Ancient Agora, Athens. Image Credit: Photograph by Sarah Murray.
Lying right beneath the northern slope of the Acropolis is the ancient Athenian Agora.
Walking through the Agora takes the visitor back through the place where Athens’s mighty heart once beat.
Literally meaning “marketplace,” the Agora was the economic center, where the wealth, reach and influence of classical Athens was visible by the wide range of goods shipped in from the nearby port of Piraeus, which ranged from wheat produced on the shores of the Black Sea to precious dyes from the Levant.
But what marked the Agora with everlasting glory was the other commodity traded and peddled daily: ideas.
The Agora was the meeting grounds and hang out spot for ancient Athenians, where members of the elected democracy assembled to discuss affairs of state, noblemen came to conduct business, ordinary citizens got together to meet up with friends and watch performers, and where the famed philosophers doused their listeners with wisdom (or rubbish).
The Agora also played a serious a role in religious festivals. The architectural layout of the Agora was centered around the Panathenaic Way, a road that ran through the heart of Athens to the main gate of the city, the Dipylon.
Temple of Hephaestus. Imagw Credit< Photograph by ArgusFoto.
The road was sacred, serving as the travel route for the Panathenaic festival, held in honor of the city’s patron goddess Athena every four years. The Agora was also home to the Temple of Hephaestus, the Greek god of craftsmen and metalworking. It was thought for many years to be a temple dedicated to Theseus, the founding mythological hero of Athens, but this turned out to be wrong.
The temple is still visible in great condition, and is one of the best-preserved classical temples in all of Greece.