Temples, Agoras, Museums. Oh My.

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What is an Agora?

While planning our activities for Athens, every website suggesting visiting the Roman and Ancient Agoras but we weren’t sure exactly what that meant.

Google tells us the Roman Agora is “an Agora located east of the Ancient Agora” and that the ‘Ancient Agora’ is: the best known example of an ancient Greek Agora. Not helpful…

 

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So we set out to figure it out on our own.  An agora is basically a big, open-air community meeting place for all types of social, business, and political gatherings. This is where they held markets, libraries, and even town votes to banish and exile members. Don’t like your neighbor? Simply get all of your friends to vote them “off the island” at the next town meeting.

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The two agoras were pretty cool to walk around. Unlike other ruins, there weren’t really places that were “off-limits”. Of course, they expect you to respect the structures and excavations but you get to walk through the old columns, climb ancient stairs and really get a sense of things were laid out.  Using your imagination is a must, of course, since what is left now is really, really… sparse.

The Roman Agora was built around 1st Century BC after the Ancient Agora was long abandoned. It was interesting to see how the Romans drew on ideas and structures from the Greeks, but still created their own space. The 2 agoras are only about 100 Feet away from each other but Romans chose to build new rather than use existing structures.  It is pretty impressive how good the first stone roads held up, created 2,500 years ago. The roads in Richmond last about two years before you are playing “dodge the pothole.”

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With some the lesser known sites checked off the list, we set our sights on ending the trip with some heavy hitters. Just about 4 blocks from our apartment stands the Temple of the Olympian Zeus.

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In a massive open field, dead center of the city, about a dozen columns still stand, but this is only a small portion of the original structure. Being this close, it’s incredible to see how massive the column capitals are.  We absolutely loved visiting this temple! You walk right up to these insanely large columns and really contemplate how they were constructed, how they are still standing, and what would happen if just one tipped over like a bowling pin…

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Lastly, we visited the Panathenaic Stadium. Though it’s been reconstructed a few times throughout it’s life, this stadium is where the ancient Olympics were held as well as the VERY FIRST modern day Olympics. The gigantic marble structure is awe inspiring and they even let you sit in the marble carved seats where Kings and Queens would watch the competitions.

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This is an absolute must-see when in Athens. You have the chance to walk through the tunnel that the athletes did, sit in the marble seats the spectators sat in, and even run around the track where the first Olympics were held. It’s a very unique experience.  One of our favorite parts was actually underneath the stadium where they have a small museum and are displaying ALL the official Olympic torches from where the games have been held around the world! As you know, the torch always begins in Athens as an homage to the birthplace of the games, but we didn’t know the Panathenaic Stadium got to keep and display the torches too! Very cool!

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Athens was really a fantastic place to visit! Amazing food, a fascinating ancient history and mythology, and beautiful sites to behold. Don’t be turned off my the grudge city, Athens is well worth a little dirt!

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