Kerameikos Cemetery, Athens
Kerameikos, the potters' quarter of ancient Athens, was named after Keramos, the patron of potters, and has, appropriately given its name to the art and craft of ceramics. It was bounded on the northwest by the Agora and extended westward as far as the Academy.After 479 B.C. when, following the Persian invasion, Themistocles enclosed the city within walls, part of the area lay within the walls and part outside them.
Kerameikos Cemetery Map
Address: 148 Ermou Street, Greece
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Oct 31: 8am-7:30pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 8:30am-3pm
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 8:30am-3pm
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €12.00, Concession or reduced rate €6.00
Useful tips: Entrance fee includes admission to multiple sites.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Transit: Bus: 025 (Kerameikos, Ermou); Electric Rail: Theseion.
Kerameikos Cemetery Highlights
There are two gates through the walls at the Kerameikos Cemetery, the Dipylon and the Sacred Gate. The walls themselves were built by Themistocles in 479 B.C. and were strengthened in the fourth century B.C. by the construction of outworks and moats.The more northerly of the two gates, and the one of greater architectural consequence, is the Dipylon, the largest of the city gates of ancient Athens. As its name indicates, it is double, with a rectangular court between the two gates. Inside the inner gate are an altar dedicated to Zeus, Hermes and Akamas (son of Theseus) and a fountain-house.
Street of Tombs
The cemetery area is traversed by three roads - the road to the Academy, to the north; the Sacred Way, farther south, which ran from the Dipylon to Eleusis; and the Street of Tombs, which branched westward off the Sacred Way in the direction of Piraeus. All three of these roads are lined with tombs.Going north from the entrance (past the Museum) on an ancient road, we pass on the left the tomb of two sisters, Demetria and Pamphile (ca. 350 B.C.), and come to the Street of Tombs, with burials of the fifth and fourth century B.C. (mostly fourth C.). Turning west (left) along this road, we pass on the left the equestrian monument of Dexileos (original in museum), the tomb of Agathon and Sosikrates of Herakleia in Pontos (with three stelae) and the tomb of Dionysios of Kollytos, topped by a bull. Beyond this is the burial plot of Archon Lysimachides of Acharnai, built of polygonal blocks, guarded by a Molossian hound and decorated with reliefs (Charon, a funeral meal), and beyond this again is a crudely constructed altar belonging to a cult precinct of Hekate. Returning along the same road, we see on the left two interesting family burial plots - the first belonging to the family of Eubios (stele of Bion) and the other to the family of Koroibos; this has a funerary stele in the middle, a relief of Hegeso (cast: ca. 410 B.C. original in National Archeological Museum) on the left and a loutrophoros (a large water jar for the bridal bath, set over the tomb of a person who died unmarried) on the right. Then follows (just before a side street on the left) a large round tumulus of the sixth century B.C. belonging to one of the great families of the period. To the east, beyond the Eridanos, are the remains of another circular tomb, perhaps a heroon. Also on the left of the road is the small trapezoid sanctuary of the Tritopatores (ancestor gods), with inscribed boundary stones at the northeast and southeast corners. Beyond this, on the right, are the simple tombs of envoys from Kerkyra (ca. 375 B.C.) and of Pythagoras of Selymbria (ca. 450 B.C.) and a walled triangular cult precinct of unknown dedication. On the hillside behind is an aqueduct. The Street of Tombs now runs into the Sacred Way.
The Sacred Way, which leaves Athens by way of the Sacred Gate, is so called because it was the route followed by the solemn procession from the city to the sanctuary of the mysteries at Eleusis. To the northwest are the tombs of Antidosis and Aristomache and beyond these the handsome loutrophoros of Olympichos. In the other direction, towards the city, on the left the Sacred Way runs alongside the Eridanos to the Sacred Gate, and on the other side, opposite the ambassadorial monuments, are more graves, including a large round edifice, the tomb of an old Attic family.
