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Visiting the Ancient Agora in Athens, Greece

By alison - March 7, 2012 (Updated: November 19, 2014)

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Glorious Greece.
Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus overlooked the potters and metalworkers of the Ancient Agora.

In our last post we wrote about the ‘modern’ agora, or Central Market, in Athens, Greece. Today we are going way back in time, to the site of the Ancient Agora of Athens; an incredible place to walk in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks.

Set in the shadow of the looming Acropolis is the Ancient Agora of Athens, the central public square of the ancient Greeks. This site is the best preserved ancient Greek agora still in existence and you can easily spend a few hours wandering through its shady pathways.

The agora was the centre of Greek life. It was not only a marketplace, but the seat of government, religious activity, justice and industry as well.

Ancient Agora, Athens, Greece

All that remains of this bustling street is a few foundations and pillars.

The agora was in use residentially as early as 3000BC, but it didn’t become a bustling public area until the 6th century.

Excavations of the archaeological site began in 1859 and construction of the Athens railway line in the 1890s uncovered extensive building remains. To expose the entire 12 hectare site, 400 modern buildings, which had built up over the years, had to be demolished.

Bird's Eye View of the Agora, Athens

This is a bird’s eye view of the Agora. You can see how it is surrounded by the sprawling city.

The only building in the Ancient Agora to be completely rebuilt is the Stoa of Attalos, which now houses the Agora’s museum. This long, rectangular, marble and limestone structure, lined with pillars, was gifted to Athens by King Attalos II of Pergamon, who ruled between 159 BC and 138 BC. It was restored in the 1950s, with funding donated by the Rockefeller family, by American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Stoa of Attalos

The reconstructed Stoa of Attalos
Stoa of Attalos

Inside the Stoa of Attalos

Another impressive structure in the Ancient Agora is the Temple of Hephaestus, or the Hephaisteion. This temple to the god of metal working and craftsmanship, Hephaestus, overlooked the Agora’s many pottery and metal-working shops.

Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus overlooked pottery and metalworkers’ shops

It is arguably the best preserved ancient Greek temple, more so than the Parthenon, and stands much as it did when the Agora was in use.

We visited Athens Ancient Agora during the low-season, and had the site almost entirely to ourselves. As we strolled around the grounds, we had a perfect view of the Acropolis, towering above us. It is easy to see how the ancient Greeks would have seen this as the home of wealth, power and the gods themselves.

The Agora, in the shadow of the Acropolis

The Agora, in the shadow of the Acropolis
View of the Acropolis from the Agora below

View of the Acropolis from the Agora below

The Agora also demonstrates how truly advanced ancient Greek civilization was. You can see evidence of the elaborate irrigation and drainage channels, a watermill, library, theatre, and even how citizens and jurors voted on issues.

Archaeological preservation at the Agora

Archaeological preservation at the Agora
Road of the Marble-workers

Road of the Marble-workers

The Athens’ Ancient Agora is a step back in time in the heart of the modern city.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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