A guide to the Roman Agora
The Roman Agora (marketplace) stands north of the Acropolis and east of the Ancient Agora. The Roman Agora was the focus of public life in Athens, where merchants sold their stock, whilst orators and philosophers walked around, engaging in lively discussions with as many people as they could!
The Roman Agora was constructed in the 1st century BC when Athens had become part of the Roman Empire and was built using funds provided by Julius Caesar and Augustus. The Roman Agora was built with a large rectangular courtyard, laid with stone slabs, and measuring 112 meters from east to west and 96 meters in width.
The Roman Agora was edged on all four sides by marble columns in the Ionic architectural style. Willow, plane, and poplar trees were planted to provide some shade and the courtyard was decorated with fountains and statues.
The main monumental entrance of Athena Archegetis was situated on the west side, with an impressive and large covered porchway (portico) that also had impressive columns, a double hall, and some shops. There was a second, smaller entrance on the east side.
The Roman Agora was much more than a market place, although there were many traders in the courtyard, selling their exotic wares that they had brought by ship to the port of Piraeus, just a short distance away.
The Roman Agora was the focus of public and commercial life in the city. There were hairdressers, artists, entertainers, and bankers too. Merchants and local dignitaries regularly met there to discuss local events and negotiate business deals.
The Roman Agora was also the regular meeting place for political gatherings. Following the invasion of Athens by the Herulae in 267 AD, the Roman Agora developed into the commercial and administrative center of Athens.
Whilst you are visiting the Roman Agora, make sure that you visit the Tower of the Winds (also known as the Horologion of Andronikos Cyrrhestes and ‘Aerides’). This is a fascinating octagonal marble tower that stands on the western side of the Roman Agora.
Archaeologists believe that the tower was built 12 meters in height so that the weather vane that was once on its roof and the eight vertical sundials on each of its faces, could be easily seen from across the Agora. The Tower of the Winds was one of the earliest forms of a clock tower in the world.
The decorative frieze that runs around the top of the Tower of the Winds is interesting as it, depicts the eight wind gods – one on each face of the tower. The eight wind gods were the sons of Aeolus the ’Keeper of the Winds’- Boreas (north), Kaikias (north-east), Apeliotes (east), Eurus (south-east), Notus (south), Lips (south-west), Zephyr (west) and Skiron (north-west).
Inside the tower, there was a water clock (clepsydra) that was powered by water that flowed down from the well under the Acropolis. The same water supply was used for the fountains in the Roman Agora.
Later in the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, the courtyard of the Roman Agora became covered by assorted buildings including houses, workshops and the Fetiye Mosque (which can still be seen today).
The Greek Archaeological Society began a series of excavations in 1837 and these continued until 1991. Two interesting buildings were uncovered by the archaeologists. The first was a public toilet with seating for 68 people!
In those days, the toilets were a very sociable place where everyone enjoyed a good discussion! The second building – Agoranomeion– is thought to have been a temple.
Key information for visiting the Roman Agora.
- The Roman Agora is situated on the lower slopes of Acropolis Hill and lies just a short walk (5 minutes) from Syntagma Square in the center of Athens.
- The nearest Metro station is Monastiraki (Lines 1 and 3) which is a two minute walk.
- Visitors to the Roman Agora are recommended to wear flat, comfortable shoes.
Opening Hours: Daily 8 am-7 pm Summer, 8 am-5 pm Winter
Closed: 1 January, 25 March, Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday, 1 May, 25 December, 26 December
Tickets: Full €8, Reduced €4
Combined Tickets: €30. The combined ticket includes entrance to the Acropolis and the North and South Slopes of the Acropolis, Hadrian’s Library, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Ancient Agora, Museum of Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Kermakeikos, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Archaeological Site of Lykeion – for 5 days
Free Admission Days: 6 March, 18 April, 18 May, the last weekend of September, 28 October, every first Sunday of the month from November 1st to March 31st.