Agora of Athens

The Ancient Agora in Athens is the city's most notable agora, and it is pretty a much a shoe-in for all Athens itineraries. In the late Neolithic period, the site was used by civilizations as a housing and burial area. It would then be converted into the city center of ancient Athens and remained as such until the coming of the Roman and Byzantine empires. Today, the Agora in Athens allows visitors to wander among remnants of a past that so shaped the future. The Ancient Agora in Athens is an easy find nestled among some of the city's most renowned sites. It starts below the northwestern side of the Acropolis and can be followed towards the Roman Agora and Tower of the Winds.

The Agora of Athens was the center of ancient Athens and served as the focal point for most of the city's civic affairs. It was in the 6th century BC, under Peisistratus, that the site first underwent the necessary procedures to develop it as the center of Athenian government. Whatever other housing or buildings were on the site were removed and replaced. Among the many things Peisistratus developed, was a new drainage system, beautiful fountains and the agora's first temple, which honored the Olympian Gods. When the statesman Cimon gained power as general, he added trees and a series of new buildings to the agora. By the 5th century BC, other temples at the Agora in Athens had been built to honor Zeus, Apollo and Hephaestus.

As the 3rd century BC rolled around, the Agora of Athens continued to develop as a meeting center, and the city council, presidents of the council and city magistrates performed various duties there. Ancient Athens law courts also took place at the agora, and if you were in the crowd watching, it was understood that you could be spontaneously selected to serve as a juror. A police force known as the Scythian Archers was often found roaming the agora and they were there to more or less enforce jury selections. A separate homicide court wash established at Aereopagus Hill by the Aereopagus. By the 2nd century BC, the agora had grown into an impressive rectangular layout, which in 480 BC would be severely damaged by the Persians. Roman and Byzanine times saw the return of the ancient Agora in Athens to a residential area. Slowly, the Agora would begin to fade away, only to be discovered many years later. Now reborn, it serves as a stop on any good Athens tour, and nearby you can find the Roman Agora Athens site.

In 1859, the Greek Archaeological Society began the first in a series of excavations at the Ancient Agora in Athens. Their excavations would last until the early 1900's. In 1896 & 1897, the German Archaeological Society lead excavations at the agora after trenches cut in 1890 for a new railway revealed extensive ancient building remains. In 1931, excavations by the American School of Classical Studies started at the Agora in Athens and they continue to this day. Among the ruins of interest at the agora are the remains from the Odeion of Agrippa and the Temple of Hephaistos. The Odeion of Agrippa was an athletic venue, complete with an auditorium and able to seat 1,000 people. When fire destroyed it in 267 AD, a gymnasium was erected in its place. Left behind in the Odeion fire were four large statues mounted on pedestals. These once adorned the Odeion and the gymnasium, thousands of years ago and can be found there today. The Temple of Hephaistos, or Thission, is summed up basically as the most well-preserved ancient Greek temple you are going to find anywhere.

Be sure to stop inside for a tour at the Stoa of Attalos museum, found at the agora. It is a reconstructed version of an original building dating from around 150 BC. It's collection is made up primarily of exhibits that tie in with the Ancient Agora in Athens and the items found there. Access to the museum is included with the purchase of tickets to the agora. For the agora alone, tickets are about $5.50, and for around $16 you can get access to the agora and other archaeological sites, including the Acropolis. Other museums that compliment the Stoa of Attalos Agora Museum are the National Archaeological Museum and the new Acropolis Museum.

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