The Agora was the heart of ancient Athens. As a result it was the focus of political, commercial, administrative and social activity, the religious and cultural centre, and the seat of justice.
The site was occupied without interruption in all periods of the city’s history. During the late Neolithic period it was mostly a residential and burial area. Early in the 6th century, in the time of Solon, the Agora became a public area.
Meanwhile with a series of repairs and remodellings, it reached its final rectangular form in the 2nd century B.C. Extensive building activity occurred after the damage made by the Persians in 480 B.C.. After the Slavic invasion in A.D. 580, it was gradually abandoned. From the Byzantine period until after 1834, when Athens became the capital of the independent Greek state, the Agora was again developed as a residential area.
The Ancient Agora is a lovely place to stroll amid the scattered ruins and greenery. Above all it is never as busy as the Acropolis. The heart of Ancient Athens with social and religious activities, commerce, outdoor theatrical performances. Above all, it was the centre of Athenian democracy where important political assemblies and judicial functions took place.
It’s a site of natural beauty and where both Pericles and Socrates would have spent a great deal of time. Highlights include the well-preserved Hephaestus Temple and the Stoa of Attalos.
The most important monuments of the site are:
The Temple of Hephaistus
The temple, known as the “Theseion”, is Doric, peripteral, with a pronaos and opisthodomos. It crowns the hill of Kolonos Agoraios and is the most prominent and better preserved monument of the Agora. Hephaistos and Athens was the honoured Gods of the magnificent Temple. Their bronze cult statues stood in the interior. The construction of the Hephaisteion started in 449 B.C.
Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios
The stoa was erected at the end of the 5th century B.C. in honor of those who fought for the freedom and security of the city. Socrates is said to have met his friends in this stoa.
Temple of Apollo Patroos
Small Ionic temple, erected in ca. 340-320 B.C., identified as the temple of Apollo who was worshipped as the “Father” (Pater), the founder of the Ionian race. Inside the cella stood the cult statue of the god, made by the famous sculptor Euphranor.
The Council of 500 (Boule) held its regular meetings here. The building was erected at the end of the 5th century B.C. replacing the Old Bouleuterion, the ruins of which were found beneath the Metroon.
The building has an Ionic propylon and was erected in the 2nd century B.C. Above all, it accommodated both the sanctuary of the Mother of the Gods and the state archives, including the proceedings of the meetings of the Council of 500 and various official documents, protected by the goddess.m
Monument of the Eponymous Heroes
Remains of an oblong pedestal enclosed by a fence. It supported the bronze statues of the legendary heroes who gave their names to the ten tribes of Attica. In addition to its honorary function, the monument served as the official notice board of the city.
Altar of the Twelve Gods
Fenced area with an altar at the centre, constructed in 522/21 B.C. The sanctuary was a popular place of asylum and was considered to be the heart of the city, the central milestone from which distances to other places were measured.
The Odeion of Agrippa
Built by Agrippa in 15 B.C. it comprised an auditorium with a seating capacity of about 1000 people, and a two-storeyed portico. The Odeon was destroyed by fire in A.D. 267 and in about A.D. 400 the Gymnasium was erected in this area. Its north side was adorned by four colossal statues of Giants and Tritons set up on massive pedestals, salvaged from the debris of the Odeion.
The Royal Stoa (Stoa Basileios)
Built around 460 B.C., it was the seat of the Royal Archon (Archon Basileus). This is the place where the Council of the Aeropagus held its meetings. Also the laws of Solon were displayed in the Stoa.
The Tholos. Circular building erected in ca. 460 B.C. The chairmen (prytaneis) of the Council of 500 (Boule) dined and spent the night in the Tholos so as to be available if necessary.