Agora, Athens Agorá
In the north of the Acropolis there are three large open areas - the Agora, the principal market-place of ancient Athens, the Roman Agora and the Library of Hadrian.A good general impression of the Agora can be obtained from four viewpoints: the north wall of the Acropolis, the Areopagos, the road which runs east from the Areopagos along the north side of the Acropolis, and the road along the north side of the Areopagos.
Address: 24 Andrianou Street, Greece
Opening hours: 8am-6pm
Always opened on: Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), Óhi Day - Greece & Cyprus (Oct 28)
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Good Friday - Christian, Easter - Christian
Entrance fee: Adult Admission Cost, Concession or reduced rate Discount, Students from EU Free, Child 18 & under Free
Useful tips: Admission is free on Sundays from November to March and the first Sunday of each month except July. Entrance fee includes admission to multiple sites.
Transit: Electric Rail: from Theseion, Monastiraki.
Temple of Ares
The Temple of Ares stood in the northern part of the Agora in Athens; originally built on another site around 440 B.C., it was moved to its present position in the Augustan period.Although only scanty remains have survived, there is sufficient evidence to establish that this temple resembled the Temple of Hephaistos and was probably built by the same architect. The cult image of Ares, god of war, carved by Alkamenes, has been lost, but the excavators found a statue of Athena and a number of relief figures (from an interior frieze) which are now in the Agora Museum. Also in the museum is the central acroterion from the east front, representing Ares's sister Hebe.At the outside of the temple is the altar.
The Bouleuterion, meeting-place of the Council (Boule) of Athens, was built in 403 B.C. on the slope below the Temple of Hephaistos. A vestibule on the south side led into the main council chamber, with the semicircular rows of seats for the 500 members of the council rising in tiers like the auditorium of a theater.The building was destroyed by the Herulians in A.D. 267, but was rebuilt and remained in existence until about 400.
The Great Drain was constructed in the early fifth century B.C. to channel the rainwater which flowed down from the Acropolis and Areopagos into the Eridanos. From the southwest end of the Agora it runs northeast and then bears north passing in front of the buildings on the west side of Agora. 1m/3ft 3in wide and 1m/3ft 3in deep, it is constructed of polygonal masonry. At the point where the drain turns north and is joined by a subsidiary channel coming from the southeast stands the Horos, or boundary stone of the Agora, which was set up around 500 B.C. to show where the sacred area begins.Only free citizens with no criminal record could enter the Agora, and they had to undergo a ritual cleansing before doing so.
On the east side of the Panathenaic Way, which climbed up to the Acropolis, was the Eleusion, a sanctuary of the Eleusinian divinities Demeter, Persephone and Triptolemos. It was smaller than the one in Eleusis, but large enough to accommodate a meeting of the Council of 500 on the day after the celebration of the mysteries.In the center of the precinct are the foundations of a temple, with an antechamber leading into the adyton (the "not to be entered" holy of holies). The temple, which stood on a high terrace, was extended southward in Roman times. Peribolos of Eponymous HeroesOpposite the Metroon is a long narrow rectangular base. On this there stood statues of the 10 eponymous heroes who gave their names to the 10 tribes (phylai) into which the population of Attica was divided. Here in ancient times new laws were made public.
Peribolos of Eponymous Heroes
Opposite the Metroon is a long narrow rectangular base. On this there stood statues of the 10 eponymous heroes who gave their names to the 10 tribes (phylai) into which the population was divided. Here in ancent times new laws were made public.
Statue of Hadrian
Among the numerous monuments the bases of which have been preserved along the west side of the Agora was a statue of the Emperor Hadrian (117-138) erected in the A.D. second century.This well-preserved figure is notable for the quality of the carving, particularly the richly decorated breastplate.
The Heliaia, a court established by Solon in the sixth century B.C., had its meeting-place on the south side of the Agora. It was named after the sun god Helios because it held its sessions before sunrise. There are remains of a large rectangular structure, on the north side of which can be seen a klepsydra (water-clock) and, on the west side, a fountain-house with two wings meeting at right angles.
