The Ancient Agora of Athens is a flat area defined by the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis and the hill of Areopagus in the south and the hill of Kolonos Agoraios in the west. It is traversed by one of the most important ancient roads, the Panathenaic Way, which led to the Acropolis from the main gate of the city, the Dipylon Gate. This road served as the processional way for the great parade of the Panathenaic festival, which was held to honour the city patron goddess Athena.
To the north, near the middle of the open square, lay the Altar of the Twelve Gods (522/1 BC). The sanctuary was a popular place of asylum. The altar was also considered the heart of Athens, the central milestone from which distances to outside places were measured.
Importance of the Ancient Agora of Athens
The most important public buildings and temples of the political, administrative and religious center of Athens were built from the 6th to the 2nd century BC at the foot of the hill of Kolonos Agoraios, along one of the busiest roads of the Agora, conventionally called West Road.
Places of interest in the Ancient Agora
Overlooking the Agora from the hill to the west (Kolonos Agoraios) is the Temple of Hephaistos and Athena (second half of 5th cent. BC), popularly known as “Theseion”.
In the northwest area were found the inscribed marble posts which were used to mark the entrances to the Agora wherever a street led into the open square. One of them with the inscription “I am the boundary stone of the Agora” (500 BC) was found by the house of Simon the cobbler, where Socrates used to meet his pupils.
Lining the east side of the Agora square is the Stoa of Attalos (159-138 BC), fully restored to serve as the site museum.
On the north side across modern Hadrian Street the excavations have revealed another large stoa identified as the Stoa Poikile (namely the Painted Stoa, from the panel paintings that once adorned it).
The Areopagus Hill was a sacred place connected to Ares and the chthonic deities of punishment and vengeance, also called “Erinyes” (Furies) or “Semnes” (Venerable Goddesses). It was the place of assembly of the political and judicial body of Areopagus. On the northern edge of the hill, there are the remains of four luxurious houses of the 4th-6th century AD, the so-called “philosophical schools”, which possibly belonged to sophists. To the south of Areopagus a residential district of the ancient municipality of Kollytos was excavated by the German Archaeological Institute in the 1890s.