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Weekly photo of Greece: Ancient Agora, Athens

This is one of my favorite sites, the Ancient Agora of Athens, the hub of the ancient city. Here beat the heart of the city; from trader to philosopher, from slave to politician, all crossed paths here. Here was where democracy was born – a direct, unadulterated democracy with the free participation of every citizen.

But I get carried away. A discussion of the Athenian democracy can wait for another post. This is a photo post and the photo shows the heart of the ancient city, surrounded by the modern one. Two visible monuments mark the limits of the site: the “Thission”, on the left and the stoa of Attalus on the right.

The Agora of ancient Athens, seen from the southeast

The first is the best preserved ancient temple, the only one with its original roof and most of its sculptures still in place. Dating from the 5th century BCE, it was formerly thought to be the temple of Thesseus, a local hero, but was later proved to have been the temple of Hephestus and Athena Ergane, both gods of crafts and craftsmen, whose wares would have been made and sold in the agora.

The Stoa of Attalus is the long building with the red tile roof near the middle of the photo (behind the tallest cypress). It was a commercial building, a two-storey portico, full of shops. This dates from hellenistic times, ie. the time after Alexander the Great but before the Roman conquest. Next to it  more red-tiled roofs are to be seen. These are outside the ancient site and belong to 19th century houses lining the alleys of the historic district of Athens, called Plaka.

The lush green vegetation in the Agora and the foreground is by no means the rule in the densely built modern city, which has few parks and other open spaces.

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