A guide to the Tower of the Winds
If you are visiting the Roman Agora (market), make sure that you don’t miss seeing the Tower of the Winds. The tower is also known as the Horologion of Andronikos Cyrrhestes and ‘Aerides’ meaning ‘winds’.
This last name refers to the subject of the tower’s relief decoration. This fascinating time piece stands on the slope of Acropolis Hill and is thought to have been the first meteorological station in the world.
The Tower of Winds stands on the western side of the Roman Agora and is a lavish octagonal structure made in Pantelic marble. The tower was thought to have been built in the 50BC by the architect and astronomer Andronikos Cyrrhus.
The tower is 12 metres in height, with a diameter measuring 8 metres. The roof was constructed from 24 slabs of marble and was once topped by a large bronze weather vane. The weather vane was of Triton, Messenger of the Sea and his outstretched finger indicated the direction of the wind. The tower was used for telling the time and also for weather forecasting.
Archaeologists believe that the tower was built to this height so that the weather vane and sundials could be easily seen from across the Agora, making the Tower of the Winds one of the earliest forms of clock tower in the world. The capitals on the tower’s columns were in a design that became known as the ‘Tower of Winds Corinthian’ style.
The decorative frieze that runs around the top of the octagonal tower depicts the eight different wind gods – one on each face of the tower and each facing the correct compass direction.
The eight wind gods were the sons of Aeolus the ’Keeper of the Winds’:
- Boreas (north)
- Kaikias (north-east)
- Apeliotes (east)
- Eurus (south-east)
- Notus (south)
- Lips (south-west)
- Zephyr (west)
- Skiron (north-west).
There was also a vertical sundial on each face, positioned under the frieze. The shadow from the sun was cast on hour lines on the sundials, that can still be faintly seen.
Inside the tower there was a water clock (clepsydra) that was powered by water that flowed down from the well under the Acropolis. The water clock was essential when bad weather prevented the sundials from being used. The tower also had an early form of compass.
During early Christian times, the Tower of the Winds was used as the bell tower for an Eastern Orthodox church. Under Ottoman rule the tower was used as a place of worship (Tekke) for Sufi Muslims Whirling Dervishes.
In 1799, Lord Elgin planned to move the monument to Britain but was prevented from doing so because it was declared a sacred place of worship. The Dervishes left in 1828 and the Tower of the Winds fell into disrepair.
The tower was excavated by archaeologists from the Archaeological School of Athens during the 19th century.
They found that earth had accumulated over the years, covering half of the tower. Further restoration work began on the tower in 2014, including the cleaning of the stonework. The work was successfully completed by August 2016.
The unusual architectural design of the Tower of the Winds has inspired many similar buildings across Europe, including the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford, England, Torre del Marzocco in Livorno, Italy, a tower in Sevastopol in Ukraine and The Temple of the Winds in Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland.
Key information for visiting the Tower of the Winds.
- The Tower of the Winds is situated on the west side of the Roman Agora on the lower slopes of Acropolis Hill and lies just a short walk (10 minutes) from Syntagma Square in the center of Athens.
- The nearest Metro station is Monastiraki (Lines 1 and 3) which is five minutes walk..
- Visitors to the Tower of the Winds and Roman Agora are recommended to wear flat, comfortable shoes.