The Architectural Wonders of Ancient Athens – Part 2
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After taking a look at the Panathenaic Stadium in Pangrati, the Monument of Lysicrates in Plaka and the 4th Century Theater of Dionysus at the base of the Acropolis, four other major landmarks of Classical Athens remain. Remember Classical Athens or the time period of Athens’ Golden Age spans the 200 years between the start of Athenian democracy in 500BC and the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. Starting at the Acropolis—the crowning achievement of the city—we’ll travel down to the site of the Ancient Agora and end in the archaeological district of Kerameikos.
Acropolis of Athens – Ακρόπολη Αθηνών
– Area: Acropoli
– Type: Fortification, Monumental Temple
– Date: Mainly the 5th Century BC
About the Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens [Grk: Ακρόπολη Αθηνών] is the crowning achievement and symbol of not only Ancient Athens, but also Greek civilization as a whole. The Acropolis as we know it today dates from the 5th Century and the age of the legendary Athenian general and statesman Pericles. The Acropolis is actually the fortified rock hill that holds the temples above it.
The Acropolis has come to be defined by the six monuments built on or around it. Surviving today are two theaters [the Theater of Dionysus and the Theater of Herod Atticus], The Erechtheion [the famous building with the Porch of the Maidens also referred to as the Caryatids], the monumental entrance way [The Propylaea], the smaller ornate Temple of Athena Nike, and last but not least the centerpiece monumental temple to the goddess Athena [The Parthenon]. It is the almost 2,500 year old Parthenon that has undoubtedly helped to give the Acropolis its reputation that has transcended countless centuries and civilizations.
Ancient Agora of Athens – Αρχαία Αγορά της Αθήνας
– Area: Monastiraki & Thissio
– Type: Monument / Ancient Heart of Athens
– Date: Since the 6th Century BC
About the Ancient Agora
The Ancient Agora of Athens [Grk: Αρχαία Αγορα] was the heart of Anceint Athens, the focus of political, social, commercial, judicial, cultural and even religious life of the Athenians. The area today is a large green area filled with ancient ruins from every era of the city. There are three significant buildings that remain standing in the Agora today.
The massive Stoa of Attalos was an ancient shopping center of sorts that was completely restored in the 1950’s and today is a museum that contains all of the objects found during the excavation of the Ancient Agora. The ornate 10th Century Byzantine Church of the Holy Apostles stands nearby the restored Stoa and provides a sharp contrast between the two periods of Athens’ history. And finally the Temple of Hephaestus, built soon after the Parthenon in the 440’s BC. The Temple is arguably the most well-preserved Greek temples in Greece today.
The Temple of Hephaestus – Ναός Ηφαίστου
– Area: Ancient Agora & Thissio
– Type: Temple
– Date: 334 BC
About the Temple of Hephaestus
The Temple of Hephasestus [Grk: Ναός Ηφαίστου], also known as the Hephaisteion or the Thisseion [Grk: Θησείο], stands on the edge of the Ancient Agora of Athens. The Temple of Hephaestus is the best-preserved Ancient temple in Greece, with most of its original rough still standing. The temple was built around 440 BC, and was designed by the same architect that worked on the nearby Parthenon. The temple is built in the Doric order and has 6 columns on its eastern and western sides, and 13 on its northern and southern sides.
The temple was built out of the same Pantelic Marble as was used on the Parthenon, while its sculptures were carved from Parian marble from the island of Paros. From the 7th Century AD until 1833, the temple was used as a Greek Orthodox Church dedicated to Saint George Akamatus. The last liturgy took place in 1833 to mark King Otto’s arrival in Greece. King Otto later ordered the church’s conversion into a museum. It’s excellent state of preservation is thanks in large part to its time as a church as well as a museum.
Kerameikos – Κεραπεικός
– Area: Kerameikos
– Type: Area / Cemetery
– Date: 5th Century BC onward
The area of Kerameikos [Grk: Κεραπεικός] is an area of Athens that is the site of a great ancient cemetery located very close to the defensive walls of the city. The area of Athens was known in ancient times as the potter’s quarter of the city. The Greek word keramos [Grk: κεράμος] is appropriately where the English word Ceramic was derived. The Eridanos River flowed through Kerameikos, which provided the right type of clay needed to make pottery.
The two most important gates of Athens, the Dipylon and Sacred Gates stood in the area of Kerameikos. The ancient cemetery of Athens was situated just outside of the city walls, and excavations have uncovered countless artifacts including several burial stelae, which feature intricate relief sculptures. Several of the treasures uncovered here are on display in both the National Archaeological Museum across town, as well as the Kerameikos Museum.
This post was written by GreekBoston.com