Behind the Sacred Portico, and to the North of the Main Street, was the Prytaneum, an open courtyard with rooms giving off on all four sides. This was both the working place of the city magistrates, and the city’s public meeting-place. The sacred fire of the city, maintained from very ancient times and never allowed to go out, was kept burning day and night in one of the rooms. This fire had been brought from the Hestia in Athens by the first settlers Every house had its own flame. It was believed to protect the house and cleanse the sins of its dwellers. This flame was used in the houses to rekindle the fires. If the city fell into enemy hands, the flame was put out, lest it should be exposed to desecration: Then, when the city regained its freedom, It was lighted again with sacred fire from another temple. If the Prienians founded a distant colony, a flame was brought from the sacred fire, to keep alive the spirit of the mother city. There is a double trough in this courtyard, where the ceremonial washing of sacrifices was performed. The city’s important banquets were also held in the Prytaneum.