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A Prytaneion (Ancient Greek: Πρυτανεῖον) was seat of the Prytaneis (executive), and so the seat of government in ancient Greece. The term is used to describe any of a range of ancient structures where officials met (normally relating to the government of a city) but the term is also used to refer to the building where the officials and winners of the Olympic games met at Olympia. The Prytaneion normally stood in centre of the city, in the agora. The building contained the holy fire of Hestia, the goddess of the hearth, and symbol of the life of the city.
At the southwest side of the agora in Athens, and part of the Bouleuterion complex stood the Tholos, a round temple (tholos is the Greek word for "circle"), eighteen metres in diameter, which served as seat of the Prytaneis of Athens and so was their Prytaneion. It was this round feature that allowed archaeologists to identify the badly damaged buildings surrounding it.1 It functioned as a kind of all purpose venue, with both a dining hall and sleeping quarters for some of the officials.2 This accommodation was necessary as, after the reforms under Cleisthenes, one third of the senate had to be present in the complex at all times. It was built around 470 BCE by Cimon, to serve as a dining hall for the boule (members of the senate).3
At Olympia, the Prytaneion4 was where the priests and magistrates lived; the high priests lived in the Theokoleon.5 It stands to the north-west of the Temple of Hera and was used for celebrations and feasts by the winners of the games.6 It also housed the Altar of Hestia where the original Olympic flame once burnt.6
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- Camp, John McK. The Athenian Agora: Excavations in the Heart of Classical Athens. New York, N.Y. (500 Fifth Ave., New York 10110): Thames and Hudson, 1992. Print"
- "Tholos, Athens" in Archaeopaedia.
- "Athens - Prytaneion" Bouleuterion: Birthplace of Democracy.
- "Project Perseus:", Olympia, Prytaneion (Building)
- "Festivals and Games", Olympia: Pathways to Ancient Myth at Calvin College
- "The Altis", Olympia: Pathways to Ancient Myth at Calvin College
- Miller, Stephen G. The Prytaneion. Its Function and Architectural Form. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.
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