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Monastiraki SquareMonastiraki

Monastiraki (little monastery) is an old part of Athens which nestles under the ancient Acropolis. Monastiraki Square is the hub of life around here and the main street leading off takes one to narrow streets with a thousand artifacts to buy and sell. On one corner of the square is a relic of the Turkish occupation, the Mosque, minus minaret, built by the Athenian Moslem, Tsisdarakis in 1759Monastiraki flea market.

At its center lies Abyssinia Square Location map which is the place where the Sunday flea market has been held since 1910. Monastiraki is a true fair for the one who strolls through it. Thousands of things are for sale. Anything from Nazi uniforms to Mickey Mouse clocks to mock Roman helmets and old money can be found in these narrow alleyways and streets. Souvenirs galore, some of them very good bargains, set among jewelers and furniture stores with pine cabinets stacked high among semi-antiques. Ceramics, terra cotta and marble ware, old chess sets and new ones made of silver, marble and brass, old copper pans and bronze hearth sets, jostle with chandeliers and phonographs, anything from souvenirs, to junk, to antiques. Bargaining is very acceptable here as it is throughout Greece and it can be good fun too.

Monastiraki shows a lot that is Greek, in its shopping habits and tradesmen, its people and variety. It hasn’t changed very much in centuries. A visit will show you a lot of the capital and its people, its mixture of old and new, a fascination that will keep you busy and guessing, and inevitably, shopping.

Location map Monastiraki Square
Nearest metro staton Monastiraki
Photo gallery See photos of Monastiraki

Hadrian's library under restorationHadrian's Library

Next to the metro station of Monastiraki and just a little west of the Roman Agora you will find Hadrian’s Library, built in 132 AD by the Roman Emperor.

The rectangular building of the library comprises a Corinthian propylon on the west side, an open peristyle courtyard, three projecting conches (apse or semi dome of an apse) on each of the long sides, a library, study and lecture halls. It was destroyed by the Herulae in 267 AD and was subsequently incorporated into the late roman fortification wall.

It was repaired by the Roman eparchus Herculius in 412 and in the 5th century the quatrefoil building of the early Christian church was constructed in the center of the peristyle court. After its destruction, a three-aisled basilica was erected on its ruins in the 7th century, which was in turn superseded by the single-ailed church of Megali Panaghia, in the 11th century. During the Turkish occupation it became the seat of the Voevode (Governor) and in 1835, the barracks of King Otto were erected in the place of the Voevodalik.

Opening hours Opening hours and admission
Location map Arios Street
Nearest metro station Monastiraki

Hadrian's library as it used to be Hadrian's Library - as it used to be

The first excavations on the site were carried out by W. Doerpfeld and St. Koumanoudis in the central and eastern part of Hadrian's Library, after the great fire of 1885, which damaged the agora and the church of Megali Panaghia.

Between 1942 and 1950 a second excavation campaign was conducted by the Italians and later by A. Orlandos and I. Meliades. Between 1970 and 1980, J. Travlos carried out excavations at the north east auditorium and the quatrefoil building. Since 1987 the 1st Ephorate of Antiquities has been conducting systematic excavations in the west section of the monument. In the years 1960-70 restoration work was carried out at the west facade and the colonnade of the basilica of Megali Panaghia, and in 1975-76 the propylon was consolidated.

The 1st Ephorate is currently preparing a study for the reconstruction of the propylon and the south wing of the facade of the building. Up

The Roman Agora The Roman Agora

East of the Ancient Agora a new agora was built by the Athenians in the first century BC. It is the Roman Agora or agora of Caesar and Augustus. When continuing up the road at Hadrian's Library, the archaeological site can be best seen from Aiolou Street and even better from the higher up Polygnotou Street.

In Roman times both the Ancient and the Roman Agora were connected by a road that started at the Stoa of Attalos in the Ancient Agora.

The Roman Agora is a space measuring 111 m by 98 m (364 ft by 321 ft) comprising a spacious rectangular courtyard surrounded by stoa’s, shops and storerooms and it was surrounded by Ionic columns. During the reign of Hadrian the court was paved with slabs. After the invasion of the Herulen in 267 AD the city of Athens was restricted to the area within the late roman fortification wall and the administrative and commercial center of the city was transferred from the Ancient Agora to the Roman Agora and the library of Hadrian. During the Byzantine period and the Turkish occupation the area was covered with houses, workshops and churches.

The Gate of Athena Archegetis in the Roman AgoraThe Gate of Athena Archegetis is in the west side of the Roman Agora. It was built between 19 and 11 BC.

The monumental entrance has a row of four Doric columns and a pedestal made of Pentelic marble. It was constructed in 11 BC with the donations of Julius Caesar and Augustus and was dedicated by the people of Athens to their patroness, Athena Archegetis. The east entrance to the Roman Agora had a row of four Ionic columns made of gray Hymettian marble. Fethiye Djami, the Turkish mosque, lies on the north side. It was constructed in 1456 AD on the ruins of an Early Christian basilica.

The Roman public latrines (vespasianae) were housed in a rectangular building close to the Tower of the Winds and consisted of an antechamber and a square hall with benches, 70 in total, bearing holes on all its four sides, and a sewing pipe underneath. Dated to the 1st century AD.

The Agoranomion is a rectangular building on the east side of the Roman Agora, dated to the 1st century AD. It preserves the facade which had three doorways with arched lintels and a broad stairway. An inscription on the architrave mentions that the building was dedicated to the Divi Augusti and Athena Archegetis. It might be identified with the Sevasteion, that is a building for the worship of the emperor.

Opening hours Opening hours and admission
Location map Areos Street - Monastiraki
Nearest metro station Monastiraki
Photo gallery See photos of the Roman Agora

The tower of the winds in the Roman AgoraThe Tower of the Winds

In the first half of the first century BC, a water clock was constructed near the east end of the Roman Agora by the astronomer Andronicos, from Kyros in Macedonia. It is now known as the Tower of the Winds.

The name of the structure relates to the representations of eight winds, Boreas (N), Kaikias (NE), Apeliotes (E), Euros (SE), Notos (S), Lips (SW), Zephyros (W) and Skiron (NW), sculpted on the eight facades.

The octagonal tower, 3,20 meters (10,49 ft) long on each side, stands on a base of three steps and is built of white Pentelic marble. It has a conical roof, a cylindrical annex on the south side and two Corinthian porches, one on the NE and one on the NW side. There were sundials on the external walls and an elaborate water clock in the interior.

In the early Christian period, the Tower of the Winds was converted into a church or a baptesterion of an adjacent church, while the area outside the NE entrance was occupied by a Christian cemetery. In the 15th century AD, Cyriacus of Ancona mentions the monument as the temple of Aeolos while an anonymous traveler refers to it as a church. In the 18th century it was used as the tekke of the Dervishes.

The monument had been half-buried by the earth accumulated over the centuries. It was excavated between 1837 and 1845 by the Greek Archaeological Society. Restoration work was carried out between 1916-1919 by An. Orlandos and again in 1976 by the 1st Ephorate of Antiquities.

Location map Aiolou Street - Monastiraki
Nearest metro station Monastiraki


    Hadrian's Library
    Hadrian's Library - before
    The Roman Agora
    The Tower of the winds

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