Ancient Agora of Athens

The Agora

The Agora, the marketplace and civic center, was one of the most important parts of an ancient city of Athens. In addition to being a place where people gathered to buy and sell all kinds of commodities, it was also a place where people assembled to discuss all kinds of topics: business, politics, current events, or the nature of the universe and the divine.  The Agora of Athens, where ancient Greek democracy first came to life, provides a wonderful opportunity to examine the commercial, political, religious, and cultural life of one of the great cities of the ancient world.

Literally meaning “marketplace,” the Agora was the economic center, where the wealth, reach and influence of classical Athens was visible by the wide range of goods shipped in from the nearby port of Piraeus, which ranged from wheat produced on the shores of the Black Sea to precious dyes from the Levant.

But what marked the Agora with everlasting glory was the other commodity traded and peddled daily: ideas. The Agora was the meeting grounds and hang out spot for ancient Athenians, where members of the elected democracy assembled to discuss affairs of state, noblemen came to conduct business, ordinary citizens got together to meet up with friends and watch performers, and where the famed philosophers doused their listeners with wisdom (or rubbish).

The Agora also played serious a role in religious festivals. The architectural layout of the Agora was centered around the Panathenaic Way, a road the ran through the heart of Athens to the main gate of the city, the Dipylon.
The Ancient Agora of Classical Athens is the best-known example of an ancient Greek agora, located to the northwest of the Acropolis and bounded on the south by the hill of the Areopagus and on the west by the hill known as the Agoraios Kolonos, also called Market Hill.

The Agora was the heart of ancient Athens, the focus of political, commercial, administrative and social activity, the religious and cultural centre, and the seat of justice. 

The site was occupied without interruption in all periods of the city's history. It was used as a residential and burial area as early as the Late Neolithic period (3000 B.C.). Early in the 6th century, in the time of Solon, the Agora became a public area. 

After a series of repairs and remodellings, it reached its final rectangular form in the 2nd century B.C. Extensive building activity occured after the serious damage made by the Persians in 480/79 B.C., by the Romans in 89 B.C. and by the Herulae in A.D. 267 while, after the Slavic invasion in A.D. 580, It was gradually abandoned. From the Byzantine period until after 1834, when Athens became the capital of the independent Greek state, the Agora was again developed as a residential area. 

The first excavation campaigns were carried out by the Greek Archaeological Society in 1859-1912, and by the German Archaeological Institute in 1896-97. In 1890-91, a deep trench cut for the Athens-Peiraeus Railway brought to light extensive remains of ancient buildings. In 1931 the American School of Classical Studies started the systematic excavations with the financial support of J. Rockefeller and continued until 1941. Work was resumed in 1945 and is still continuing. In order to uncover the whole area of the Agora it was necessary to demolish around 400 modern buildings covering a total area of ca. 12 hectares. 

In the 19th century the four colossal figures of Giants and Tritons at the facade of the Gymnasium were restored by the Greek Archaeological Society. In the years 1953-56, the Stoa of Attalos was reconstructed to become a museum and in the same period the Byzantine church of Aghioi Apostoloi, built around A.D. 1000, was restored by the American School. Between 1972 and 1975, restoration and preservation work was carried out at the Hephaisteion; the area was cleared of the vegetation, and the roof of the temple was repaired in 1978 by the Archaeological Service.

Boundary Stones

The boundary stones of the Athenian agora were rectangular posts of Parian marble wearing the inscription: "I am the boundary of the Agora". They were erected circa 500 BC. The southwest boundary stood near a wall of the house of Simon the Cobbler. There could be no private buildings on the Agora. Furthermore, certain people were not allowed within the area delimited by these boundary stones. This was the case for individuals who had not reported for military duty, or had showed cowardice during battle, or had been convicted of impiety or mistreatment of their parents.

The Herms

A Herm was a square stone pillar topped by a head of Hermes with a phallus at mid height of the pillar. It was used to mark boundaries. Kimon was authorised to set up three such Herms at the northwest entrance of the Agora. Other Herms were erected in the same area, between the Stoa Basileios and the Stoa Poikile, where they became so numerous that the whole area was designated as "the Herms".

Street Network

The Panathenaic Way, a graveled road some 16 m wide, coming directly from the Dipylon Gate forked into three streets at the northwest corner of the Agora. The east street continued eastward and was bordered with rows of shops facing south. The middle street, the continuation of the Panathenaic Way, headed to the southeast toward the Akropolis. The south street headed south towards the buildings of the west side of the Agora. The Panathenaic Way was not paved before 200 AD. Its section extending from the southeast corner of the Agora to the Monumental Access Ramp was delimited by retaining walls on each side and had steps at some places to ease the ascent.
During the Panathenaia, wooden stands were erected on the Agora along the Panathenaic Way to allow the population to easily watch the Panathenaic Procession.
Several narrow graveled streets radiated from the southwest corner of the Agora where the street running in front of the public building of the west side of the Agora ended. A street ran southwest toward the Pnyx, another headed west toward the Peiraeus Gate, another headed southeast to the north slope of the Areopagos and a last one ran eastward along the south side of the Agora. This latter street was of a better quality with its even 6 m wide graveled surface.

Old Orchestra

Before the construction of the theatre of Dionysos, there was a circular orchestra in the Agora used for dramatic and musical contests. It was centrally located between the Panathenaic Way to the east and the west side of the Agora. This original orchestra later disappeared under the racetrack.


The racetrack ran diagonnally through the Agora from the Peribolos of the 12 Gods to the South Stoa. It measured 38 m by 184 m (a stadion). The starting line was located at the north end. The racetrack was used during the Panathenaic Games.

Statues of Harmodios and Aristogeiton
A bronze sculptural group of the "Tyrannicides" Harmodios and Aristogeiton stood on the Agora. The Athenians considered them as their liberators from the rule of the tyrant Hipparchus. The initial group was made by Anterior somewhere between 510 and 480 BC. It was taken away by the Persians in 479 BC. A new group was made by Kritios and Nesiotes in 476 BC to replace it. It probably stood between the racetrack and the Panathenaic Way, a few meters north of the old orchestra.

The Athenian Agora Excavations

The Agora of Athens was the center of the ancient city: a large, open square where the citizens could assemble for a wide variety of purposes. On any given day the space might be used as a market, or for an election, a dramatic performance, a religious procession, military drill, or athletic competition. Here administrative, political, judicial, commercial, social, cultural, and religious activities all found a place together in the heart of Athens, and the square was surrounded by the public buildings necessary to run the Athenian government.

