The Ancient Agora of Athens and the Stoa of Attalos

Ancient Agora of Athens

Walk the same places and paths as Socrates, St. Paul, and Plato
The Ancient Agora of Athens was the heart of Ancient Athens, the centre of Athenian democracy, religious and social activity. and the seat of justice.

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Where is the Ancient Agora of Athens

The Ancient Agora of Athens was the heart of the ancient city and the centre of Athenian democracy. It was the focal point for political, commercial, administrative and social activity, the religious and cultural centre, and the seat of justice. 

The most important buildings were centred around the central open space, or Agora, a meeting place for citizens to gather, discuss politics, conduct business or hear speeches. Today, the Ancient Agora is one of Athens’s most popular tourist attractions. Its well-preserved ruins provide a fascinating insight into life in Ancient Greece.

From the 6th century BC, many public buildings gradually surrounded the open space. It was adorned with temples, altars, stoas (covered walkways), fountains, portraits, and statues.

Many famous and well-known people have walked through the Agora and addressed the people, including Socrates and St Paul. Many essential roads ended in the Ancient Agora of Athens, including Piraeus St, which connected the city with the town and port of Piraeus.

There were around 35 buildings, structures and monuments located in the Ancient Agora of Athens, among which I have listed the most popular in the section “Best Things to do and See”. Here is the list of all those discovered so far.

North Side of the Ancient Agora of Athens

  • Stoa Poikile (Painted stoa), a building built in the 4th century BC, used purely for socialising, unlike many other buildings in the Agora.
  • Altar of the Twelve Gods.
  • Stoa Basileios (Royal stoa).
  • Temple of Aphrodite Urania.
  • The south end of what is believed to be a Basilica has been uncovered near Hadrian Street and is dated to the mid 100s AD.

East Side of the Ancient Agora of Athens

  • The Stoa of Attalos, a stoa lined with shops built in the 2nd century BC, has since been reconstructed for use as the Museum of The Ancient Agora.
  • The Peristyle Court was a law court located initially under the northern end of the Stoa of Attalos.
  • A collection of buildings were added to the southeast corner: the East stoa, the Library of Pantainos, the Nymphaeum and a temple.
  • The Library of Pantainos was more than just a library. The west and north wings were a series of rooms used for other purposes other than storing books. With the construction of the Library of Pantainos, the official entrance into the Agora was now between the Library and the Stoa of Attalos.
  • The Mint is a building used for the minting of bronze coinage in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. Still, there is no evidence of it being used for the minting of Athenian silver coinage.
  • The Monopteros was located south of the Basilica and dated to the mid 100s AD. It had no walls, was a dome supported by columns and was about 8 meters in diameter.
  • The Bema was a speakers platform located near the Stoa of Attalos.

South Side of the Ancient Agora of Athens

  • The Middle stoa was the most extensive monument built during the 2nd century BC.
  • A small Roman temple was added in front of the Middle Stoa.
  • South-east Fountain House.
  • South Stoa I.
  • Aiakeion.

West Side of the Ancient Agora of Athens

  • Strategeion
  • Agoraios Kolonos
  • Tholos
  • Boundary stone
  • Monument of the Eponymous Heroes, a monument for the ten heroes of the tribes of Athens which, was also used as a notice board for new legislation, public events and military conscription.
  • Metroon (Old Bouleuterion)
  • Bouleuterion
  • Temple of Hephaestus (Hephaestion)
  • Temple of Apollo Patroos
  • Stoa of Zeus
  • The Temple of Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria dated to the 300s BCE and is located near the Temple of Apollo Patroos.
  • A statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian was located near the metroon.

Other Notable Monuments

  • A number of other notable monuments were added to the Agora. Some of these included:
  • An Altar of Zeus Agoraios was added to the east of the monument to the Eponymous Heroes.
  • The Temple of Ares, dedicated to Ares, the god of war, was added in the north half Agora, just south of the Altar of the Twelve Gods.
  • The Odeon of Agrippa and accompanying gymnasium were added to the centre of the Agora.
  • There is evidence of a Synagogue in the Agora of Athens in the 3rd century.

If you want to get a feel for what life was like in Ancient Greece, then the Ancient Agora of Athens is definitely worth a visit.

 

Stoa of Attalos

The Stoa of Attalos is one of the most impressive buildings in the Ancient Agora of Athens. It was built by and named after King Attalos II of Pergamon, who ruled between 159 BC and 138 BC.

It is thought to have been a kind of ancient commercial centre with up to 22 shops and stalls on each of the two floors lining the western wall. The truly impressive dimensions are 115 metres (377 feet) by 20 metres wide (65 feet ) and made from the same marble as the Parthenon is.

