, open air buildings called stoas that had shops in the back. The citizens of the city would meet here to discuss politics, hear speeches, and buy goods.
Large cities often had a hill or high point in the town called the acropolis. This area would be used as a last area of defense if the city was attacked.
Often there were temples to the gods situated around the agora and in the Acropolis. Most cities had a single god called a patron god that the city was dedicated to. They would have a special large area and temple for their patron god. Examples of patron gods include Athena for Athens, Ares and Artimis for Sparta, Zeus for Olympia, and Poseidon for Corinth.
Many Greek cities had a large open-air theater where plays were held during festivals. Greek theater was a popular form of entertainment. Some theaters were large enough to hold over 10,000 people.
The Greeks also enjoyed sporting events and contests. They built large stadiums (called the stadion) and had gymnasiums. The hippodrome was a stadium designed to hold chariot races.
Some areas of the city were designated for housing. In some towns the housing was planned such that the soldiers lived in one area, the craftsmen in another, and the farmers in another area. Greek homes were plain and closed off from the outside, but were quite open on the inside and centered around a large courtyard.
Walls and Defense
Surrounding the city would be a tall stone wall to provide defense against invaders. Sometimes the walls extended down to the city's sea port in order to allow for new supplies to enter the city during a siege.
Outside the Town
The dead were not buried inside the town. Typically a cemetery was located somewhere down the road outside the town. Some towns also had a special sanctuary nearby. The sanctuary was a place dedicated to a god where the sick could go to be healed and people would go to hear prophesies about their future.
Interesting Facts About a Typical Town of Ancient Greece
Elected officials would hold meetings in the council house (called the bouleterion) located near the agora.
The name for the city-state in Ancient Greece was the "polis."
The Greek architect Hippodamos is sometimes called the "father" of city planning.
Many cities had a mint in the agora where they made their own coins.