Walking in ancient Greece
Image by Jebulon under Creative Commons License.

Greece, Athens Guide (A): Walking in ancient Greece

Athens is a very popular destination for students and tourists due to its art, history and warm climate. Continuing excavation on this amazing City provides us with just more surprises. It is a labyrinth; with many twists and turns that can lead you anywhere. With my help, you will not get lost, see what Athens is famous for, gain the history of the sights, and I will be your personal guide all the way.
This article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on iTunes App Store and Google Play. You can download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the attractions featured in this article. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Walk Route

Guide Name: Walking in ancient Greece
Guide Location: Greece » Athens
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 4.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 km
Author: Jay Stoykova
Author Bio: My name is Jay, I'm British and have been living in Athens, Greece for over 8 years. 5 years ago I created an Athens walking tour for backpackers to cost-effectively find their way around this bustling City and to be able to see everything they needed in a short space of time. It's something I developed a passion for, and wish to continue to pass on my knowledge of this beautiful country to future tourists in the simplest and easiest form. I hope you enjoy my tour and your time here.
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Monastiraki, Roman Agora and Hadrian's Library
  • Ancient (Classical) Agora
  • Acropolis
  • Odeion of Herodes Atticus
  • Theatre of Dionysus
  • Hadrian's Arch
  • Temple of Olympian Zeus
  • Zappeion Hall
  • Panathaenic (Olympic) Stadium
  • National Gardens (former Royal Gardens)
  • Parliament Building
1
Monastiraki, Roman Agora and Hadrian's Library

1) Monastiraki, Roman Agora and Hadrian's Library

Julius Caesar began the construction of the marketplace and Augustus completed it. This was connected to the Classical Agora via a colonnaded street and ended at the Market Gate. Hadrian’s law relating to oil and fish sales are still inscribed on the gate. The open area used for trading also contains the Tower of the Winds showing images of the eight winds and was a water clock (still hidden) and weather vane and understood to be built between 55-31 BC. In the Ottoman Turkish period the Tower was converted into a tekke of the Whirling Dervishes. The most impressive building here though is the Library of Hadrian and is compared to the Forum of Trajan in Rome as has the typical architectural. The area was a multi-purpose public square with a garden, library, pool and lecture halls. During the Ottoman period the Fethiye Mosque was built and still stands here, two Turkish baths (one which survives) were built nearby, and inside the Agora the voyvode had an office in the western part of the library.
Image by faungg's photos under Creative Commons License.
2
Ancient (Classical) Agora

2) Ancient (Classical) Agora

After 566 BC a new agora was built here (agora means ‘place of assembly’). The earlier buildings are on the west-side and include the council house (Athens’ rulers meeting place), shrine of Mother of the Gods which housed the archives, the fountain house and the courts. Administrative officials met in the south-west, and in the north-west the office of the Athens’ religious officials (Stoa Basileos). Repairs were undertaken after the Persian wars and the Painted Stoa (colonnade) on the north hosted paintings of the Persian battles. The Temple of Apollo Patroos, Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria date from ca 350. Other Stoas include the Stoa of the Herms and the South Stoa. Attalus, the King of Pergamon erected the Stoa of Attalus on the east side and has now been reconstructed by the American School as a museum. The Odeion of Agrippa was built between 27-12 BC under Roman rule and was a huge roofed concert hall in the centre that dominated the agora by its size. Materials from Sounion and Thorikos were built into two temples on the south-west/south-east side. The Library of Pantaenus was built in the early second century AD south of the Stoa of Attalus. After the Heruli attack in AD 267, a new wall being built using destroyed agora buildings meant this agora was now a small part of the city and was outside the City walls, therefore all meetings were held instead inside the Theatre of Dionysus.
Image by DerHexer under Creative Commons License.
3
Acropolis

3) Acropolis

The word Acropolis means ‘high city’ and can be seen when approaching Athens from most directions. It was thought to be the home of earlier kings and after Peisistratus (the tyrant) was removed from power, it was a sanctuary with only sacred buildings. Following the ransack of the City by the Persians in 479 BC the temples were rebuilt with the Erechtheum was the last in 395 BC. New buildings were not erected again until Athens became part of the Roman Empire. During the Macedonian wars in the 2nd century, Sulla’s sack of the City in 86 and the Heruli attack in AD 267, the Acropolis reverted to its original purpose to protect the City from further invasion. In 429 the temples were not used due to the eradication of paganism and some were turned into Christian churches. The Frankish Tower was erected beside the Propylaea but was demolished in 1874 as part of the restoration of the Acropolis. In 1458, Athens fell to the Ottoman Turkish and the surface was full with Turkish houses and buildings and entry forbidden to all non-Turkish. In 1822 the Turkish surrendered to the Greeks, but in 1827 the Turkish recaptured the Acropolis and they only departed with the official ending of the war in 1833. In 1834 restoration began again on the Acropolis and most of the medieval and Ottoman buildings were destroyed. The Greek Archaeological society excavated from 1876 and work has continued ever since.
Image by Adeel Anwer under Creative Commons License.
4
Odeion of Herodes Atticus

4) Odeion of Herodes Atticus

Herodes Atticus was a wealthy orator and built this theatre in honour of his deceased wife between AD 160 and 170. The stage building is three storeys high and was built of stone and could hold around 5000 people. This was unlike a Greek Odeion, as this building was roofed (which is the main difference between an odeion, or concert hall, and a theatre) and the beams of cedar of Lebanon had to span a width of 38 metres. Many travellers in the Middle Ages thought this to be the Theatre of Dionysus, but that theatre was still buried under the earth. The stage itself and audience stands were restored using Pentelic marble (from Mount Pentelicus) in the 1950s and festivals run here from June to September. The Tourist Office will have a free list of all the performances for the year.
Image by Claudia Schillinger under Creative Commons License.
5
Theatre of Dionysus