These buildings, along with monuments and small objects, illustrate the important role it played in all aspects of public life. The council chamber, magistrates’ offices, mint, and archives have all been uncovered, while the lawcourts are represented by the recovery of bronze ballots and a water-clock used to time speeches. The use of the area as a marketplace is indicated by the numerous shops where potters, cobblers, bronzeworkers, and sculptors made and sold their wares.
Aerial view of the Athenian Agora archaeological park, May 1975

Plan of the Agora at the height of its development in ca. A.D. 150.

Lower colonnade of the Stoa of Attalos.

Long stoas (colonnades) provided shaded walkways for those wishing to meet friends to discuss business, politics, or philosophy, while statues and commemorative inscriptions reminded citizens of former triumphs. A library and concert hall met cultural needs, and numerous small shrines and temples received regular worship. Given the prominence of Athens throughout much of antiquity, the Agora provides one of the richest sources for our understanding of the Greek world in antiquity.
Early Geometric jewelry found in a burial.

Used as a burial ground and for scattered habitation in the Bronze and Iron Ages, the area was first laid out as a public space in the 6th century B.C. Administrative buildings and small sanctuaries were built, and water was made available at a fountainhouse fed by an early aqueduct. Following the total destruction of Athens at the hands of the Persians in 480 B.C., the city was rebuilt and public buildings were added to the Agora one by one throughout the 5th and 4th centuries, when Athens contended for the hegemony of Greece.
View looking west toward the Hephaisteion during a torchlight procession.

It is during this “Classical” period that the Agora and its buildings were frequented by statesmen such as Themistokles, Perikles, and Demosthenes, by the poets Aeschylos, Sophokles, Euripides, and Aristophanes, by the writers Thucydides and Herodotos, by artists such as Pheidias and Polygnotos, and by philosophers such as Sokrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Together, they were responsible for creating a society and culture that has set a standard against which subsequent human achievements have been judged. The Agora was the focal point of their varied activities and here the concept of democracy was first developed and practiced.

With the rise of Macedon under Philip II and Alexander the Great and during the subsequent Hellenistic period, all significant military, economic, and political power shifted to the East. In the spheres of education and philosophy, however, Athens maintained her preeminence. The Academy, founded by Plato, and the Lyceum, founded by Aristotle, continued to flourish. They were supplemented by the arrival of Zeno of Kition, who chose to lecture at the Agora in the Painted Stoa.

Athenian cultural dominance continued throughout the Roman period, and the buildings added to the Agora reflect the educational role of the city, a role that ended only with the closing of the pagan philosophical schools by the Christian emperor Justinian in A.D. 529. With the collapse of security in the empire, Athens and the Agora suffered from periodic invasions and destructions: the Herulians in the 3rd century, the Visigoths in the 4th, the Vandals in the 5th, and the Slavs in the 6th. Following the Slavic invasion the area of the Agora was largely abandoned and neglected for close to 300 years.
A panoramic view looking east from the Edward Capps Memorial belvedere on Kolonos Agoraios. The Stoa of Attalos (center) marks the eastern border of the Agora, and the Church of the Holy Apostles is just to the south (right).

The Excavations
Excavations in the Athenian Agora by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens commenced in 1931 under the supervision of T. Leslie Shear. The systematic excavation of this important site was entrusted by the Greek State to the American School of Classical Studies, founded in Athens in 1881. Negotiations began in 1925, soon after the Greek parliament voted not to undertake the project itself, largely because of the huge costs of expropriation. The area in question covered some 24 acres and was occupied by 365 modern houses, all of which had to be purchased and demolished.
View of the west side of the Agora at the start of excavations in Section A, June 19, 1931. View from the north toward the hill of Kolonos Agoraios and the Hephaisteion.

First day of excavation at the Agora, section Ε.
"After proper ceremony of sprinkling of holy water by priest of neighboring church [Panagia Vlassarou] Agora Excavations began about 7:30 a.m. Digging confined to area occupied by House 22 until it shall be levelled off. 28 men / 135 wagons" (May 25, 1931).

Edward Capps, chairman of the Managing Committee of the American School, was the guiding spirit behind the project, and T. L. Shear was appointed the first field director. Shear assembled a staff that includes some of the best-known names in Greek archaeology: Homer A. Thompson, Eugene Vanderpool, Benjamin Meritt, Dorothy Burr (Thompson), Virginia Grace, Lucy Talcott, Alison Frantz, Piet de Jong, and John Travlos, among others.
Agora Excavations staff, 1933. Third row (left to right): Charles Spector, Piet de Jong, Arthur Parsons, Eugene Vanderpool, Mary Zelia Pease [Philippides], James Oliver. Second row: Joan Bush [Vanderpool], Elizabeth Dow, Virginia Grace, Gladys Baker, Homer Thompson. Sitting: Lucy Talcott, Benjamin Meritt, Josephine Shear, T. Leslie Shear, Dorothy Burr [Thompson].

Actual work of excavation began in May of 1931, funded largely by John D. Rockefeller. Since then, several dozen more houses have been cleared, bringing the total to more than 400. The enterprise has been a huge one, both in terms of money and time. As is often the case with American cultural projects, the funding has been provided almost exclusively from private foundations and individuals: the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Kress Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities have all participated. In recent years the work has been sustained by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Packard Humanities Institute.
A drawing of the house lots in the area to be excavated: (a) Section ΟΕ, excavated by the German Archaeological Institute; (b) Athens/Piraeus railroad; (c) Giants and Tritons; (d) Section ΣΑ, Stoa of Attalos; (e) Section Ε, demolition of houses begun April 20, 1931, excavations begun May 25, 1931; (f ) Section Α, demolition of houses begun May 28, 1931; (g) Section ΣΤ, demolition of houses begun August 17, 1931; (h) Church of the Holy Apostles.

Since 1931 hundreds of scholars, workers, specialists, and students have participated in the excavation, conservation, research, and publication of the site and its related finds. Collectively, they are responsible for one of the most productive archaeological projects in the Mediterranean basin. Over forty volumes and hundreds of scholarly articles have been published, adding much to our understanding of all aspects of ancient Greek history and society.
View of the Agora and Acropolis from the northwest. Areas currently being excavated are visible in the lower half of the image.
Excavations, July 2008.