The Sacred Gate, through which the procession to Eleusis left the city, is in the southeast part of the excavation site at the Kerameikos Cemetery. There are two gateways. One of these spans the Eridanos on vaulting which is still preserved, and to the right of this is the main carriageway. The road leads along the city wall (394 B.C.) northwards to the Dipylon. On the left is the proteichisma, protected by ditches 4m/13ft deep. The walls and ditches were first built at the end of the fifth century B.C., but the fine rectangular wall we see today dates from the end of the fourth century B.C.
Kerameikos Cemetery Museum
The museum, at the entrance to the Kerameikos Cemetery, contains the more recent finds; older finds are in the National Archeological Museum. The museum is notable for the large collection of pottery, illustrating both the history of the Kerameikos area and the development of Greek pottery types. The first room contains sculpture from tombs. Above the entrance doorway is a fragment from the Tomb of the Lacedaemonians (with the names of two fallen polemarchs in a script running from right to left). Immediately to the right of the entrance is the stele of Ampharete, showing the dead woman with her infant grandchild (ca. 410 B.C.), and opposite this are a bronze cauldron (fifth century B.C.), an equestrian relief of Dexileos, killed in a skirmish at Corinth in 394 B.C., and the stele of Eupheros (430 B.C.). Here, too, are a series of items of the Archaic period, including a seated figure with remains of coloring (530 B.C.) on the left-hand wall; a poros stele (570-560 B.C.) and a statue base carved with an equestrian procession (550 B.C.) in the center of the room; and on the window side of the room another base with a wild boar fighting a lion (520-510 B.C.) and a sphinx (550 B.C.), the original coloring of which is shown in a reconstruction drawing on the wall.On the rear wall is the figure of a horseman (520 B.C.), and in the passage leading to the pottery collection is the head of a contestant in the pentathlon (560-550 B.C.).Outside the museum, to the north, is a collection of modest funerary colonnettes (kioniskoi) - simple monuments set up after a sumptuary law of 317 B.C. banning the lavish tombs which had reflected 400 years of development of Athenian funerary art.To the left of the entrance to the museum is a low hill which affords an excellent view of the whole site.
Between the walls, the Sacred Gate and the Dipylon at the Kerameikos Cemetery is the Gymnasion on the Eridanos, usually known as the Pompeion - the starting point of the procession (pompe) which made its way during the Panathenaic festival (Agora, Panathenaic Way) from here across the Agora to the Acropolis.There are remains of two buildings, one overlying the other. The earlier one, dating from about 400 B.C., consisted of a court surrounded by colonnades (613 columns): i.e., it was a gymnasion. Objects used in the Panathenaic procession were kept here. Wheel-ruts in the propylon show that the court was entered by wheeled vehicles. The rooms on the north side were probably the scene of the ceremonial banquet at the end of the festival; and it has been suggested (by Hoepfner) that the Panathenaic vases which were the prizes for victors in the contests may have been presented here. This earlier building was destroyed by Sulla in 86 B.C., and much later, in the second century A.D., replaced by a three-aisled hall, which in turn was destroyed by the Herulians in A.D. 267.The ground plans of the two overlapping buildings can be understood most clearly from outside the site, in Melidóni Street (turn left along Ermoú Street when leaving the site and then immediately left again).
Road to Academy
In the cemetery, two horos (boundary) stones set against the town walls mark the breadth (39m/128ft) of the road which runs from here to the Academy. Along this road men who had fallen in war were buried in common graves, which were regarded with special honor.It was on one such occasion, at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.), that Pericles gave the famous funeral oration which is recorded by Thucydides. None of these graves of special honor has yet been found, but excavation has brought to light, at the second boundary stone on the south side of the road, the state tomb of the Lacedaemonians - the Spartan officers who died in 403 B.C. in the fight against the Thirty Tyrants of Athens.Just on the edge of the excavated area are the remains of another (anonymous) tomb.Pausanias refers to other tombs of special honor on the road to the Academy, including that of Harmodios and Aristogeiton, murderers of the tyrant Hipparchos.
Botanic Garden of Julia and Alexander Diomides
The Julia & Alexander N. Diomides Botanic Garden in Athens is a beautiful wooded garden with a collection of plants which laid out over 150 hectares and includes species from other parts of the world.