Public life in the city of Athens was concentrated in and around the Agora, the market, a large rectangular shaded with plane trees, willows and poplars, ornamented with fountains, statues and votive offerings, surrounded by porticos where the merchants and sellers sold all sorts of goods and provisions. There were also the bankers of the time, the hairdressers, the perfumers, men of business, men of letters, artists and artisans, politicians, orators, philosophers, who walked and discussed on all issues of life and the questions of the day.
The Gate of Athena Archegetis, entrance to the Agora of Athens during the Roman times.
The ancient market stood on the west of the Acropolis, at the foot of Areos Pagos. Later it was moved to Kerameikos, this splendid quarter which became the center of the Athenian life during the days of its greatest bloom. But, at the time of the successors of Alexander the Great Athens became considerably larger, and, the Agora of Kerameikos expanded towards the east, gradually covering with splendid buildings the whole area to the north side of the Acropolis.
What we call today The Roman Agora of Athens is a large paved square, 112 m. long from west to east (370 ft.) by 96 m. (316 ft.) broad, constructed symmetrically with Hadrian's Library, in parallel direction and analogous dimensions. A peristyle surrounded by exterior walls, and an interior court 82 m. by 57 m. flagged in marble.
The columns of the peristyle, with double halls, was of the ionic order with a smooth shaft. The further end of the peristyle, the interior hall, was divided into several shops 6 meters deep, testifying to the fact that this was a mercantile Agora. In the SW angle a marble Fountain stood, fed from the water of the Klepsydra, called the Agoranomion, the station for the police of the market which was later restored by Herod Atticos. The propylon (entrance) towards the west side, raised between the year 12 B.C. and 2 A.D. at the expenses of Julius Caesar and Augustus, is preserved to our days in a satisfactory state, is known under the name of Gate of the Market, or Gate of Athena Archegetis.
During the Byzantine period and the Turkish occupation the area was covered with houses, workshops and churches including the surviving Fetiye Mosque. After the necessary purchase and demolition of the private houses and other buildings covering the area, a series of excavations were carried out.
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