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Beyond the Crowded Acropolis: The Beautiful Ancient Athenian Agora

by | Jun 17, 2024 | Greece | 1 comment

The Ancient Agora of Athens, built in 460BCE, is located below the Acropolis in Athens. Though it is much-less known and far-less visited than the Acropolis, this archeological site provides the modern visitor with a fascinating glimpse into daily life in ancient Athens. The Greek word agora means marketplace in English, and is still in use throughout Greece. 

Stoa of Attalos, ancient Athenian Agora
A Representation of the Stoa of Attalos in the Agora

The ancient agora was not only a place to buy and sell products, but also a place for people to meet and greet their friends and fellow citizens of the polis or city. It was a forum where people could share ideas and find out the news from places near and far. 

Polis, Ancient Agora
The Polis of Athens gathering in the Ancient Agora

Many Philosophical discussions took place in the famed Painted Stoa, a beautifully restored building in the ancient agora of Athens.  The Greek word stoa means “a covered porch” but the usual image this phrase conjures in modern English does not begin to represent the magnificence of the painted stoa in the ancient agora of Athens. 

Restored Stoa Ancient Athenian Agora
The Restored Covered Stoa of the Ancient Agora
Philosophy Agora
A Philosopher Teaching in the Agora

 The philosopher, Zeno, taught in the Stoa and his philosophical school of thought came to be known as Stoicism.  This philosophy emphasizes a life of balance, practicing the virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice and living in harmony with nature. It promotes a life of following the “Middle Path”  and shares many of the values of Buddhism and Taoism. 

Zeno, Stoicism founder, taught in Painted Stoa.
Zeno: The Founder of Stoicism

Many famous people, including the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, practiced this philosophy. There are still those who practice it today, and many books on Stoicism are still available. You may have noticed that the Greek word Stoa is related to the English word stoic. Modern usage of stoic includes showing no emotion, often cold or indifferent, but ancient stoicism focused more on living a life of virtue.

Socrates, Confucius, Ancient Agora, Athens
Modern Statues of Socrates and Confucius in The Agora

This magnificent stoa, now an outdoor museum, has been rebuilt for the enjoyment of the modern traveler. There are art exhibitions and remnants of ancient statuary throughout both levels of the Stoa. Being covered, the stoa provides relief from intense sun or protection from the rain, so it can be enjoyed in all weather conditions.

The Agora of Athens is a large area that contains several other interesting ruins, most notably the Temple of Hephaestus, an Olympian God known as “ The Blacksmith of the Gods.”  Also, it’s a mostly level site, so it’s an easy ruin to visit. Of course, the site pales in popularity and beauty to the famed Acropolis looming above, but is a great addition for any visitor who has the time in Athens to venture beyond the well known and often overcrowded “highlights” there. 

Temple of Hephaestus, Athens, Ancient Agora, Acropolis
The Temple of Hephaestus in the Agora and visible from the Acropolis

On the day we visited, we could see the endlessly long line of the thousands waiting to enter the Acropolis above. We were grateful as we strolled through the ancient agora unencumbered by large crowds.  The above photo was taken on the day that we visited. Though one needs some imagination to fill in the blanks (as with many ruin sites)dt, we recommend a visit and perhaps having a guide  to help you fill in those blanks.

Click here To read more about the Agora.

That’s all for now. See you on down the road….



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1 Comment

  1. Sandy Weissel

    I love learning about the areas you are visiting…AMAZING history and I don’t fall asleep like I did in history class many years ago.
    Thanks for the vivid descriptions of beautifully restored ruins, buildings…..I especially love Zeno’s philosophy on life….Ah ….yes….living in harmony. Now that is wonderful. How is Venice? can’t wait to hear about time spent there. Your photos are magnificent.


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