The remains of the Metroon, a sanctuary of the Mother of the Gods (Meter Theon) built in the second half of the second century B.C., lie in front of the Bouleuterion, on the west side of the Agora.Although the plan of the structure is difficult to distinguish on the ground, it consisted of four rooms with a colonnade to the square. In the fifth C. the Metroon was converted into a Christian church, to which the mosaic pavement still visible on the site belonged.
Nymphaion (Closed for Restoration)
In the A.D. second century a semicircular fountain-house, the Nymphaion, was built at the southeast corner of the Agora, in an area occupied by a number of older buildings: immediately southwest a fountain-house (the Enneakrounos) of the sixth century B.C., adjoining this a fifth C. structure which was probably a mint (Argyrokopeion), and to the east a temple dating from the early Roman period.Columns and probably also the cult image from the Doric temple of Demeter and Kore in Thorikos (fifth century B.C.) were used in the construction of this temple; remains of the structure were built into the late Roman "Valerian Wall".Above the Nymphaion stands the 11th C. church of Ayii Apóstoli.
Odeion of Agrippa
A well-preserved Corinthian capital of imposing dimensions marks the position of the Odeion of Agrippa, in the center of the Agora. Built about 20 B.C. by the Roman general Agrippa, Augustus' son-in-law, it was a rectangular building with a stage and 18 tiers of seating which could accommodate an audience of 1,000 (some remains preserved).The entrance was on the south side. In the A.D. second century a new entrance was constructed on the north side, with three tritons and three giants supporting the roof of the portico; three of these figures are still erect.
After the destruction of the Odeion of Agrippa by the Herulians in A.D. 267 the site was used in about 400 for the erection of a Gymnasion to house the University of Athens, which was closed down by the Emperor Justinian in 529; the foundations of this building can still be seen.
According to Pausanias (VIII, 2, 1) the Panathenaic festival in honor of Athena was instituted by Theseus. From the time of Peisistratos (sixth century B.C.) it was celebrated every four years on the 28th day of the month of Hekatombaion (July-August), Athena's birthday. Starting from the Pompeion in the Kerameikos, the great Panathenaic procession made its way through the Agora and up to the Acropolis.Considerable stretches of the old processional way, with paving of the second century B.C., are still preserved within the area of the Agora, entering the excavation site at the Altar of the Twelve Gods and running southeast from there.
Library of Pantainos
The remains of the Library of Pantainos, built by Flavius Pantaenus in A.D. 100 and destroyed by the Herulians in 267, lie immediately south of the Stoa of Attalos, separated from it by the road leading to the Roman Agora.
Ancient State Prison
The state prison of Athens was identified by the American archeologist E. Vanderpool in the excavation area to the southwest of the Agora.Going southeast from the Tholos for some 100m/100yd alongside the Great Drain, we see on the far side of a bridge (to the left of the drain) a substantial building (37.5 by 16.5m - 123 by 54ft) which is dated to the mid-fifth century B.C.This has an open passage down the middle, with spacious cells on either side. The first two rooms on the right of the entrance, which communicate with one another, agree with Plato's description (in the "Crito" and "Phaedo") of the prison in which Socrates spent his last days in the company of his pupils and finally drank the fatal dose of hemlock.
It was long thought that the Royal Stoa (Stoa Basileios) was identical with the Stoa of Zeus, but it has now been located in the new excavation area north of the Piraeus railroad.17.75m/58ft long, it is dated by the excavations to the middle of the sixth century B.C. It was destroyed in the Persian attack of 470 B.C. but was rebuilt soon afterwards. In the fourth century B.C. this stoa, like its larger neighbor, the Stoa of Zeus, was extended by the addition of wings on either side.The Royal Stoa was the seat of the Archon Basileus, who took over the cultic functions of the earlier kings. Among these functions was the trial of offenders accused of asebeia (impiety, godlessness); and accordingly this stoa may have been the scene of Socrates' trial in 399 B.C., when he was condemned to death by drinking hemlock, after defending himself against charges of impiety and the corruption of youth in the "Apology" recorded by Plato.
