Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD CLASSICAL DICTIONARY ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 03 June 2020


Prytaneion, symbolic centre of the polis, housing its communal hearth (koinē hestia), eternal flame, and public dining-room where civic hospitality was offered; usually in or off the agora. A facility of ancient origin (the Athenian prytaneion was allegedly founded by Theseus: Thuc. 2. 15), it probably took its name from the post-regal magistracy of the prytaneis, with whom it sometimes remained closely linked (e.g. at Ephesus); in Dorian cities its functions could be housed in the offices of the hierothytai (‘sacrificers’), as on Hellenistic Rhodes and (after Nabis) at Sparta. The privilege of permanent maintenance (sitēsis) in the prytaneion was highly honorific (see Cic. De or. 1. 54. 232) and, in Classical times, sparingly conceded; less honorific was the once-only invitation to a meal (deipnon, xenia). Excavated prytaneia tend to be architecturally modest, as might have been the fare, at least at democratic Athens (see Ath. 4. 137e). See hestia.


L. Gernet, Anthropologie de la Grèce ancienne (1978.Find this resource:

Eng. trans. The Anthropology of Ancient Greece (1981), ch. 15.Find this resource:

S. Miller, The Prytaneion (1978).Find this resource:

M. Osborne, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 41 (1981), 153–70.Find this resource:

G. Schmalz, Hesperia: Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 75 (2006), 33–81 (site of the Athenian prytaneion?).Find this resource:

Do you have feedback?