Humanities › History & Culture Ecclesia the Greek Assembly Share Flipboard Email Print Nastasic / Getty Images History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Greece Figures & Events Ancient Languages Egypt Asia Rome Mythology & Religion American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated August 24, 2018 Ecclesia (Ekklesia) is the term used for the assembly in Greek city-states (poleis), including Athens. The ecclesia was a meeting place where the citizens could speak their minds and try to influence one another in the political process. Normally at Athens, the Ecclesia assembled at the pnyx (an open-air auditorium west of the Acropolis with a retaining wall, orator's stand, and an altar), but it was one of the jobs of the boule's prytaneis (leaders) to post the agenda and location of the next meeting of the Assembly. On the pandia ('All Zeus' festival) the Assembly met in the Theatre of Dionysus. Membership At 18, young Athenian males were enrolled in their demes' citizen lists and then served for two years in the military. Afterward, they could be in the Assembly, unless otherwise restricted. They might be disallowed while owing a debt to the public treasury or for having been removed from the deme's roster of citizens. Someone convicted of prostituting himself or of beating/failing to support his family may have been denied membership in the Assembly. The Schedule In the 4th century, the boule scheduled 4 meetings during each prytany. Since a prytany was about 1/10 of a year, this means there were 40 Assembly meetings each year. One of the 4 meetings was a kyria ecclesia 'Sovereign Assembly'. There were also 3 regular Assemblies. At one of these, private citizen-suppliants could present any concern. There may have been additional synkletoi ecclesiai 'Called-together Assemblies' summoned at short notice, as for emergencies. Ecclesia Leadership By the mid-4th century, 9 members of the boule who were not serving as prytaneis (leaders) were chosen to run the Assembly as proedroi. They would decide when to cut off discussion and put matters to a vote. Freedom of Speech Freedom of speech was essential to the idea of the Assembly. Regardless of his status, a citizen could speak; however, those over 50 could speak first. The herald ascertained who wished to speak. Payment for Assembly Members In 411, when oligarchy was temporarily established in Athens, a law was passed prohibiting pay for political activity, but in the 4th century, members of the Assembly received pay in order to ensure the poor could participate. Pay changed over time, going from 1 obol/meeting—not enough to persuade people to go to the Assembly—to 3 obols, which could have been high enough to pack the Assembly. What the Assembly decreed was preserved and made public, recording the decree, its date, and the names of the officials who held the vote. Sources Christopher W. Blackwell, “The Assembly,” in C.W. Blackwell, ed., Dēmos: Classical Athenian Democracy (A. Mahoney and R. Scaife, edd., The Stoa: a consortium for electronic publication in the humanities [www.stoa.org]) edition of March 26, 2003.