Kerameikos

About a 15 minute walk from Monastiraki SquareKerameikos was the potter’s quarter of ancient Athens and the site of the city’s most important cemetery. It was used from 476 BC for over 1500 years. The site has more to see than just an ancient cemetery. Admission as of July 2016 is €8, but a combo ticket for €30 gives access to several archaeological sites in Athens including the Acropolis.

Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Kerameikos

The best part of the site is the small museum that houses elegant tombstones and artifacts found during excavations. The tombstones are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. The building of such monuments was banned in 317 BC.

Tombstone at Kerameikos Museum at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Tombstone at Kerameikos Museum

Tombstone at Kerameikos Museum in Athens, Greece

Tombstone at Kerameikos Museum

The actual site may look like a bunch of scattered ruins from the fence outside, but it’s worth at least a 30 minute walk through to read the plaques and understand the significance of the area. The first section I walked through was the cemetery and the Street of Tombs, which had plaster casts of the tombstones in the museum sitting where the originals were found.

Cemetery at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Cemetery

Street of Tombs at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Street of Tombs

The ruins of a large building, the Pompeion, was where preparations for the Panathenaia festival were carried out. The festival incorporated religious ceremonies and competitions in athletics, poetry, musical, and cultural events. The Pompeion was built in 400 BC and destroyed in 86 BC when the city was sacked by Roman dictator Sulla.

Pompeion at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Pompeion

Pompeion at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Pompeion

The Pompeion sat just outside the city’s Themistoclean Walls, which were completed in 478 BC. On the walls is the Sacred Gate, which is connected to the Iera Odos (Sacred Way). The procession of Eleusinian Mysteries started at this gate and led to Eleusis. This was a secret religious rite dedicated to Demeter and Persephone with the belief that participants would be rewarded in the afterlife. The Iera Odos runs alongside the Iridanos River, which was rediscovered in the late 1990s. The potter’s quarter was located here because the clay deposits in the river were good for making ceramics.

Themistoclean Walls at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Themistoclean Walls

Sacred Gate at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Sacred Gate

Iera Odos at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Iera Odos

Iera Odos at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Iera Odos

Also along the walls is the Dipylon. It was the most important gate on the Athenian city walls and the largest gate in the ancient world. From here, the Panathenaic Procession for the Panathenaia festival led into the city towards the Acropolis.

Dipylon at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Dipylon

Dipylon at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Dipylon

Heading the other way, the road led to the Platonic Academy, which was just a few kilometers away. The stretch of road near the Dipylon went past the Tritopatreion, where Athenians worshipped their common ancestors, and the Dimosio Sima, the public tomb where Pericles delivered his Funeral Oration in 431 BC during the Peloponnesian War. A number of statesmen and warriors are buried on either side of the Dipylon, including Pericles himself.

Tritopatreion at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Tritopatreion

Road to Platonic Academy and Dimosio Sima at Kerameikos in Athens, Greece

Road to Platonic Academy and Dimosio Sima

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