The Archaeologists

The First Generation

The Agora Excavations staff and work force, 1933. Archaeologists, staff, foremen, and workmen gathered under the Hephaisteion for a group photograph.

 The staff of the Agora Excavations, 1934. Front row (left to right): Gladys Baker, Joan Bush [Vanderpool], Lucy Talcott, T. Leslie Shear, Josephine Shear, Dorothy Burr [Thompson]. Standing: Sophokles Lekkas, Piet de Jong, Catherine Bunnell, Alison Frantz, Dorothy Traquair, Rodney Young, Eugene Vanderpool, James Oliver, Arthur Parsons, Sterling Dow, Charles Spector, Homer Thompson.

“Professor Shear had numerous qualities which contributed greatly to the School over many years, generosity, vision, vigorous action, but the one for which he will be best remembered and for which the School is most in his debt was his remarkable ability to select a staff of excavation workers of unusual capabilities, to forge them into a harmonious team and to keep them together in their hard-working activities of field work, study and publication, inspired by his own energy and scholarly care for meticulous observation and recording and prompt sharing of results with the scholarly world” (L. S. Meritt, History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1939–1980 [1984], p. 176).
T. Leslie Shear, director of the Agora Excavations, 1931–1945.

Homer A. Thompson, director of the Agora Excavations, 1946–1967.

Dorothy Burr Thompson, though diminutive in stature, brought energy and intellectual acumen to her work as an excavator and scholar. Above, she inspects the rock face of the north slope of the Areopagus in 1934. Dorothy married Homer in 1934.

E.V. studying the text of the “Law against Tyranny” inscription (I 6524). Affectionately known by students and colleagues by only his initials, Eugene Vanderpool began his career at the Agora in 1932. Later he was appointed Professor of Archaeology of the American School, 1947–1971.

John Travlos began working at the Agora excavations in 1935.
Architect of the School, 1940–1973.
Piet de Jong at work in the Old Excavation House, 1937.

Virginia Grace joined the records staff of the Agora in 1932. Miss Grace is best known for her lifelong study of amphoras from the Agora which she used to form the basis of her research concerning transport amphoras in the Mediterranean.

Lucy Talcott, one the original members of the 1931 staff, was responsible for developing the card catalogue system for the objects. She also coauthored, with Brian Sparkes, Agora XII.

Alison Frantz came to the Agora in 1934 as an assistant to Lucy Talcott. An interest in photography was soon rekindled, and by 1939 she was staff photographer of the excavation, a position she held until 1964. Her talent for shooting archaeological subjects was such that she was asked to photograph throughout the Mediterranean, but Frantz was also a Byzantine scholar and she worked closely with John Travlos to restore the Church of the Holy Apostles. She authored two Agora volumes, Agora XX and Agora XXIV.

Margaret Crosby studying architectural fragments in the basement of the Agora museum, 1956. “Her primary responsibility at the Agora was the supervision of fieldwork, and from 1935 to 1939, and then again from 1946 to 1955, she spent every season in the field” (Agora Picturebook 26 [2006], p. 53). Crosby also coauthored, with Mabel Lang, Agora X, combining her interests in weights and measures and inscriptions.

Rodney Young began excavating in the Agora in 1934. The photograph above was taken in 1947 for an article entitled “Pot’s Progress,” published in the first issue of Archaeology Magazine (vol. 1, no. 1, 1948, p. 13). Young was posed sitting amidst stacks of pottery removed from a well (Deposit A 17:2) that were ready for sorting.

Mary Zelia Pease [Philippides], shown here flanked by Eugene Vanderpool and Virginia Grace, was a member of the staff in 1933. Together with Gladys Baker, she assisted Josephine Shear in cataloguing the coins that year. She returned to the Agora on fellowships in 1957/8 and 1967/8 to study the Attic black-figured pottery, and later coauthored, with Mary B. Moore, Agora XXIII. Mrs. Philippides was the Librarian of the School from 1958 to 1971, and is the last surviving member of the excavation’s original staff.

Spyros Spyropoulos

The spirit of Spyros Spyropoulos still lingers in the stoa many years after his death. A “jack of all trades,” he assisted all who came to the Agora Excavations for research and study. Spyros was the individual behind the scenes who worked tirelessly at any task asked of him. Many fondly remember experiencing a symposium hosted by him when he relaxed, often in the nearby Epirus Taverna.
A symposium held by Spyros at the Epirus Taverna, July 1975: (left to right) John Traill, Hardy Hansen, Spyros, waiter, Dan Geagan and Merle Langdon.
A Radical Departure in the Conduct of Excavation

A Radical Departure in the Conduct of Excavation
In 1980, there was a major change in the way the Agora was excavated. While a professional staff was maintained, including a core group of experienced Greek workmen, the actual digging would be done for the first time by student volunteers.
The staff of 1980 and visiting scholars. Standing (left to right): Leslie Mechem, Spyros Spyropoulos, Sally Roberts, Susan Rotroff, Robert Pounder, Lynn Grant, Helen Townsend, Mary Moore, Malcolm Wallace, Steve Koob, Alison Adams, Margie Miles, Robert Vincent, Kyriaki Moustaki. Sitting: John Camp, T. Leslie Shear Jr., Dorothy Thompson, Homer Thompson, Virginia Grace, Bill Dinsmoor Jr.

Excavation staff, 1980. From left to right: Kostas Pikoulas and his father, Elias Pikoulas, foreman Nikos Dervos, Yiannis Dedes, Ioannis Paiipetis, Dionysios Soundias

Agora staff and student volunteers, 1980. Front row (left to right): Martha Payne, Vasso Petsas, Kathi Donahue, Liz Bartman, Frayna Goodman, Jody Melander, Athena Sax, Chris Renaud, Nadine McGann, Alexandra Shear, Betsy Flood. Second row: Marc Pershan, Lora Johnson, Panetha Nychis, Lisa DeRensis, Judy Weinstein, Mary Lou Ross, Ann Bozorth, Julia Shear, Pam Posey, Bonnie Leah Griffin, Ann Schelpert, Barbara Hamann, Nancy Moore. Third row: Georgia Karagianni-Giorgoulea, Brian McConnell, Dean Politis, Claire Gabriel, Margie Miles, Alison Adams, Helen Townsend, Ione Shear, Peter Zimmerman, Pam Coravos, Charles Hedrick, Kyriaki Moustaki. Fourth row: Andy Sherwood, Frank DeMita, Richard Liebhart, Hans vander Leest, John Camp, Leslie Shear, Bill Dinsmoor, Richard Hamblen, Kevin Donovan, Mark Fullerton, Robert Vincent.

