The Pnyx (Greek: Πνυξ, pronounced "Pnuks" in Ancient Greek, Πνύκα "Pnika" in Modern Greek) is a hill in central Athens, the capital of Greece. It is located less than one kilometre west of the Acropolis and 1.6km south-west of the centre of modern Athens, Syntagma Square.
The Pnyx was used for popular assemblies in Athens as early as 507 BC, when the reforms of Cleisthenes transferred political power to the citizenry. It was then outside the city proper, but close enough to be convenient. It looks down on the ancient Agora, the commercial and social centre of the city.
At this site all the great political struggles of Athens of the "Golden Age" were fought out. Pericles, Aristides and Alcibiades spoke here, within sight of the Parthenon, temple of Athena. Here Demosthenes delivered his vilifications of Philip of Macedon, the famous Philippics.
In theory, all citizens were equal and all had the right to speak. In practice Athens was a hierarchical society like any other, and those recognized as leaders tended to dominate proceedings. Many of these belonged to the old aristocratic families which had ruled Athens before the advent of democracy, but the poor and the unknown citizen could sometimes rise to prominence if he spoke well and captured the mood of the assembly. There was a rule that citizens aged over 50 had a right to be heard first.
Democratic government at Athens was suspended in 411 BC and again in 404 BC with the assumption of power by oligarchies during crises in the Peloponnesian War. The Spartans and their allies in Athens installed a dictatorship, called the Thirty Tyrants, but in 403 BC the democrats seized power again and the meetings at the Pnyx resumed. Athens lost its independence to Philip II of Macedon after the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC; but they continued to run their internal affairs democratically until the coup by Demetrius of Phalerum in 322 BC. After his fall, the Athenians continued to run their internal affairs according to democratic forms for centuries.
These excavations discovered the foundations of the important buildings at the Pnyx, although nothing else remains of them. These included the two large stoas, erected between 330 and 326 BC, the Altar of Zeus Agoraios, erected at the same time, but removed during the reign of Augustus (first century BC), and the Sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos. Most of these buildings were erected after the Pnyx had lost its real significance.
Today the site of the Pnyx is under the control of the Ephorate of Prehistorical and Classical Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture. The surrounding parkland is fenced, but the traveler can visit it free of charge at any time during daylight.