Located in the center of Plaka, the oldest district of Athens, we find the archaeological site of the Roman Agora.
Its construction took place at the end of the first century BC, thanks to a donation from Augustus and Julius Caesar. The purpose of the Roman Agora was to replace what we now call the ancient or Greek Agora.
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A bit of history
In 267 A.D. Athens suffered the invasion of the Heruls, and as a result, the city was confined to the inner area of the Roman wall. For this reason, the administrative and commercial center was moved to the (new) Roman Agora.
This area was forgotten during the Byzantine period and the Ottoman occupation, as it was covered with churches, workshops and houses; and later the Fethiye Mosque was built.
It was not until the 19th century, when the Greek Archaeological Society began a series of excavations, that the Roman Agora would see the light of day again. Of course, in order to do so, the houses that occupied the site had to be bought from their owners, which eventually had to be demolished.
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Characteristics of the Roman Agora
Occupying a space of 111 x 98 meters, the Roman Agora was composed of stoas, warehouses and stores that housed all kinds of commerce. The most important elements of this archaeological site are:
Tower of the Winds
Undoubtedly the most important building of the Roman Agora, the tower of the winds was originally known as the Horologion of Andronicus of Cyrrhus.
It is a construction of very peculiar characteristics: octagonal plan, 8 meters in diameter and 12 meters high. It has 2 Corinthian porches, also sculpted in Pentelic marble. However, the most interesting thing is its decoration, since on each of its sides we find the representation of a different type of wind, being 8 in total, all represented by a single male figure.
At the top of the tower of the winds there was a weather vane, marking the direction of the wind. Even more peculiar: the Greeks had placed dials on the outside, which functioned as a sundial; while on the inside, having managed to control the flow of water entering the wind tower through channels, they invented (quite probably) the world’s first water clock.
Gate of Athena Arquegetis
At the western entrance of the Roman Agora we find the gate of Athena Archegetis, a monument dedicated to the citizens and their patron goddess (Athena).
The gate of Athena is composed of 4 columns of Doric order and a plinth of white Pentelic marble, which support the characteristic pediment of Greek architecture.
In Roman mythology, Athena is known by the name of Minerva. However, in this case the Romans allowed the original name of the goddess to continue to be used. Could this be a sign of respect for Hellenic culture and beliefs?
Located in the east of the Roman Agora, the Eastern Propylaea was the second entrance to the marketplace. This monument had, and we can still appreciate it today, a row of 4 other columns of Ionic order built in grey Himetan marble.
Fethiye Djami Mosque
As mentioned above, the Ottomans built a mosque on the north side of the Roman Agora in 1456. An early Christian basilica had previously existed on the same site.
Today the Fethiye Djami Mosque is open to visitors, and a small museum has been created inside the mosque explaining the recovery and restoration of the Roman Agora.
According to an inscription on this building, the agoranomion would be to DIvi Augusti and Athena Archentis. It was a rectangular construction located to the east of the Roman Agora.
Other indications suggest that this building was intended to be a place of worship for the emperor.
This is a rectangular building built in the 1st century A.D. consisting of a square room with benches and an antechamber.
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Opening hours of the Roman Agora
In high season (1 April – 31 October): Every day from 8:00 to 17:00
In low season (1 November – 31 March): Everyday from 8:00 to 15:00
The archaeological site of the Roman Agora is open every day except for holidays and/or religious celebrations whose dates are as follows:
- January 1st
- March 25th
- May 1st
- Easter Sunday
- December 25th
- December 26th
Ticket types and prices
Individual admission to the Roman Agora costs 8 euros in high season and 4 euros in low season. Also, admission is free for Europeans under 25 years of age, and reduced by half for non-Europeans who meet the same condition.
On the other hand, an interesting option is to purchase the combined ticket, which costs 30 euros (regardless of the season) and gives you access to the 7 archaeological sites of Athens. You can estimate for how many of them you are going to visit to decide if it is worth it.
I leave you a link to the official website where you can buy the ticket to any archaeological site, don’t let them charge you more for it on other websites: etickets.tap.gr
The entrance to the Roman Agora, as for the rest of the archaeological enclosures, is free for all the public on the following days:
- March 6
- April 18th
- May 18th
- The last weekend of September
- October 28th
- The first Sunday of each month between November 1 and March 31
What is the Roman Agora?
The Roman Agora was the administrative and social center of the city of Athens, which replaced the ancient Agora from the 1st century B.C. It was also used as a marketplace.
Where is the Roman Agora?
The Roman Agora is located in the Plaka district, next to Hadrian’s Library. The nearest metro stop is Monastiraki, from where you can walk in 5 minutes.