The agora in Athens had private housing, until it was reorganized by Peisistratus in the 6th century BC. Although he may have lived on the agora himself, he removed the other houses, closed wells, and made it the centre of Athenian government. He also built a drainage system, fountains and a temple to the Olympian gods. Cimon later improved the agora by constructing new buildings and planting trees. In the 5th century BC there were temples constructed to Hephaestus, Zeus and Apollo.
The Areopagus and the assembly of all citizens met elsewhere in Athens, but some public meetings, such as those to discuss ostracism, were held in the agora. Beginning in the period of the radical democracy (after 509 BC), the Boule, or city council, the Prytaneis, or presidents of the council, and the Archons, or magistrates, all met in the agora. The law courts were located there, and any citizen who happened to be in the agora when a case was being heard, could be forced to serve as a juror; the Scythian archers, a kind of mercenary police force, often wandered the agora specifically looking for jurors.
A number of buildings were added to the agora. Those in place by the 2nd century included:
The ancient Athenian agora has been excavated by the American School of Classical Studies since 1931 under the direction of T. Leslie Shear, Sr. of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. They continue to the present day, now under the direction of John McK Camp.
After the initial phase of excavation, in the 1950s, the Hellenistic Stoa of Attalos was reconstructed on the east side of the agora, and today it serves as a museum and as storage and office space for the excavation team.
The Roman Forum of Athens is located to the north of the acropolis and to the east of the original classical Greek agora.