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The temple of Hephaistos (Naos Ifestou) was devoted to the god of smiths. There were foundries and metal-workers’ shops in this area in ancient times (similar outfits are still in action – across the railway tracks). It is more popularly known as the Thisio, because of the carved metopes on top of the columns, which show the expoits of Theseus. Other panels displayed here depict the labours of Hercules.
The Thisio is the best-pre-served of all the temples in Athens, and measures around half the size of the Parthenon, with 34 Doric columns comprising its graceful peristyle. The aromatic garden that surrounds it is planted with various trees and shrubs, including pomegranate, myrtle, olive and cypress trees, which flourished there in Roman times.
If you are returning to the Agora’s entrance from the Thisio, you will pass on your left the site of the Altar of the 12 Gods. In ancient Greece, distances from Athens were measured from this point.
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Wander around the sprawling ruins of the ancient marketplace, where democracy and philosophy had their beginnings.
The museum within holds a large collection of pots, coins, household objects and pottery fragments (ostraka), on which the Athenians wrote names of prominent men they wanted to vote into exile. Also here are a huge bronze shield taken from the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War and a klirotirion, and unusual device for relegating public duties by lot – and important feature of ancient Athenian democracy.
Lying to the west of the Agora, along Ermou Street, is the ancient cemetery Keramikos. Off the beaten tourist track, you can explore the extensive ruins and sculpted tombs in relative peace.
This was the burial site of important Athenians, and the collection of rich jewellery, gold, glass and ceramics found in their graves, dating back to the 7th century BC, indicates their statues.
These items are on display in the cemetery’s small museum, which with its strikingly beautiful painted vessels and unusual offering channels and figurines is a real gem for pottery lovers.
This terraced hillside is the location of the Acropolis Sound and Light performances. The Pnyx – meaning ‘tightly packed space’ – is where the free citizens of 5th-century BC Athens met in democratic assembly.
At that time, the rocky platform here was the site of the Stone of Vima, an ancient Speaker’s Corner, where people gathered to hear the likes of Pericles, Themistocles and Demosthenes hold forth.
Built by the astronomer Andronikos in the 1st century BC. It once contained an elaborate water clock that was fed by a spring on the Acropolis. Sculptures on each of the eight sides of the octagonal marble tower represent the eight points of the compass and the corresponding wind.
You’ll spot Notos, the south end, pouring water from an urn, while Zephyros, the west wind, scatters spring flowers.
Spread out below the tower are the remains of the Roman Forum (Romaiki Agora). On the far side, the four Doric columns were part of the Gate of Athena Archegetis, which marked the main entrance to the market area. One door support, protected by a rusty iron grille, is inscribed with Emperor Hadrian’s edict taxing olive oil.
Six Doric columns mark the monumental entrance to the Acropolis. More than a grand gateway, the function of the Propylaea was to generate awe and respect, and prepare lesser mortals for a meeting with the goddess.
Construction began in 437 BC, but was halted five year later by the Pelopon-nesian War and never finished.
The central and largest of the gateways was intended for chariots and approached by a ramp: steps lead up to the four other entries.
As you reach the porch, you’ll see Ionic as well as Doric columns; this was the first building to incorporate both styles (compare the solid majesty of the Doric with the light elegance of the Ionic).
The Pinakotheke on the left side housed a gallery of paintings done on wooden panels, depicting heroic deeds.
This enchanting temple, with a graceful Ionic portio, perches high on a terrace off to the right (southwest) of the Propylaea, and has a glorious panorama of the sea and distant mountains.
Built between 427 and 424 BC by the architect Callicrates, during a respite from the Peloponnesian War, it was devoted to Athena as the goddess of peace and victory.
The temple housed a statue of her which became known as the Wingless Victory herself was always shown with wings. The temple was torn down by the Turks in 1687 to make way for an artillery position; the one which is now standing was later painstakingly reassembled from the rubble by archaeologists during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Passing through the Propylaea, you come out into the great sloping plateau of the Acropolis. Try to imagine the scene 2,400 years ago, when these masterworks of architecture and sculpture were going up. Scores of stone cutters; carpenters, founders and braziers, goldsmiths, ivory workers, painters, dyers, and even embroiderers swarmed over this ground. For the most part they were freemen, not slaves, practitioners of nearly every art and craft then known.
Dominating the immediate foreground was an enormous bronze statue of Athena under another guise – Athena Promachos, the Defender. This statue of the goddess holding shield and spear was created by Phipias to honour the visitor at Marathon.
It’s said that sailors could spot the tip of her helmet as their ships sailed around the gulf from Sounion. That statue stood here for 1,000 years, until it was carted off to Constantinople in the 6th century AD.
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Graphic showing average weather in Temple of Hephaestus in Celcius and Centimeters (Change to Farenheit and Inches)
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