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The Ancient Agora of Athens

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Situated at the foot of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora of Athens was once the hub of political, social, and commercial life in the ancient Greek city.

Today, it’s an absolute must-visit for any traveler passing through the Greek capital.

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A brief history of the Ancient Agora of Athens

Origins of the Ancient Agora of Athens

Dating back to the 4th century BC, the Agora of Athens was a bustling hub for Athenian citizens in antiquity.

Nestled beneath the Acropolis, the Agora served as the epicenter for political discussions and voting, as well as criminal trials.

Numerous buildings, including the stoa and temples dedicated to Greek gods like the Temple of Hephaestus, were erected around the Agora over time.

Moreover, the Agora was a lively gathering place for festivals and sporting events like the Panhellenic Games, which featured athletic competitions, chariot races, and poetry contests.

Glory and Decline of the Agora of Athens

The Agora has experienced both moments of glory and periods of decline throughout history. It sustained severe damage during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta from 431 to 404 BC. Despite being restored after the war, it suffered further destruction during the barbarian invasions that occurred after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

During the Middle Ages, the Agora was deserted and used as a quarry for locals seeking to build their homes.

The Rediscovery of the Ancient Agora of Athens

Archaeologists began taking interest in the Agora during the 19th century. Today, the Agora of Athens remains one of the most significant archaeological sites in the Greek capital. Visitors are invited to explore the remnants of historic structures that once surrounded the Agora and stroll along the cobblestone streets where Athenians congregated for centuries.

Ancient Agora - Athens

Visiting the Ancient Agora of Athens

In antiquity, the Agora was a central square surrounded by public buildings, temples, sports facilities, and shops.

The Stoa of Attalos, located to the east of the Agora, served as a covered market. The Temple of Hephaestus, to the northwest of the Agora, hosted religious celebrations. The Gate of Eurytus, to the southwest, was the main entrance to the Agora.

Among other important buildings in the Agora were the Library of Pantainos, the Church of the Holy Apostles, the Fountain of Hermes, and the Bouleuterion, where members of the Athenian Legislative Assembly gathered to discuss politics.

The Ancient Agora also had facilities that were central to the daily lives of citizens, such as public baths, fountains, and craft workshops.

The Temple of Hephaestus

Considered one of the finest examples of Doric architecture, the Temple of Hephaestus is one of the jewels of the Ancient Agora of Athens.

Built on a hill overlooking the Agora, the Temple of Hephaestus was constructed in 449 BC, during the reign of Pericles, a legendary politician, strategist, and orator.

Made of marble, the Temple of Hephaestus is distinguished by its massive columns with capitals decorated with acanthus leaves and its sculpted frieze, adorned with scenes from everyday life, such as weddings and dances.

A site of religious celebrations and sacrifices, the Temple of Hephaestus is dedicated to the Greek god of fire and forge, considered the patron of artisans.

🏛️ What is Doric architecture? 🏛️

Originating in ancient Greece in the 7th century BC, Doric architecture is a style characterized by simple and elegant columns with disk-shaped capitals and flat entablatures.

It is the oldest of the three Greek architectural styles, with the other two being Ionic and Corinthian architecture.

The Doric style was popular during the classical period of ancient Greece, from the 5th to the 4th century BC. It was later adopted and adapted by the Romans.

The Temple of Hephaestus - Ancient Agora

The Stoa of Attalos

Today converted into an archaeological museum, the Stoa of Attalos (stoa meaning portico or colonnade) is one of the most remarkable buildings of the Ancient Agora of Athens. It was a large commercial building that has been restored and transformed into an archaeological museum.

Built in the 2nd century BC by Attalos II, King of Pergamum, to serve as a covered market, the Stoa of Attalos was composed of two floors and was 116 meters long and 20 meters wide. It was supported by Doric marble columns and covered with tile roofs.

In the Middle Ages, the Stoa of Attalos was transformed into a church and later used as a stone quarry for the construction of the city of Athens.

Restored in the 1950s, the Stoa was transformed into an archaeological museum and now houses collections of objects discovered in the Ancient Agora: sculptures, vases, jewelry, and tools dating back to the ancient Greek era.

The Gate of Eurytus

Built in 330 BC by the architect Mnason of Phocis during the reign of Alexander the Great, the Gate of Eurytus (or Propylaea) was the main entrance to the Agora.

The Gate of Eurytus consisted of a large portico with four columns (adorned with statues and sculptures depicting Greek gods and heroes) and a main building with three doors.

Used as a fortress in the Middle Ages, the Gate of Eurytus was partially restored in the 19th century and completely renovated in the 1950s.

The Fountain of Hermes

Also known as Kerameikos, the Fountain of Hermes was a public water point used by the citizens of Athens to refresh themselves and fill their jars.

Built in the 4th century BC, the Fountain of Hermes is located on the main road of the Agora, next to the Stoa of Attalos and the Temple of Hephaestus.

During antiquity, it was supplied with water from an aqueduct that transported water from the surrounding mountains to the Agora.

The fountain is named after the statue of Hermes, the Greek god of commerce and travelers, which stood atop the fountain.

The Church of the Holy Apostles

Also known as Agioi Apostoloi, the Church of the Holy Apostles – built on the ruins of an ancient Roman building – is one of the oldest Christian churches in Athens.

Built in the 10th century AD and dedicated to the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, the church has undergone numerous modifications over the centuries, especially in the 17th century.

In the Middle Ages, the Church of the Holy Apostles was used as a mosque and renamed Fethiye Camii. Converted into an ammunition warehouse during the Greek War of Independence in the 19th century, it was restored after Greece gained independence.

The Library of Pantainos

Built in the 2nd century AD by the wealthy sophist Pantainos, a friend of Emperor Hadrian, the Library of Pantainos is considered one of the most important libraries of antiquity.

Once composed of a large building with an inner courtyard surrounded by columns, it is located to the east of the Agora. The Library of Pantainos housed countless manuscripts, books, and scrolls in antiquity, as well as copies of ancient Greek and Roman literature. It was also a meeting place for intellectuals and scholars in Athens.

The Bouleuterion

The Bouleuterion, constructed in the 5th century BC, was a gathering place located on the western side of the Agora where members of the Athenian legislative assembly, known as the Ecclesia, would convene to discuss and vote on important political matters.

With a semi-circular theater design and a raised stage for speakers, the Bouleuterion could hold up to 6,000 people.

Museum - Agora - Athens

Practical Information

How to get to the Athens Agora?

Head to the Monastiraki neighborhood in the historic center of Athens! The Ancient Agora is just a short walk from the Thissio station on Metro Line 1.

Athens Agora opening hours

The Athens Agora is open every day except for holidays. The opening hours vary depending on the season:

  • From May to October, the Agora is open from 8 am to 8 pm.
  • From November to April, it is open from 8 am to 3 pm.

Athens Agora ticket prices

Expect to pay €10 per person to enter the Ancient Agora. The ticket is half-price for children under 18 and students. Admission is free for children under 5.

To avoid waiting in line, the Captain recommends booking your ticket online in advance:
Skip-the-line ticket for the Ancient Agora
Combined ticket for the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and Temple of Olympian Zeus
Combined ticket for the Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and 5 archaeological sites

👉 Avoid waiting in line in Athens: book your tickets and tours in advance!


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Credits
Mauricio Muñoz

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