South, Middle & East Stoas
American excavations have revealed a number of stoas (porticos serving various public purposes) in the southern part of the Agora. South Stoa I, lying between the earlier Heliaia and fountainhouse, was built between 425 and 400 B.C. Situated on the road which bounded the Agora on the south, it was a two-aisled portico with a series of small rooms to the rear. In the second century B.C.South Stoa II was built, partly overlapping the site of the first one. This was a single-aisled portico with 30 Doric columns along the open north side.The Middle Stoa, 146m/480ft long, was built between 175 and 150 B.C. Open on all sides, with Doric columns around the perimeter supporting the roof, this was divided into two aisles by Ionic columns.The East Stoa, open on the east side, was built about 150 B.C. (after the Middle Stoa but before South Stoa II). Like the other stoas, it was destroyed in 86 B.C. by the Romans under Sulla and thereafter served as a quarry for builders in quest of marble.
The most southerly building on the west side of the Agora is the Tholos, a circular structure 18.30m/60ft in diameter. Built around 465 B.C. on the site of an earlier rectangular building, this originally housed the sacred hearth and was the meeting-place of the 50 prytaneis (senators - representatives elected by the various tribes in the city state) of Athens, a third of whom were required to be in attendance at all times, even during the night; they were accordingly provided with meals and sleeping accommodation in the Tholos.The roof of the Tholos was supported on six columns. In the third century B.C. a portico was added on the east side. Rebuilt after its destruction by Sulla in 86 B.C., the building remained in use until about A.D. 450.Only the floor of the Tholos now remains, with an altar in the middle.
Altar of the Twelve Gods
The Altar of the Twelve gods dates from the time of the Peisistratids. In later times it enjoyed the right of asylum, affording sanctuary from pursuit. It was regarded as the central point of Athens, and distances from the city were measured from here.The remains suffered damage during the construction of the Piraeus railroad, and only one corner of the original structure now survives.
The Valerian Wall was a late Roman defensive wall built after the Herulian invasion of A.D. 267, using the remains of destroyed buildings. Fragments can be seen to the south of the Library of Pantainos and to the east of the Ayii Apóstoli church.
Altar of Zeus Agoraios
Opposite the Metroon in the Agora and a few paces east of the Peribolos of the Eponymous Heroes is an altar of Pentelic marble which originally stood on the Pnyx and was later moved to its present site. It is thought to have been dedicated to Zeus as patron of the Agora (Zeus Agoraios). The oak and laurel trees flanking the altar were planted in 1954 by King Paul and Queen Frederica.
Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios
The northwest part of the Agora, extending to the Piraeus railroad line (the construction of which destroyed its north end), is occupied by the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios (Zeus who maintains the freedom of the city).Originally 46.55m/153ft long, this was built in the fifth century B.C., in a style reminiscent of Mnesikles' Propylaia on the Acropolis. It had projecting wings at each end, and in front of it, on a round base, stood a statue of Zeus Eleutherios.During the Roman period two rooms were built on to the rear of the stoa, probably for the purposes of the Imperial cult. Pausanias tells us that the Stoa of Zeus contained pictures, including representations of the Twelve Gods, Theseus and the battle of Mantineia.The earlier belief that the Stoa of Zeus was the same as the Royal Stoa has been shown by recent excavations to be erroneous.
Church of the Holy Apostles (Agii Apostoli)
The Church of the Holy Apostles was the only building left standing when the whole of this quarter of Athens was pulled down to permit the excavation of the Agora. Originally built in the 10th C. over a circular nymphaion (sacred spring) and subsequently much altered, it has been reconstructed in its original form.The exterior is notable for its good ashlar masonry and the ornamental use of Kufic inscriptions. The dome is borne on four columns, and the apse and transepts have semicircular conches. There are well-preserved frescoes of Christ Pantocrator (Ruler of All: in the dome), John the Baptist, cherubim and archangels. Parts of the original 11th C. iconostasis have been preserved.The paintings in the narthex (ca. 1700) are from St Spyridon's Church.
Roman Agora - Medrese
To the east of the mosque at the Roman Agora in Athens is the doorway (inscriptions) of a Turkish medrese (Koranic school).