The Museum
The Museum of the Ancient Agora is housed in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, originally erected during the 2nd cent. BC as a gift of the king of Pergamon, Attalos II, to Athens.

The exhibition in the Museum gallery holds archaeological finds coming from the systematic excavations of the American School of Classical Studies in the area and dated from the Neolithic to the Post-byzantine and Ottoman periods.

The Museum exhibition is organized in chronological and thematic units that reveal aspects of the public and private life in ancient Athens.

The earliest antiquities, potsherds, vases, terracotta figurines and weapons, dating from the Neolothic , Bronze Age, Iron Age and Geometric period, come from wells and tombs excavated in the area of the Athenian Agora and its environs.

The most important exhibits are the objects associated with the various departments of civic life and the institutions of the Athenian Democracy and are dated from the Classical and Late Classical periods. Among them are exhibited official clay measures, bronze official weights, a fragment of a marble allotment machine, official jurors? identification tags, a clay water-clock, official bronze ballots, and potsherds inscribed with names of illustrious political personalities of the 5th cent. BC Athens which were used as ballots in the process of ostracism,

Of special interest is a marble stele adorned with a relief showing the People (Demos) of Athens being crowned by Democracy and inscribed with a law against tyranny passed by the people of Athens in 336 BC. Also exhibited are fine specimens of black-figured and red-figured pottery - some attributed to renowned vase painters-, as well as kitchen and table ware, lamps, terracotta figurines, coins and jewelry.

Finally on display are a collection of miniature Roman copies of famous statues and a number of particularly fine portrait busts and heads of the Roman period.

The Museum of the Ancient Agora is housed in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, originally erected during the 2nd cent. BC as a gift of the king of Pergamon, Attalos II, to Athens.

The exhibition in the Museum gallery holds archaeological finds coming from the systematic excavations of the American School of Classical Studies in the area and dated from the Neolithic to the Post-byzantine and Ottoman periods.

The Museum exhibition is organized in chronological and thematic units that reveal aspects of the public and private life in ancient Athens.

The earliest antiquities, potsherds, vases, terracotta figurines and weapons, dating from the Neolothic , Bronze Age, Iron Age and Geometric period, come from wells and tombs excavated in the area of the Athenian Agora and its environs.

The most important exhibits are the objects associated with the various departments of civic life and the institutions of the Athenian Democracy and are dated from the Classical and Late Classical periods. Among them are exhibited official clay measures, bronze official weights, a fragment of a marble allotment machine, official jurors? identification tags, a clay water-clock, official bronze ballots, and potsherds inscribed with names of illustrious political personalities of the 5th cent. BC Athens which were used as ballots in the process of ostracism,

Of special interest is a marble stele adorned with a relief showing the People (Demos) of Athens being crowned by Democracy and inscribed with a law against tyranny passed by the people of Athens in 336 BC. Also exhibited are fine specimens of black-figured and red-figured pottery - some attributed to renowned vase painters-, as well as kitchen and table ware, lamps, terracotta figurines, coins and jewelry.

Finally on display are a collection of miniature Roman copies of famous statues and a number of particularly fine portrait busts and heads of the Roman period.

Upper Stoa Exhibition

The exhibition on the 1st floor of the Stoa of Attalos, inaugurated in 2012, presents to the public a representative collection of Athenian sculptures, with a special focus on the important group of portraits from the Athenian Agora excavations.

The new exhibition has been organized in 6 units:

1. Idealized figures of gods and mortals, comprising Late Classical-Hellenistic works of the 4th and 3rd cent. BC

2. The Athenian workshops reproduce Classical works, comprising Roman copies of Classical works of the 1st -2nd cent. AD

3. Roman portraits of the 1st - 2nd cent. AD, presenting images of wealthy Athenian citizens represented according to Imperial prototypes

4. The city honors state officials, comprising herms bearing portraits of state officials of the 2nd and 3rd cent. AD

5. Roman portraits of the 3rd cent. A.D., presenting portraits of prominent citizens in Roman Athens

6. Collections of sculptures adorning the private schools of late antiquity. This latter group includes an important part of the collection of sculptures from House Ω, some of which are also exhibited on the ground floor of the Stoa

The new exhibition area offers an experiential approach to the architecture of the ancient stoa, while providing also an excellent view of the Agora, the Pnyx and the Acropolis, useful for comprehending the historical landscape and the ancient topography of the area.

In addition, by providing the possibility of visual contact with the area where the ancient ceramics are kept, the new exhibition highlights the role of the Museum as a centre of research of our cultural heritage.

On display in the public galleries of the stoa is a selection of the thousands of objects recovered in the past 75 years, reflecting the use of the area from 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1500.
The public galleries in the Stoa of Attalos.

Most significant perhaps, is the material—unique to the site—illustrating the mechanics of the world’s first attested democracy. This material includes ostraka (inscribed potsherds used as ballots to exile over-ambitious politicians), allotment machines and bronze identification tags (used in selecting an Athenian jury), and clay tokens and inscribed lead strips (used in the administration of the Athenian cavalry).
Ostraka of the Athenian generals Alkibiades and Nikias, both candidates for ostracism in 417–415 B.C. (P 29373, P 31179, Agora Museum).

Fragment of an allotment machine (kleroterion), probably used in the Council House (in the period when there were 12 tribes) for the selection of committees representing all the tribes except that holding the presidency. Bronze tickets similar to that below would have been inserted in the slots, which are clearly visible in the photograph. On the left side of the stone can be seen the holes for an attachment, a mechanical device that would have made the selection by chance (I 3967, Agora Museum).

Clay tokens or passports of a border commander, 4th century B.C. (SS 8080, MC 1245, Agora Museum)
Bronze juror’s ticket (pinakion), 4th century B.C. This identification ticket carries the juror’s name, Demophanes, the first letters of his father’s name, Phi[- - -], and his deme, Kephesia (B822, Agora Museum).

Context is essential in understanding archaeological material. The great museums of Europe and the United States often display magnificent objects with little or no information as to where they were found and what else was found with them. What sets the Agora project and museum apart from most collections is that this context information is known for almost every single object.