​In the early 1950s, the Stoa of Attalos was fully reconstructed on the original foundations using the original materials found on-site by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Temple of Hephaestus

The Temple of Hephaestus in Athens is the best-preserved ancient temple in the world.

This magnificent Greek temple stands on the top of the low hill of Agoras Kolonos in Athens, and it is just northwest of the famous Ancient Agora.

It is particularly special to visit the temple first thing in the morning as it looks stunning and stands as a testament to the sophisticated world of the Ancient Greeks.

The temple is so well preserved for centuries because from the 7th century BC until 1834 it was used as a place of worship.

It is dedicated to Hephaestus, the god of fire and metalwork (who made the legendary shield of Achilles) and to Athena, the goddess of pottery and crafts. Interestingly, archaeologists discovered the remains of many small pottery and metal workshops surrounding the temple.

Work began constructing the temple in 445 BC when Pericles was in power, and he was keen to make Athens the focus of Greek culture. The temple was designed by the architect, Iktinus, and was not completed for 30 years, as both Iktinus and the funding were temporarily diverted to the construction of the Parthenon.

Altar of the Twelve Gods

The Altar of the Twelve Gods (also called the Sanctuary of the Twelve Gods) was an important altar and sanctuary at the Ancient Agora of Athens. It was established by Pisistratus the Younger (the grandson of the tyrant Pisistratus) around 521 BC. It marked the central point from which distances from Athens were measured and was a place of supplication and refuge.

The exact identities of the twelve gods to whom the Altar was dedicated are uncertain. Still, they were most likely substantially the same as the twelve Olympian gods represented on the east frieze of the Parthenon: Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Dionysus Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Poseidon, and of course Zeus.

Museum of the Ancient Agora of Athens

The Museum of the Ancient Agora of Athens is located inside the Stoa of Attalos, and most of the well-preserved collections are about Athenian democracy.

The collections include bronze, clay and glass objects, coins, sculptures, and inscriptions from the 7th to the 5th century BC, the pottery of the Byzantine period, and the Turkish occupation. The exhibition within the museum contains a work of art that describes the private and public life in ancient Athens.

In 2012, a fascinating and extensive sculpture exhibition was added to the museum, including items from the excavation at the Ancient Agora of Athens.

The Monument of the Eponymous Heroes

Situated near the Metroon (An ancient Greek temple dedicated to a mother goddess) is the Monument of the Eponymous Heroes. It was a marble podium that bore the bronze statues of the ten heroes representing the tribes of Athens.

It was a centre of information and used to post items of importance to all Athenians, including, proposed legislation, decrees and announcements.

The Ancient Agora of Athens is a photographer’s dream, with its stunning ancient architecture set against the backdrop of the Acropolis. There are many beautiful places to take photographs at the Ancient Agora, but some of our favourites include:

Stoa of Attalos

Capturing the entire left side with the front showing the impressive size and the columns.

Temple of Hephaestus

Looking up towards the temple from the base of the low hill of Agoras Kolonos.

Standing at the front to capture the size and beauty.

In the small grass area to the left to capture the length and the columns.

Lots of opportunities to photograph the amazing views of the entire Ancient Agora of Athens, and the surrounding area.

Lots of places to photograph the Acropolis of Athens and the Parthenon.

Altar of the Twelve Gods

In from the Altar of the Twelve Gods and to the side to include buildings.

Museum of the Ancient Agora of Athens

There are many opportunities to take photos of some fantastic artefacts, objects and art.

The Monument of the Eponymous Heroes

Capturing the length and side of this monument is always a great choice.

Winter Season – November 1st to March 31st

Monday to Sunday 08:00 – 17:00

Summer Season – April 1st to October 31st

Monday to Sunday 08:00 – 20:00

Closed

January 1st, March 25th, May 1st, Easter Sunday, December 25th and 26th

The Archaeological Site of the Ancient Agora of Athens is wheelchair accessible through the main entrance, at Adrianou 24 (assistance by a companion is advisable).

In the Temple of Hephaestus area, wheelchair access is possible through the entrance at the Thiseion Square (Apostolou Pavlou Street), upon communication (210 3214824, 3210180). You can see the accessible passage in the image at the end.

Both levels of the Museum of the Ancient Agora at the Stoa of Attalos are wheelchair accessible. To access the upper floor using the lift visitors are encouraged to ask the guards. There are also toilets for individuals with disabilities within the building.

At the Museum of the Ancient Agora (Stoa Attalou – Information desk), tactile site plans and brochures in Braille in Greek and English are available for visually impaired visitors.

Popular skip-the-line tickets for Ancient Agora of Athens

 

 

My photos of the Ancient Agora of Athens

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