A great place to go to escape the crowds.
The ancient Athenian agora was more than just a market. Literally translating as “place of gathering”, it provided a space for merchants to peddle, businessmen to wrangle, citizens to worship, magistrates to pass judgement, intellectuals to debate and politicians to legislate. It is one of very few places in Athens that has been continuously used and occupied since the city was founded.
Getting the Sack
It was in the 6th century BC that the agora began to assume its role as a public forum. As one of the centrepieces of a major Mediterranean power, it was sacked extensively at least three times, by the Persians, Romans and Herulae respectively. In some ways, this is evident as you walk through the agora today. Where once you could have passed the Temple of Ares or felt small beneath the Odeon of Agrippa, there is now little more than trees, foundations and some telltale dust at your feet. It does make for a peaceful stroll, however, something which can be hard to come by in the centre of Athens.
One notable exception to the general atmosphere of elegant ruin is the impressive temple of Hephaestus, the god of metal working and fire, which can be found on the north-west side of the agora. At over 30m long, it is in remarkably good condition. It owes this good fortune to its history of varied and continuous use as, among other things, a Christian church, a burial place, and a museum.
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