Because the excavation began comparatively late, a generation or more after other large-scale digs in the Mediterranean (Pompeii, Ostia, Knossos, Dephi, Olympia, Pergamon, Ephesos, and Priene, to name a few), the same record-keeping system adopted at the beginning has been used to the present day. This means that every object found in the Agora excavations is stored in the Stoa of Attalos, together with the record of its recovery. The inventory is large: 35,000 pieces of pottery, 7,600 inscriptions, 3,500 pieces of sculpture, 5,000 architectural fragments, 6,000 lamps, 15,000 stamped amphora handles, and over 70,000 coins. This vast collection has all been entered into a unified database, part of a collaborative project with the Packard Humanities Institute. Because of this correlation of objects and archives, the museum collection serves as a center for archaeological research, used every year by hundreds of scholars from all over the world.

The Stoa of Attalos
Oblique view of the Stoa of Attalos with the Acropolis in the background.

The Stoa of Attalos was originally built by King Attalos II of Pergamon (159–138 B.C.), as a gift to the Athenians in appreciation of the time he spent in Athens studying under the philosopher Karneades. What he gave the city was an elaborate stoa, a large two-storeyed double colonnade with rows of shops behind the colonnades. The building was made of local materials, marble for the facade and columns, and limestone for the walls; it measures 116 meters long and had 42 shops in all. The Stoa became the major commercial building or shopping center in the Agora and was used for centuries, from its construction in around 150 B.C. until its destruction at the hands of the Herulians in A.D. 267.
September 1956. The finished south end of the stoa at the time of the dedication. Clearly visible are the ancient stones that have been incorporated into the restoration of the building. The parapet has been painted as it was in ancient times.

It was chosen to serve as the museum because it was large enough and because enough architectural elements were preserved to allow an accurate reconstruction; in addition, the northern end stood to the original roof line, allowing precision in recreating the height of the building.

The building was reerected between 1953 and 1956. Quarries in Piraeus and on Mt. Penteli were opened so as to provide material similar to the original. As many as 150 workmen were employed, including 50 master masons, 20 carpenters, and 5 steelworkers. Where possible, remains of the original building were incorporated: the north end, the southernmost shops, part of the south wall, and the south end of the outer steps. Elsewhere the modern reconstruction rests on the original foundations and is an almost exact replica of the ancient building, with representative pieces of the original included in order to allow the visitor a chance to check the validity of the restoration for him- or herself.
The Stoa of Attalos in November of 1952

The Stoa of Attalos in December of 1956

The reconstruction leads the visitor to appreciate why stoas were such a common form of public building among the Greeks, used in agoras, sanctuaries, near theaters, and wherever many people were expected to gather. The spacious colonnades provided shelter for literally thousands of people, protecting them from sun in summer and wind and rain in winter, while allowing in abundant light and fresh air.
September 3, 1956. John L. Caskey, Director of the American School, delivering his remarks at the dedication ceremony.

The ground floor is given over to public display, sculpture and large marbles in the colonnades, small objects in a long gallery consisting of ten of the original shops. The first floor is used for the excavation offices, workrooms, and archives as well as for additional storage. More storerooms were created in basements at foundation level. Dedicated on the 3rd of September, 1956, the Stoa celebrates its 50th anniversary as the Agora museum in 2006.
The “Law against Tyranny” inscription (I 6524) was also erected in the colonnade before the dedication ceremony.

The Church of the Holy Apostles
View of the restored Church of the Holy Apostles from the southwest, April 2006

Though several churches were removed in the clearing of the site for excavation, it was decided to save and restore the little Byzantine church dedicated to the Holy Apostles.

The church, with an unusual tetraconch interior plan and decorative tilework on the exterior, is among the oldest in Athens, probably to be dated just before A.D. 1000. It was surely the focal point of an extensive neighborhood in the Byzantine period, the remains of which were recorded and removed in the course of the excavations. The eastern half of the church was relatively untouched, but several additions, the latest dating to the late 19th century, had damaged and obscured the western end. After excavation, these later additions were removed and the church restored to its original form. The work was funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and supervised by Alison Frantz. With the Stoa of Attalos, this reconstruction was completed and dedicated in 1956. The festival of the Twelve Apostles is still celebrated at the church every June 30th.
Restored plan of the original layout of the church, showing its unusual tetraconch design. Drawing by W.B.D. Jr.

“On February 12, 1954, the Department of Antiquities of the Ministry of Education approved the request for permission to demolish the modern addition to the Church of the Holy Apostles, with a view to restoring the church in its original form. On February 22 two workmen began stripping the plaster from the walls to determine the extent of the original walls. Good Byzantine masonry, similar to that of the eastern part of the church was exposed on the lower part of the north wall as far as the door and bell tower. The original length of this wall is so far unclear. The south wall seems to have suffered at least one major destruction, and from a point ca. 2 m. west of the southern apse little original masonry remains above the lower course. There is so far no trace of early work west of the door on either side”.
View of the Church of the Holy Apostles from the southwest, August 1954, after demolition of the later additions had been completed.

Interior of the church before the start of the restoration project, March 2, 1954. Before the restoration began the floor was removed and excavations were carried out to determine the church’s history.

The structural elements of the church—the walls, columns, and vaulting—had been restored by late summer of 1955. Still much work had to be done before the dedication ceremony, planned to coincide with that of the Stoa of Attalos on September 3, 1956. The roof of the narthex was built, the interior walls plastered, the marble floor paving laid, the original marble elements of the windows were either restored or modern copies of designs contemporary to the building were set, the surviving frescoes were conserved and installation of frescoes removed from the Church of Aghios (Saint) Spyridon and Aghios Giorgios were installed in the new narthex.
Building the centering for the vaults of the central saucer dome and completing the ribbing, February 21, 1955

Theophanes Nomikos carving the marble lunette for the central doorway, March 8, 1956. The interior walls have been plastered; the southern window of the narthex restored; frescoes have been installed.

View from the narthex into the interior, December 1955. Frescoes from the Church of Aghios Spyridon were reset in the walls of the restored narthex. The fresco of Saint Spyridon was set on the left side of the central door leading into the interior and the fresco of Saint Anthony was set on the right side.

Watercolors of Saint Spyridon and Saint Anthony by Piet de Jong made before the frescos were removed from the chapel of Aghios Spyridon, in the 1930s. Piet de Jong, an extraordinary archaeological illustrator, joined the staff of the Agora Excavations in 1932. The two watercolors represent just a tiny fraction of the work he left behind. They also illustrate the remarkable talent he had of coaxing details and colors from the object he was illustrating that the casual observer would most likely ignore.

