A guide to the Ancient Agora
The Ancient Agora in Athens lies on the north-western slopes of the Acropolis and for more than 5,000 years it was a lively meeting and gathering place. The Ancient Agora was the artistic, spiritual, and commercial center of the city and the focus of its public and economic life. Most Ancient Greek cities had such as place and The Ancient Agora in Athens is the best example in the world to explore and imagine what a lively place it must have been.
The first buildings of the Ancient Agora were built in the 6th century BC and the site be4gan to evolve as a meeting place. It was at the Ancient Agora that Saint Paul preached for the first time to the Greeks in 51 AD.
The Ancient Agora grew in importance over the years and became a focal point. It was the place to go to meet friends and colleagues, to hear public announcements, discuss politics, and to prepare for a military campaign.
The Ancient Agora was a dynamic place with courts of law, the gymnasium, and temples and it had the foundations of democracy as it symbolized freedom, justice, and social conscience. It was in the Ancient Agora that Sophocles, and others spent many hours discussing and debating their philosophies.
It was also where merchants, fresh from their travels, would bring their wares from the nearby port of Piraeus to sell including exotic foods and textiles. The Ancient Agora was also the focus of large and colorful religious festivals.
The Ancient Agora was used for more than 5,000 years and in that time, buildings were added and others extended. Today, there are just three to see – Temple of Hephaestus, Stoa of Attalos, and the church of the Holy Apostle as well as numerous fascinating ruins.
There were temples, altars, and shrines and the Ancient Agora had five Stoa which was broadly covered walkways. The Stoa of Attalos has been totally restored and today houses the fascinating Agora Museum. The temples were dedicated to various gods including Zeus Agoraios, Apollo, and Ares (the God of War).
The largest was the Temple of Hephaestus, dedicated to the god of fire and metalwork and to Athena, the goddess of pottery and crafts. This temple is truly impressive and can be seen today. It is the best-preserved ancient temple in the world and the reason for this is that from the 7th century BC until 1834 it was used as a place of worship and was well maintained.
The Byzantine church of the Holy Apostle was built in the Ancient Agora in the 11th century in the Athenian style with its distinctive eight-sided dome and floor plan in the shape of the cross. The dome is supported by four columns and the altar and floor were originally in marble.
The church was built in four phases over the centuries and restored in 1954-1956. There are beautiful wall paintings to admire, including several that were found under layers of modern plaster. Other buildings in the Ancient Agora included the city’s arsenal and the Library of Pantanilos.
Excavations of the Ancient Agora were begun in 1931 by the American School of Classical Studies of Athens and the first phase of work was completed in the 1950s with the reconstruction of the Stoa of Attalos on its original foundation, using the marble and limestone found on the site.
Archaeologists have uncovered more than 30 buildings as well as thousands of artifacts. Pieces of pottery and amphora have been painstakingly restored as well as marble statues and reliefs.
The archaeologists have also examined human and animal skeletons, coins, and thousands of other objects in their quest to have a better understanding of life in those times. Why not immerse yourself in the culture of Ancient Athens, getting a plan of the Ancient Agora and exploring?
Key information for visiting the Ancient Agora.
- The Ancient Agora is situated on the north-western slopes of the Acropolis and lies just a short walk from Syntagma Square.
- The nearest Metro stations are Thiseio (Line 1) and Monastiraki.
- Visitors to the Ancient Agora are recommended to wear flat, comfortable shoes as there are steps to climb.