The Ancient Agora of Athens
ΑΡΧΑΙΑ ΑΓΟΡΑ ΤΗΣ ΑΘΗΝΑΣ
The Ancient Agora (a.k.a. Forum), or Market in modern-day terms, of Classical Athens is the best-known example of an ancient Greek agora, located to the northwest of the Acropolis and bounded on the south by the hill of the Areos Pagus and on the west by the hill known as the Kolonos Agoraios, also called Market Hill.
1. Temple of Hephaistos - 2. Hellenistic Bldg. - 3. Sanctuary of People and Graces - 4. Temple of Aphrodite Ourania - 5. Stoa of Early Roman Date - 6. Belvedere - 7. Tholos - 8. Propylon of New Vouleutirion - 9. New Vouleutirion - 10. Metroon - 11. Monument Bases - 12. Statue of Hadrian - 13. Great Drain - 14. Monument of Q. Trebellius Rufus - 15. Altar of Zeus Agoraios - 16. Eponymous Heroes - 17. Southwest Temple - 18. Civic Offices and Stoa - 19. Boundary Stone of Agora - 20. Stairway and Benches - 21. Temple of Apollo Patroos - 22. Temple of Zeus Phratrios and Athens Phratria - 23. Stoa of Zeus - Royal Stoa - 24. Late Roman Bldg. - 25. Altar of 12 Gods - Altar of Pity - 26. Temple of Ares - 27. Monument of Tyrannicides - 28. Late Roman Gymnasium - 29. Odeion of Agrippa - 30. Panathenaic Way - 31. Circular Fountain - 32. Northeast Stoa - 33. Law Courts - 34. Office Bldg. - 35. Vema - 36. Stoa of Attalos - 37. Street to Roman Market - 38. Library of Pantainos - 39. Late Roman Fortification - 40. Southeast Bldg. - 41. Southeast Temple - 42. Crossroads Sanctuary - 43. Lower Sanctuary - 44. Aqueduct of Roman Period - 45. Eleusinion - 46. Nymphaion - 47. Mint (?) - 48. Enneakrounos - 49. Church of Holy Apostles - 50. South Stoa I - 51. South Stoa II - 52. East Bldg. - 53. Water Mill - 54. Middle Stoa - 55. Heliaia - 56. Water Clock (Klepsydra) - 57. Southwest Fountain House - 58. Public Offices - 59. Strategeion (?) - 60. North Slope of Areos Pagos. 61. West Slope of Areos Pagos.
The Agora was laid out in the center of the city as a public space in the 6th c. BC. Earlier, a more primitive version may have existed elsewhere in Athens. The final site was located at the intersection of three existing roads with the Panathenaic Way, the main road in Athens. The Panathenaic Way extended from the Dipylon in Kerameikos to the entrance to the Acropolis, cutting diagonally through the central square of the Agora. Every four years, the Great Panathenea Procession would follow this course. The Agora was best organized by Peisistratus, who removed private houses from the area, closed wells, and made it the center of Athenian government. He also built a drainage system, fountains and the Altar of the Twelve Gods, next to the Panathenaic Way, in the open area of the Agora. Archaeologists have identified additional temples dated in the 5th and 4th century BC dedicated to Hephaestus, Zeus and Apollo.
The altar stood within a rectangular sacred enclosure, with a paved foundation and a stone superstructure of low vertical posts and slabs; those next to the entrance bore carved reliefs. It is from this altar that milestones mark their distance from the city.
The Royal Stoa, one of the earliest and most important public buildings of the Agora, was probably built in the 6th c. B.C. It is a small building, with a double colonnade on the east side. In the 5th c. it was rebuilt and two projecting wings were added. It served as headquarters of the Archon Basileus, second in command of the early Athenian government, responsible for religious matters and the law. Here, inscribed copies of the code of law of Athens as set by Dracon and later Solon were on display. On a stone in front of the building the archons stood once a year to take their oath of office, swearing above all to preserve and abide by the laws.
The Agora was the center of political and public life in the city of Athens. It was a large open area surrounded by buildings of various functions. It was the seat of administrative officials and the judiciary, a religious center, a place for commercial transactions, cultural events, and athletic contests. Meetings were held four times per month to enact legislation, to hear embassies, and deal with the defense of the city-state.
In addition, some public forums to discuss ostracism were held there. The law courts were located there, and anyone who happened to be in the agora when a case was being heard would probably have been able to witness it. The Agora was further the location of a temporary theater and of burial sites.
Starting in 480 BC, the Second Persian invasion of Greece caused many Athenians to flee the city, leaving it largely abandoned. The city was almost completely destroyed by the Persians, but the Athenians returned following the defeat of the Persians in 478, and the Agora was rebuilt.
There were no more major changes until the 2nd century BC when the east and south sides of the square were remodeled by wealthy foreign rulers. After unsuccessfully aligning with King Mithridates of Pontus in 86 BC, the fortified walls of Athens were heavily damaged. They were never rebuilt to their full strength prior to this conflict.
The Agora remained the center of Athens until 267 AD, when it was once again sacked, this time by invading Heruli; the weakened perimeter wall was not a sufficient defense. After fighting had ravaged much of the city, the Athenians quickly reconstructed the wall, but enclosed a much smaller area. The Agora and the Acropolis were left on the outside of the wall and were susceptible to further damage. This reconstructed wall is of great archaeological importance because it contains pieces of ruined buildings including the Library of Hadrian and the Stoa of Attalos. After centuries of periodic barbarian invasions, the Agora was abandoned after the Slavic invasion of the 6th century.
For a page with Basic Architectural Terminology, including terms used in the description of the ancient Greek temples, click here!
In the vicinity of the Ancient Agora, we will recommend 360 Degrees Hotel on Monastiraki Square, featuring a roof bar-restaurant with panoramic views of the city and the Acropolis. It offers modern accommodation in neutral colors and with industrial-design details, with free WiFi, a TV and a seating area, and features include a hairdryer and bathrobes. Some units offer side Acropolis views. Monastiraki Metro Station is right next to the property and there is easy access on foot to most archaeological sites.