Athens Ancient Sites
Discover the ancient sites of Athens!
Attica is home to some of the most famous archaeological monuments in Greece, including the shrine of Poseidon at the southern point of the island and the Acropolis in Athens. But the archaeology of this area goes far beyond the Greco-Roman period. Athens and the Port of Piraeus are included in the administrative region of Attica. The Acropolis is located in the heart of ancient Athens and has been inhabited since prehistoric times until the Ottoman era. The area should not be confused with the Attic Peninsular, which is the historical territory of Attica. Attica today encompasses a greater area than the historical ancient Athenian state, encompassing the islands of Salamis, Aegina, Angistri, Poros, Hydra, Spetses, Kythira, and Antikythera as well as a portion of the Peloponnese peninsula.
The Acropolis is the most famous Athens ancient site and maybe in Greece. It is also called the “Sacred Rock” and it is the most important ancient heritage. It has been an Athens’ main attraction since the 5th century BC. At the center, the Parthenon temple stands proudly over the megalopolis and reminds us all that Athens, despite its actual appearances, was once one of the greatest civilization ever…
The Acropolis and the white Pentelic marble of the Parthenon’s tower can be seen from almost every part of Athens and it is the ultimate achievement of the city’s classical and architectural glory.
The temple is dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
The Ancient Agora
The Ancient Agora (old market in Greek) was the commercial, trade, administrative, and social center of Athens.
It was a lively place where, during the classical age, many notable men such as Socrates, Sophocles, and Aristotle expressed their thoughts and ideas.
Even Saint Paul was present in the Agora in 49 AD.
Even if the area is in ruins, still, many things can be visited.
Stoa of Attalos: The Museum of the Agora is housed in the exact reproduction of the Stoa of Attalos. The museum’s exhibit finds from the area as well as a reproduction of the Agra in Antiquity. The original Stoa was housing expensive shops for wealthy Athenians and was built by King Attalos II in 159 BC.
Temple of Hephaestus: the temple was dedicated to Hephaestus, the god of the forge. The temple was surrounded by metalwork shops and foundries. It is the best-preserved Doric temple in Greece. It was built during Pericles’ rebuilding program.
Theatre of Herodes Atticus
The Theatre is located on the south slope of the Acropolis and was added in 161 AD during the Roman rule. It is one of the most impressive Athens ancient monuments and it is still hosting the Athens Festival with performances of theatre, music, and dance.
The theatre was built by Herodes Atticus, a wealthy Roman, in memory of his wife Regilla.
The theatre has exceptional acoustic capacities and can welcome 5000 spectators. It has a facade of 28 m high and 2.4 m wide. The theatre is open to visitors only for the performances.
Kerameikos was the first public cemetery in ancient Athens. It took its name from the eponymous hero Keramos, while according to others from the artisan potters (potters – angiographies) and from their workshops that were originally in this area. Kerameikos was divided into two parts, the inside which had a residential character and the outside which had a burial with these two areas being separated by the Themistokleio wall.
There is a museum which houses statues, sculptures, vases and figurine found on the site.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Temple is the largest Ancient temple of Athens that has ever been built. It took 700 years to build. The work was completed by Emperor Hadrian in 131 AD. The Temple is composed of 104 Corinthian columns of 17 m high but today, only 17 columns still stand.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus was the largest temple in Greece during Hellenistic and Roman times. The foundations of the first temple in the area were built by the tyrant of Athens Peisistratos in 515 BC. but work stopped when Peisistratus’ son Hippias was exiled in 510 BC. With the founding of the Republic, however, it was considered a symbol of tyranny, and construction stopped. In his work “Politics” Aristotle uses the temple as an example of how tyrannical regimes force the population to engage in huge projects, leaving him no time, energy, and ways of reacting. Part of its building materials was later used for the construction of the eastern arm of the Themistocles wall.
The partial completion of the temple took place in the 2nd century BC during the Macedonian primacy in Hellenism by King Antiochus IV the Great, who hired the Roman architect Cossoutius, to design the largest temple in the then known world. When Antiochus died in 164 BC, the construction of the temple stopped again.
In 86 BC, when Greek cities came under Roman rule, General Cornelius Sulla took two columns, from the half-finished temple to Rome to decorate the Temple of Zeus on the Capitol Hill. These columns influenced the spread and flourishing of the Corinthian style in Rome.
