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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ATHENS ANCIENT CITY WALL and the KERAMEIKOS


Just west, beyond  Monastiraki and Thissio along Ermou Street, is the ancient city wall of Athens and the great Dipylon Gate, once the busiest part of the city.  The road from Pireaus and Eleusis lead here. Next to it is the Sacred Gate, a ceremonial entrance or "Sacred Way" used for the Panathenai and Eleusinian processionals. Between the two gates are the foundations of a building known as the Pompeion where preparations for the processionals were made.



City Wall

Along the area near the Kermeikos is where the potters of ancient Athens had their shops and plied their trade (ceramics= keramikos) .  The area, called Kermeikos, just outside the gates, is where the Street of Tombs was located.  Here wealthy and important families buried their dead marking the way with elaborate statuary.  Many of these still survive making it an interesting place to walk about.




The site, along these important roads that led into the city, was a prestigious one. Among the grave markers are the flat, vertical stele of the Classical period and sarcophagi from later Hellenistic and Roman times. Some of the monuments are memorials to soldiers killed in wars such as the large tomb with a semicircular base as you enter the pathway, a Memorial to Dexileos, a 20-year old who was killed in battle in Corinth in 394 BC.  Adjacent to it is the Monument of Dionysios of Kollytos, a pillar stele supporting a bull carved from Pentelic marble.




I love wandering around the Kerameikos, exploring the many grave monuments and imagining life as it must have been, the bustle of people coming and going on those roads.  One of the roads leads to Plato's Academy. Imagine the philosopher and his followers walking there on their way to the Agora.





There's a museum on the site too and it contains many of the interesting artifacts collected from the area including some beautiful ceramics and burial finds such as children's toys, jewelry and other objects.












The site is open daily April - Sept 8 am - 7.30 pm, Oct - March 8.30 am - 3 pm. The museum opens at 11 am. Admission  2 Euro or it is included in a joint Acropolis ticket.

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