Ancient Agora of Athens.

Ancient Agora of Athens

Ancient Agora of Athens Photo © Dimitar Denev

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Ancient Agora of Athens

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Ναός Ηφαίστου, The Temple
	of Hephaestus (20130313_IMG_9364.Canon PowerShot G12) - Ancient Agora of Athens
Ναός Ηφαίστου, The Temple of Hephaestus (20130313_IMG_9364.Canon PowerShot G12) - Ancient Agora of Athens. Photo by mritz_p
The Ancient Agora is located at the foot of the Acropolis. Used as a burial ground and for scattered habitation in the Bronze and Iron Ages, the area was first laid out as a public space in the 6th century BC.

‘Agora’ in Greek literally means “a place of gathering”. Some of the world's most important ideas were born and perfected within the confines of the Athenian Agora including, famously, the concept of democracy. Socrates, Plat, and Aristotle all frequented the Athenian Agora, discussed philosophy, and instructed pupils there.

The Agora of Athens was the heart of Athenian life in ancient times, where citizen gathered to conduct their business, participate in their city's governance, decide judicial matters, express their opinion, and elect their city officials.

Following the total destruction of Athens by the invading Persians in 480 BC, the city was rebuilt and public buildings were added to the Agora one by one throughout the 4th and 5th centuries BC, when Athens contended for the hegemony of Greece.

Athenian cultural dominance continued throughout the Roman period, and the buildings added to the Agora reflect the educational role of the city.

Today, the site is dominated by the best-preserved Doric temple in Greece, the Hephaestion (Wikipedia Article), built during the 5th century BC, and the impressive reconstructed Stoa of Attalos II, which houses the Museum of the Agora Excavations. From the Agora you can also enjoy a stunning view up to the Acropolis.

What to See

Temple of Hephaestus

Situated at the western edge of the Agora, it is today the best-preserved temple of ancient times. It was built in 449 BC and dedicated to the God, Hephaestus, and the Goddess, Athena. It is built largely of Pentelic marble and carries a lavish amount of sculptural decoration. The temple was converted into a Christian church in the 7th century AD. Conversion to a church led to the deliberate mutilation of the sculptures, except for the Minotaur at the southeast corner who has retained his head.

Stoa of Attalos, Ancient Agora,
	Athens, Greece - Ancient Agora of Athens
Stoa of Attalos, Ancient Agora, Athens, Greece - Ancient Agora of Athens. Photo by Tilemahos Efthimiadis

Stoa of Attalos

It frames the Agora on its east end and separates it from the Roman Agora, and the rest of Athens. The Stoa of Attalos ( was built 150 BC, during the reign of Attalos II of Pergamon. The stoa served as the main commercial center for the Athenians for centuries. Double colonnades on two storeys provided shaded walkways in front of 42 shops that were rented out by the city.

This structure is now home to the Museum of Agora. The reconstruction in 1953–56 used Pendelic marble and creamy limestone from the original structure. The museum is small but very informative and will allow insight into the everyday lives, law system, and religion of the people who once worked here. Its collection consists mainly of items of everyday use which were found during the excavations of the ancient Agora.

Church of the Holy Apostles

Church of the Holy Apostles (Wikipedia Article) is the only one of the Agora's nine churches to survive, saved because of its location and beauty. Dated to the years around 1000 AD, the church underwent successive additions over the centuries, especially at the west end. The original plan is unique: a standard cross-in-square arrangement, but with apses at each of the four ends of the cross. The outer walls are adorned with decorative brickwork known as “kufic” - Arabic writing developed in the city of Kufa. The fragments of frescoes inside are of the 17th century, some from this building and the rest recovered from other churches in the area.

Church of the
	Holy Apostles, 10th century, Ancient Agora (2) - Ancient Agora of Athens
Church of the Holy Apostles, 10th century, Ancient Agora (2) - Ancient Agora of Athens. Photo by Richard Mortel

Altar of the Twelve Gods

Altar of the Twelve Gods was built in 522 BC and was a place of worship of the twelve Greek Gods. A corner of the enclosure wall survived, along with the inscribed marble base for a bronze statue that reads “Leagros, the son of Glaukon, dedicated this to the twelve Gods”. The altar was one of the few monuments permitted within the open square and it served as the zero milestone or center of the city.

Visiting

It is open daily from 8 AM until 20:00 PM, last admission is at 19:45 PM. There is a small admission fee to enter. Take advantage of the Combined Acropolis ticket which, for € €12 ($14), gives access to all the major sites, including the Acropolis, the Hadrian's Library(, the Museum of the Ancient Agora and the Theater of Dionyisos(. You can easily spend a few hours wandering through its shady pathways. Use of a good guide book is advisable, otherwise it will just look like a jumble of stones, statues, and lumps of marble.

Getting There

The Ancient Agora is located in the historic center of Athens and is easily accessible by Metro. Use Line 1( and get off at either Monastiraki or Thission metro station. From both stations, you'll have to walk about five minutes to reach the entrance of the site. You can access the site from three entrances: Monastiraki on Adrianou, Thission on Apostolou Pavlou, and from the Acropolis on Ayios Apostoloi*, but the most convenient entrance is the northern entrance from Adrianou.

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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Sep 22, 2014

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