View of the northwest corner of the church after restoration, September 1956

The Site before Excavation

The Agora lies on sloping ground northwest of the Acropolis, below and east of the extraordinarily well-preserved Doric temple of Hephaistos, popularly known as the “Theseion” (a). The marble giants (b and below), reused as the facade of a Late Roman complex, were always visible, as was the north end of the Stoa of Attalos, preserved to its full height. The other ancient remains were not so well preserved, however, and their ruins lay as much as 8 meters below the modern surface, covered from the 10th century by an extensive neighborhood of private houses. The houses were repeatedly rebuilt, after successive invasions by Franks, Ottomans, and Venetians. The last destruction occurred in 1826, the result of a siege of the Acropolis during the Greek War of Independence. Once again the neighborhood was totally rebuilt, and only limited archaeological excavation was possible.
Aerial view of the Agora Excavations taken by the Greek Topographical Service, July 5th, 1933. (a.) "Theseion", (b.) Marble Giants, (c.) Stoa of Attalos, (d.) railroad, (e.) German and Greek excavations, (f.) current excavations.

The so-called Stoa of the Giants and Tritons before the start of demolition in the central area of the Agora. View looking south, 1935.

The Stoa of Attalos (c) was cleared of debris by the Greek Archaeological Society in 1859/1862 and 1898/1902, the extension of the Athens/Piraeus railroad (d) cut through the northern part of the site in 1890/1, and other areas (e.g., e) were opened up by German and Greek archaeologists in 1896/7 and 1907/8. Except for these scattered and limited attempts, the remains of the center of ancient Athens lay deeply buried, inaccessible, and largely forgotten.

The challenges of excavation were considerable. The site has been occupied almost continuously for close to 5,000 years, so the stratigraphy is disturbed and complex. In addition, as well as sharing all the logistical problems inherent in any large-scale urban excavation, the Agora site must be one of the few where a street and a railway divides the area of the excavations.
View looking southeast across the area of the ancient Agora on the day excavations began, May 25, 1931

The Altar of Zeus

The Agora Excavations began with the aim of revealing the monuments and history of the ancient Agora. Of course, every artifact or feature that was exposed held importance, but when something extraordinary was brought to light, its discovery generated great excitement.
View of the orthostate block (A 404) of the Altar of Zeus Agoraios

On July 23, 1931, the excavator filled five pages of his notebook describing a significant discovery of the first excavation season: "A large structure once covered a large part of [the] area, it was almost certainly an Altar." A few pages later he added another entry describing an "Altar Block: the large block of white marble with moulding above and below; shown on photos p. 507" (Nb. Ε III, pp. 503–507). The altar was later identified as the Altar of Zeus Agoraios, an important ancient monument believed to have been erected first on the Pnyx in the 4th century B.C. and later dismantled and re-erected at the turn of the millenium in its present location.
View looking northeast across Section E at the end of the 1931 season. Visible in the foreground is a column base and foundation blocks of the Metroon; to the left the statue of Emperor Hadrian was found lying in the Great Drain. In the center background are the steps of the Altar of Zeus Agoraios and its large altar block. Visible in the middle foreground are the foundations for the monument of the Eponymous Heroes. The Church of Panagia Vlassarou is visible in the upper right corner.

The Statue of Hadrian

Inevitably something is found at the end of the excavation season that must be left for the next season to fully explore. Just a few days after the discovery of the Altar of Zeus Agoraios, exploration of the Great Drain was progressing on the west side of Section Ε when the excavator noted another surprising find: “Digging away earth between cover slab and this block was found Statue of Roman Emperor, preserved from just below kilt to about shoulders, lying at a slant, lower part resting on low end of the fallen cover slab and body slanting down and outward to E.”
The statue of Hadrian lying face down in the Great Drain, February 5, 1932

The difficulty of making a fuller description and taking photographs is apparent in a later comment, “Earth roof must be supported and large block broken and removed before statue can be taken out” (Nb. Ε III, p. 518). The statue would remain lying in the ground until it could be properly excavated and removed at the beginning of the following season.
Lifting the statue to an upright position

Cleaning and preparing to photograph the statue

The first formal photographic portrait of the statue of Hadrian

The Old Excavation House

The photograph below, taken in June of 1939, illustrates the extent of the Agora Excavations during the first eight years. The so-called Old Excavation House, located at Asteroskopeiou St. 25, was actually a group of houses that formed a complex of temporary storerooms and workspace for the early excavations (highlighted in yellow). All of the antiquities that had been found to date were stored in these buildings. Planning for the construction of a museum to properly display the important pieces and to house the enormous quantity of excavated material had already begun by 1939, but all work at the excavation was suspended in the spring of 1940 due to the start of World War II.

View from the Observatory looking east, showing the extent of excavations in June 1939. The Old Excavation House complex is highlighted in yellow.
Pottery storage that adjoined the records office where Lucy Talcott sits at her desk, 1937

The records office, 1937

Pottery mending room, 1937

Pot-menders at work, 1937

Alison Frantz in the photographic studio, 1937

John Travlos working in the architect’s office, 1937

The Card Catalog
Recent record shot of A 1, the first architectural find to be cataloged

A card catalog system has been used since the beginning of the excavations to record the important information related to inventoried objects. Lucy Talcott, one of the original members of the Agora Excavations staff, is credited with its development into an elaborately cross-referenced record system. The catalog card became the most important link to all the relevant data concerning an object and has only recently been replaced by a digital database.
Catalog Card for A 1.

Catalog card of the herm S 33, discovered June 4, 1931, in Section E.

The Notebooks

The process of excavating an archaeological site is essentially destructive but the irrevocable features are preserved in a notebook. The excavator records his thoughts and observations, and uses drawings and photographs to supplement the text. After an excavation has concluded, scholars rely on the notebook to study the excavation, and it is through the notebooks that we may reconstruct the initial days of work in the Athenian Agora.
The first two pages of Nb. Ε I, dated April 20, 1931. Pasted on the first page are contact prints of images of the first building to be demolished before excavation of the area could begin. An entry notes, “Contractor began the demolition of House 21, Block 631 (Section E) this morning. In the walls was found a piece of coarse moulding: Pentelic marble.”

The first building to be demolished, House 21, Block 631 (Section Ε). View looking north along Patousa Street.

House 21 at the end of the first day of demolition

A view looking east from the Hephaisteion on April 27, 1931. The accompanying notebook entry reads, “The walls of the upper storey of House 20 fall a prey to the minions of the εργολάβος [contractor]”

Fragments of many sculptures and architectural pieces were found in the walls of the buildings that were being demolished. The first catalogued pieces of the Architecture and Sculpture series were retrieved during the demolition of House 21. This is not surprising as the modern city was built on top of the ancient and the antiquities were easily available sources of building materials.
“By the end of the day most of the walls above the first floor of House 21 had been razed. From the walls: the thigh of a statue of Pentelic marble, rather micaceous. Perhaps a trifle over life-size” (April 21, 1931).


A photograph made using the traditional silver halide process is a visual record largely unaltered by the photographer. It is this quality of capturing a mirrored image of the scene that lends itself to archaeological photography. Photography has been an essential component of the documentary process from the beginning of excavations at the Agora. The photograph, whether taken by the excavator or by the staff photographer, is an irreplaceable visual record of the excavation’s progress. Stored in the project’s photographic archive are over 300,000 images documenting the excavations and catalogued objects.
The image was taken on the afternoon of May 25, 1931, and illustrates the work accomplished during the first day of excavations in Section Ε. The buildings on the west side of the Agora had been demolished in preparation for excavation, resulting in an unobstructed view from the Church of Panagia Vlassarou toward the Hephaisteion.

From the beginning of excavations, the photographic record can be divided into the use of large format and small format cameras. Herman Wagner, a member of the German Archaeological Institute, was the first staff photographer. He was primarily responsible for the large format photography, using a view camera that required 18 x 24 cm glass negatives. These large format images, even to this day, are unequalled for the amount of information that can be transmitted in a single image.
An enlarged detail from the 18 x 24 cm negative above.

During this first season, Wagner returned to the same vantage point and took a series of images illustrating the progress of the work through time. In this way a step-by-step visual record was made of the excavations.
Early June 1931

June 19, 1931

July 22, 1931

Whereas the staff photographer was called upon to photograph the most important features with a large-view camera, the excavators were given a 35mm camera (a Leica) to record the day-to-day details of the progress of the excavations. This handheld camera was easy to carry about and use more spontaneously. These Leica images reveal a more candid view of the work on the excavation.
View looking southeast across Section Ε on July 7, 1931, at 5 p.m.

The photograph above was taken from Poseidon St. (the west side of the Agora) looking southeast across Section Ε. The photographer was most likely Frederick O. Waagé, the excavator of Section Ε in 1931. In the foreground is the newest area of the section to be opened up; the Church of Panagia Vlassarou is visible in the middle, the Acropolis behind. Waagé labeled the photograph as an “extracurricular photo of Acropolis.” The content of the image combines both archaeological and contemporary historical details.
Sometimes the photographer himself has been captured on film while at work. T. Leslie Shear, director of the excavations and an accomplished photographer, was caught recording the discovery of a herm (S 33).

“In 5/A at -2.50 was found a herm lying on its side; it had formed the support of a large statue of a draped woman? holding a child on the left arm which rested on the top of the Herme, child’s body preserved up to just above waist. Total height preserved: 1.36 m” (Nb. Ε I, p. 140; June 4, 1931).

The herm as photographed by T. Leslie Shear, June 4, 1931, 11 a.m.

Descreption and Monuments
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. 

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. 

The Tholos (470 BC), a circular building, served as the headquarters of the fifty prytaneis (officials) of the Boule (senate of 500). The New Bouleuterion was the meeting place of the Boule, the law-making body that drafted law bills for subsequent discussion and approval in the Assembly (Ecclesia). The Metroon (2nd cent. BC) served both as a sanctuary of the Mother of the Gods and the archive building of the city. The Monument of the Eponymous Heroes (350 BC) was a long base for the ten bronze statues representing the eponymous heroes of the ten tribes of Athens. On the West side of the Agora there are also the remains of the Ionic Temple of Apollo Patroos (Fatherly) (325 BC), so-called because he was the father of Ion, founder of the Ionian Greeks, a tribe that included the Athenians, the cella of the small Temple of Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria (350 BC), who were the principle deities of the ancestral religious brotherhoods or phratries, the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios (of Freedom), whose cult was established after the battle of Plataea in 479 BC, when the Greeks drove the Persians out of Greece, and finally the Stoa Basileios (Royal Stoa), the headquarters of the archon basileus, the official responsible for religious matters and the laws. 

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. 

Further to the northwest starts the valley leading toward the Pnyx. Here are the complex remains of a residential and commercial area, the so-called ?Industrial District?. One larger structure, the ?Poros Building?, has been tentatively identified as the State Prison (desmoterion) where Socrates was executed. 

To the south the Agora was lined with various public buildings such as the Southwest Fountain House (340-325 BC), Aiakeion -formerly identified as the Heliaia- (early 5th cent. BC), the South Stoa I (430-420 BC), the South Stoa II (2nd cent. BC), the Southeast Fountain House (530-520 BC) and the Mint (400 BC). 

The Church of the Holy Apostles, dated to the years around AD 1000, belongs to the byzantine settlement of the area. 

The Middle Stoa, built in the 2nd cent. BC, served a primarily commercial function. It divided the old square into two unequal halves. In the northern half of the old Agora square in the years around 15 BC, a large concert hall (odeion) was given to the Athenians by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. It was later adorned with a facade using pillars carved in the form of giants and tritons. North of the Odeion lay the ruins of the Doric peripteral temple of Ares, brought in pieces from Pallene and reerected in the Agora during Roman times. 

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.

Buildings and structures of the classical agora
Plan showing major buildings and structures of the agora of Athens as it was in the 5th century BC

Peristyle Court
South Stoa I and South Stoa II
Agoraios Kolonos
Agora stone
Monument of the Eponymous Heroes
Metroon (Old Bouleuterion)
New Bouleuterion
Temple of Hephaestus (Hephaestion)
Temple of Apollo Patroos
Stoa of Zeus
Altar of the Twelve Gods
Stoa Basileios (Royal stoa)
Temple of Aphrodite Urania
Stoa of Hermes
Stoa Poikile

Stoa of Attalos
The Stoa, on the east side of the Ancient Agora, was the gift of Attalos II, King of Pergamon, as a fragmentary inscription on the epistyle of its lower colonnade shows: 

«King Attalos, son of Attalos and of Queen Apollonis». 