The temple was completed in 129 AD. (or in 131 AD. according to others) by the emperor Hadrian who was a great admirer of Greek culture. The Hadrian’s Temple, one of the largest in the ancient world, maintained the infrastructure of the old archaic temple but was completed with the use of Pentelic marble in Corinthian style. The colossal building was 110.35 m long, 43.68 m wide, two rows of 20 columns on the long sides, and three rows of 8 columns on the narrow ones. It dominated the middle of a large rectangular enclosure with a perimeter of 673 meters, with a propylon to the north. Hadrian dedicated the temple to Zeus.
The splendor of the temple did not last long, because it was looted by an invasion of the German tribes, in the 3rd century AD. and has since ceased to be used. Abandonment and destruction continued in the following centuries due to natural causes or human intervention, as the temple was looted to use parts of it as building materials in other constructions of the city. In the SE area of the precinct there was an open-type mosque during the Turkish occupation and on the entablature of the columns of the SE corner of the temple a medieval building, perhaps an observatory. In 1759 the Turkish commander of Athens, Tsisdarakis, blew up another column to make lime for the mosque he was building. Of the 104 columns of the temple, sixteen were preserved until 1852. One was knocked down by a terrible storm that year.
The Roman Stadium was built in the 4th century BC in order to welcome the Panathenaic Athletic contests. The Stadium was inaugurated by Herodes Atticus who rebuilt the seats with Pentelic marble.
The stadium was abandoned for centuries when it was finally restored to welcome the first modern Olympic Games of 1895.
Roman Agora and Tower of the Wind
The main attraction of the Roman Agora is the tower of the wind. It was built in the 1st century by a Syrian astronomer call Andronicus. The Monument is an Octagonal made of Pentelic white marble. The monument was used as a sundial, a weather vane, a water clock, and a compass. The monument has the name of “tower of the wind” as it has a relief of figures floating in the air. The tower stands in perfect shape as it was of great utility for all the conquerors.
Another interesting part of the Roman Agora is the Gate of Athena Archegetis, made of four Doric columns, which was financed by Julius Caesar.
Arch of Hadrian
The Arch is located at the end of Amalias Avenue. It was built by Emperor Hadrian in 132 AD in order to mark the limit between the Ancient Athens and his new city and commemorates the consecration of the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
The gate is located 325 m southeast of the Acropolis. The gate was built without the use of cement or marble mortar, and clamps were used to connect the stones. It is 18 meters high, 13.5 m long and 2.3 m wide. Its design is completely symmetrical on both sides. The lower part imitates the Roman arches, while the upper part the ancient Greek propylaea.
The Library of Hadrian
The Library of Hadrian was built in 132-134 AD. by the philhellene and ardent supporter of the arts, Roman emperor Hadrian. Hadrian often visited Athens and had a special love for the culture and arts that it offered to the world. In addition to the Library, the emperor built other buildings, expanded the Roman Forum, built the Hadrian’s Gate and completed the construction of the column of Olympian Zeus.
The library was severely damaged during the attacks of a Germanic tribe, which caused destruction to many ancient monuments.
At the beginning of the 5th century AD. a majestic temple with four niches was built in the area of the inner courtyard.
The temple was destroyed at the end of the 6th century AD. and was finally rebuilt in the 7th century as a royal three-aisled church.
Later, in the 11th century, a Byzantine church named Megali Panagia was built on the ruins of the then church. This one was completely demolished in 1885.
In the 12th century, a small, cruciform church dedicated to the Archangel Michael was built by the Chalcocondyli family. The only surviving remains that predispose to its existence, after its demolition in 1843, are a single wall and the mural located on the facade of the Library.
The library was located in the north of Roman Agora and was housing books, music, and lecture rooms.
Theatre of Dionysos
The theatre is situated on the south-eastern slope of the acropolis. It was the most important and oldest theatre in Ancient Athens.
They were an older theatre dated to the 6th century BC that was located at the same place which had welcomed the Festival of the Great Dionysia.
The festival was of great importance and welcomed writers such as Sophocles or Euripides, Euripides.
The theatre was later renovated with marble and had a capacity of 17.000 seats.
Unfortunately, not much has left the theatre.
This area of the Acropolis played an important role in ancient Athens for it was where public building were built to carry out the major artistic, spiritual and religious activities of the city. Here are the most important monuments standing on this area: