Athenian Agora

Athenian agora, in Pausanias’ time mainly the official square of Athens, where the most important public buildings were located, may have been the most important meeting place in Athens from the early fifth century BC. Before that period, the place was used as a cemetery, both in the Mycenaean period (from which several chamber graves have been uncovered), and the later geometric period. Located at the foot of the Acropolis and the Areopagos, the agora in its current state is dominated by 4 buildings, on the far right (in the photo) the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos (including the agora museum); right there under the church of the Holy Apostles, brought back to the stituation of 1020 (with beautiful frescoes from the seventeenth century in the narthex); approximately in the middle of the photo, in the form of 4 “columns”, you can see the remains of the so-called Odeion of Agrippa, which (like so many other buildings in Athens destroyed by the Herulians) was converted into a gymnasion in the fourth century AD (gym) or a luxury villa; finally, on the far left of the photo you can just see the Hephaisteion, a very well preserved 5th century temple dedicated to Hephaistos and Athena.
Less visible, but no less interesting are the smaller monuments on the agora. It is definitely worthwhile to explore the agora with a good guide at hand. This is the only way to view some of the more important (but sometimes severely damaged) monuments of ancient Athens. Some are briefly described below. For more detailed information, consult the excellent The Athenian agora, which is also the source of some of the information provided here.


A “boundary stone” to indicate the exact boundaries of the agora. In antique Athenian letters it says horos eimi tes agoras (I am a boundary marker of the agora). Now seen under the roof of the agora museum.

Statue of the Roman emperor Hadrian. The chestplate shows how the goddess Athena is honored by Nike. Symbolic and indicative of his admiration for Greek culture is that she is standing with both feet on top of an image of the she-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus.

Stoa Poikile

The Stoa Poikile on the edge of the agora was an important monument. Adorned with enormous paintings by three important painters from Greek antiquity, Polygnotos, Mikon and Panainos, this stoa was used as a “lecture hall” by the philosopher Zeno van Kition, who thus became the founder of the philosophy school “de Stoa”. Famous spoils of war were also exhibited in the stoa, such as the shields captured from the Spartans at Pylos.

De Stoa Poikile, uit “The Athenian Agora”. Klik voor een reconstructie van  het schilderij over de Slag bij Marathon op de afbeelding (en zie Pausanias’ beschrijving in 1.15).

Hephaisteion, Odeion of Agrippa, Stoa of Attalos

Click on the images for a link





A number of buildings on the eastern edge of the agora, at the foot of the Hephaisteion, were of great importance for the functioning of Athenian democracy. For example,  (from north to south) there the Metroön, where not only was a shrine housed for the Mother of the Gods (after which the metroön is named), but also where the archives of the state were kept. Viewed from the north, we first have a large room (with two floors) surrounding a courtyard with perimeter colonnade and an altar in the middle (reading room), then an archive room, the actual metroön and again an archive room.

New Bouleuterion

The so-called New Bouleuterion was built directly behind the metroön, built towards the end of the 5th century instead of the Old Bouleuterion, whose foundations were partly under the metroön. The bouleuterion was built to serve as a council chamber for the Athenian boule, the Council, whose task was, among other things, to set the agenda for the subjects that were discussed in the popular assembly. This council (with 500 members, 50 from each of the 10 tribes of Athens) was re-established yearly by drawing lots. The 50 citizens of each tribe functioned as prytaneis, the daily government, for 1/10 part of the year. The arrangement and shape of the seats is uncertain

Monument for the Eponymous heroes

Directly in front of the metroön was the monument to the eponymous heroes, a kind of huge pedestal, on which were placed ten statues which represented the heroes after whom the 10 tribes of Athens were named.The monument was to strengthen the unity of the city, because each hero was worshipped as semi-divine . The pedestal was also used as the official “notice board” of the city, where, among other things, legal proposals were posted. In the time of Pausanias Ptolemaios III Euergetes, Attalos I and Hadrian were added to the original ten heroes.


Finally, south of the metroön was the tholos of Athens, the headquarter of the Athenian government. A number of prytans slept here at night, so that officials of the government would be approachable at all times. The Prytans also dined and gathered here. In the tholos, a set of standard weights was kept to calibrate all the weights used in Athens, while the building was also the center of several cults. The original tholos had 6 columns which together supported the roof, later Emperor Hadrian  modernized the building by putting a dome on it. On the left: a reconstruction of a possible arrangement of the 25 couches that allowed a dinner of the 50 prytans.

Temple of Apollo Patroos

Left: A small Ionic temple, tetrastyl in antis, is according to Pausanias a temple of Apollo Patroos. Apollo was one of the “patron saints” of the Athenian state, especially associated with the so-called “Brotherhoods” where children of Athenian citizens were formally presented to each other. Apollo was the “ancestral” father of Ion, the eponymous heros and ancestor of all Ionians, to which the Athenians also counted.

Right: Apollo Patron of Euphranor (?), Seen under the roof of the Stoa of Attalos. Originally, the god held a kithara in his hands.

Altar of the twelve Gods

Thucydides (6.55.1) tells that Peisistratos, a grandson of the famous tyrant of Athens, built an altar on the agora dedicated to the 12 gods during his architecture. The sanctuary consisted of a sacred courtyard (surrounded by a low stone gate) with an altar in the center. Immediately in front of it is a marble statue pedestal with the text: “Leagros, the son of Glaukon, dedicated (this) to the 12 gods”. The substructure for the stone gate has been preserved, most of the sacred court has disappeared due to the construction of the metro line to the Peiraieus.