The building is 120 m wide and 20 m deep and had two floors with a second series of columns on the interior and 21 shops at the back of both floors. On the ground floor the exterior colonnade was Doric and the interior Ionic, without fluting. On the upper floor the exterior colonnade was Ionic, and the interior had capitals of a Pergamene type. The Stoa of Attalos was a place for Athenians to meet, walk, and to do business. It was destroyed by the Heruli in A.D. 267, and its members were incorporated into the Late Roman Wall. The restoration, based on studies by the architect Yannis Travlos, was carried out in 1953-1956 by the American School of Classical Studies, with the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Temple of Hephaistos
On top of Agoraios Kolonos hill, which is delimiting the Ancient Agora of Athens to the west, stands the temple of Hephaestus, broadly known as ?Thisio?. It is one of the best preserved ancient temples, partly because it was transformed into a Christian church. According to the traveller and geographer Pausanias (1, 14, 5-6), two deities were jointly worshipped in the temple: god Hephaestus, protector of all metallurgists, and goddess Athena Ergani, protecting all potters and the cottage industries. The identification of this temple as ?Hephaesteion? (location of worship of the god Hephaestus) was ascertained by the excavations and investigations that brought to light metallurgy workshops on the wider area of the hill, thus outshining earlier opinions presuming that Theseus, Hercules or Aris (Mars) were the deities worshipped there. The temple was probably erected between 460 and 420 BC by a yet unknown architect, to whom, however, are attributed other temples of similar structure in the Attica region. 

The temple disposed of a pronaos (anteroom) and an opisthodomos (back section), both distyle (two-columned) in antis. On the exterior it was surrounded by a Doric colonnade having six columns on the narrow sides and thirteen columns on the longer sides. The entire building, from the crepis (stone base) to the roof, was made of marble produced in the quarries of Pendeli mountain (in Attica), while the architectural sculptures that adorned the temple were of marble produced in the quarries on the island of Paros. On the interior of the cella (in Greek sek?s) was a two-part colonnade forming the letter Π and at the far end was a pedestal, that supported the bronze ceremonial statues of Hephaestus and Athena, created by the sculptor Alkamenis; according to the traveller and geographer Pausanias, they were probably executed between 421 and 415 BC. The lavish sculptural decoration of the temple featured highly interesting metopes that adorned the east and the west side of the external colonnade. The east side numbered ten metopes that were visible from the Agora: they depicted nine of the feats of Hercules. Furthermore, on the north and the south side are depicted four of the feats of Theseus, which probably were the reason why the people named this temple ?Thision?. The frieze does not run across all four sides of the cella, but only the across the pronaos and the opisthodomos. The pronaos features the victorious struggle of Theseus against the claimers of the throne, who were the fifty sons of Pallas; six gods also participate into the fight. The opisthodomos depicts the fight of the Centaurs narrated on the wall which is against the cella. Notable sculptural representations also adorned the pediments of the temple. The west pediment depicted the fight of the Centaurs and the east pediment the reception of Hercules on mount Olympus or the birth of goddess Athena. Several among these sculptures inspired statues that were found in the surroundings of the temple, such as the fragmented and partially preserved complex of two feminine figures, one of which transports the other on her shoulders, as if trying to save her life, (?Ephedrismos? = carrying on one's back), Museum of the Ancient Agora, no of finding S 429), or the trunk of a dressed feminine figure where the movement is intensely underlined; the latter could be one of the acroteria (ornamental corner pieces) of the temple (?Nereis? = water deity, Museum of the Ancient Agora, no of finding S 182). 

During the Hellenistic period, bushes or small trees in parallel order were planted into flowerpots around the temple; these pots came to light during excavation. In the seventh century AD, the temple was conversed into a church dedicated to St. George Akamas, and thus stayed in use until the liberation of Greece from the Turkish occupation. During the eighteenth century, many eminent Protestants, who died in Athens, were interred in the edifice, while in 1834 it hosted the ceremony of the first reception of king Otto. Hence the temple was used as an archaeological museum, until 1930, when the American School for Classical Studies in Athens started excavations in the Ancient Agora.

Tholos at the Ancient Agora
One of the more significant public buildings of the Agora is the Tholos, a round structure, with six interior columns and a propylon at the east that was added in the 1st century BC. It was the headquarters of the 50 prytaneis who served as the executive committee of the Boule (Council) for an interval of 35 or 36 days, after which they were replaced by prytaneis from another tribe, so that by the end of the year representatives of all ten tribes had a turn in the administration. Those in office dined in the Tholos, with one-third (i.e. 17) of them spending all night in the building so that there were always responsible officials on hand. In the Tholos were housed the official weights and measures of the Athenian state. It was built atop a pre-existent building complex of the mid-6th century BC, which had a similar functional purpose, and went out of use around AD 400.

Bouleuterion at the Ancient Agora
Rectangular prostyle building. It served as a meeting-place of the 500-member Boule (Senate), made up of fifty citizens, from each of the ten Athenian tribes, chosen by allotment each year. As a legislative body the Senate prepared the bills that afterwards were voted on in the assembly of all citizens (Ekklesia of the Demos). For a time the New Bouleuterion functioned along with the Old Bouleuterion, which apparently because of a lack of space came to be used only as a repository of state archives. The partial preservation of the New Bouleuterion at ground level makes it difficult to establish the arrangement of the benches on the interior. In the second half of the 4th cent. BC the entrance-way acquired a monumental propylon of the Ionic order, that stood immediately south of the Old Bouleuterion
The Church of the Holy Apostles
The church is particularly significant as the only monument in the Agora, other than the Temple of Hephaestus, to survive intact since its foundation, and for its architecture: it was the first significant church of the middle Byzantine period in Athens, and marks the beginning of the so-called "Athenian type", successfully combining the simple four-pier with the cross-in-square forms. 
The church was built partly over a 2nd-century nymphaion. From evidence of various repairs and reconstructions, four distinct building phases can be distinguished. The original floorplan is a cross with apses on four sides and a narthex on the west side, with four columns supporting a dome. The altar and floor were originally of marble. Tiles on the outer walls have Kufic-like decorative patterns.

A few surviving wall paintings in the central aisle date to the 17th century, and paintings from nearby churches were also placed elsewhere within the church.


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