5) Theatre of Dionysus

This was a major open-air theatre originally built around 530 BC and rebuilt around 480 BC but was mainly wooden and used for the first dramatic performances in Athens. The marble theatre still standing began in 360 BC and was completed by Lycurgus (390-324 BC) and can hold around 17,000 people. The round arena was used by the dancing chorus and there was an elevated stage for the actors. Plays were part of a competition at the festival in March for the Greek god Dionysus (god of wine, grapes, theatre and fertility), and the winner received a bronze tripod or a similar trophy. Surviving monuments are that of Thrasyllus on the cliff above the theatre and the Monument of Lysicrates in Plaka. This theatre was used for public assemblies from the late 3rd century AD, and at some point a Christian church was built in the east entrance of the theatre. Restoration has been approved and is expected to be completed by 2015. This theatre is often confused with the better preserved Odeon of Herodes Atticus.
Image by Roger W under Creative Commons License.
6
Hadrian's Arch

6) Hadrian's Arch

The Arch was a gateway that spanned the ancient road from the centre of Athens to the east-side of the city where the Temple of Olympian Zeus stands. Both Theseus and Hadrian are named and the inscriptions read, ‘This is the ancient city of Theseus,’ and on the east, ‘This is the city of Hadrian, not of Theseus.’ This monument is made of Pentelic marble and was built from solid marble, with no cement or mortar but clamps connecting the cut stones. At 18m high, 13.5m wide, and 2.3m in depth, the design is fully symmetrical from front to back and side to side. The Arch sits to the left of the Temple of Olympian Zeus which was the largest in Ancient Greece.
Image by psyberartist under Creative Commons License.
7
Temple of Olympian Zeus

7) Temple of Olympian Zeus

Peisistratus began work on this Temple in the 6th century BC, but work was forsaken and a new design began in 174 BC and was finally completed in AD 130 and dedicated by the Emperor Hadrian on his second visit to Athens. Inside the cella was a replica of the Phidias’ (Greek scultptor) statue of Zeus that was at Olympia (which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), and a huge statue of Hadrian himself was erected behind the building in honour of the emperors generosity to Athens. The outskirts of the temple were nearly one kilometre in length. Out of the 104 columns that were originally built, following the wars that have ravaged the city over the centuries, 15 only now remain standing and the 16th lies on the floor following a storm in 1852.
Image by Börkur Sigurbjörnsson under Creative Commons License.
8
Zappeion Hall

8) Zappeion Hall

The gardens surrounding the Zappeion Hall were founded by E. Zappas and built between 1874 and 1888. Underneath the statue of Evangelis Zappas, his head is believed to be buried. In 1896 it was used as the fencing hall, and in 1906 was used as the Olympic Village, then in the Olympics of 2004 was used as the Olympic Media Centre. The hall itself is used for conferences, an exhibition hall and some summer festivals. It was also used for the official signing of the document of Greece’s entry into the European Union on the 1st January 1981. Details for summer festivals can be obtained from the tourist office.
Image by athenswalk under Creative Commons License.
9
Panathaenic (Olympic) Stadium

9) Panathaenic (Olympic) Stadium

This stadium was originally built in the 4th century BC to host the contests in honour of the goddess Athena. In 329 BC Heroides Atticus rebuilt the stadium so the seats were marble and could seat 50,000 people. With the ending of paganism by Flavius Theodosius, the last Roman Emperor of the Eastern and Western Roman Empire, the stadium was unused. Evangelis Zappas provided funds and then later George Averoff to restore the Olympic Stadium in order to host the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. It was a replica of the Panathenaic Stadium and could hold 70,000 people. In 2004 this was used for the archery competition and for the ending of the Marathon.
Image by Robert Pittman under Creative Commons License.
10
National Gardens (former Royal Gardens)

10) National Gardens (former Royal Gardens)

These gardens were originally Royal Gardens adjoining the Royal Palace (now Parliament) and were designed by the agronomist Frederick Schmidt who imported over 500 species of plants to decorate them with and animals including turtles and peacocks. Many plants did not survive the climate but the animals thrived. These became the National Gardens in 1927 and are open to the public between sunrise and sunset. Inside there is a small zoo, café, library and a playground. Around the gardens you will find ancient ruins and mosaics, statues, and quiet, shaded walkways.
Image by Thomas Kyratzis under Creative Commons License.
11
Parliament Building

11) Parliament Building

The building was originally planned by Friedrich von Gärtner as a Royal Palace and completed in 1842. In 1909 it was destroyed by fire and King George and his family moved to their summer house. Renovation following the fire commenced, and later the building was used as a temporary hospital and a shelter for refugees. With the abolishment of the monarchy in 1924 it was later decided to use the building as the Parliament, and this is how it has been used since July 1935. Although the monarchy was restored the same year, this has continued to remain the official Parliament building. There are two main entrances, the one where you see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the other is a business entrance facing the National Gardens. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was constructed in 1929 and you can see this sitting between two guards at the front of the building. The Evzones are an elite ceremonial unit in the Greek Army and guard the building 24 hours. They have traditional skirts which have up to 400 pleats and represent each year of the Turkish occupation. Their uniforms are based on the klephts, who were mountain fighters in the War of Independence.
Image by Юкатан under Creative Commons License.

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