Agora, the marketplace that was the focal point of public life in ancient Athens, was in all respects the center of town. The use of the area as a marketplace is indicated by the numerous shops where potters, cobblers, bronze-workers, and sculptors made and sold their wares. Long stoas (colonnades) provided shaded walkways for those wishing to meet friends to discuss business, politics, or philosophy, while statues and commemorative monuments reminded citizens of former triumphs. The Agora was the focal point of Greek activities and here the concept of democracy was first developed and practiced. The Academy, founded by Plato, and the Lyceum, founded by Aristotle, continued to flourish. They were supplemented by the arrival of Zeno of Kition, who chose to lecture at the Agora in the Painted Stoa. Given the prominence of Athens throughout much of antiquity, the Agora provides one of the richest sources for our understanding of the Greek world in antiquity. Nowhere is the history of Athens so richly illustrated as in the Agora, the marketplace that was the focal point of public life.
The earliest archaeological excavations in the Athenian Agora were conducted by the Greek Archaeological Society in the 19th century. Since 1931 and continuing to the present day, the excavations have been conducted by the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.