The Roman Agora is a marketplace, which was built in the times of the Roman rule. Julius Caesar and Augustus made donations, which made it possible to build the Agora in the second half of the 1st century. It is located northwards of the Acropolis and eastwards of the Ancient Agora.
The Roman Agora was a large open yard, which was 111 by 98 metres in size. A colonnade surrounded it on all four sides. There were several shops on the eastern side, and on the southern one, there was a fountain — its remains can still be seen today. There were two entrances to the Roman Agora of Athens — the main one was located on the western side and another one was leading to the Tower of the Winds. This was an octagonal building, which was used to tell the time by the sun and predicted the weather with the help of a weather vane.
In the first half of the 2nd century, the Roman Agora was paved with slabs. The famous library named after Hadrian was located close to it. When the Herulians invaded Athens in 267, the Agora was turned into the commercial and administrative centre of the city. At certain periods of time, Venetians and Ottomans ruined this place. As time passed, houses, workshops, churches and mosques began to appear here.
It should be noted that trade in the capital was developing quite quickly and well namely under the Romans. People realized that the old structures could no longer be used, so they demolished them and built several public buildings on the same places. The scientists confirm that the process of construction was supervised and financed by Julius Caesar. But even he did not manage to finish the work because of the crisis and civil wars.
Octavian Augustus tried to renew them in 30–10 BC. It was then that this territory was turned not just into the commercial centre of Athens, but also into the political centre of the city. The new market was built about 100 m to the east of the former Agora. That was the reason to name it the “Agora of Caesar and Augustus” or the “Roman Agora” as we call it today.
Many centuries later, the attraction was forgotten, so it was quite destroyed and covered with earth. The Agora was excavated as long ago as in the 20th century by the modern archaeologists. But even they did not manage to restore all the buildings.
Yes, most of the attractions on the market square site did not survive. But a few quite interesting and illustrative structures of Ancient Greece still successfully gained a second wind.
Thus, the main and the most famous attraction of the Roman Agora in Athens is the Fethiye–Jami mosque, built in the middle of the 15th century. It is believed that it was built on the ruins of a Christian basilica of the 11th century. During the Venetian rule, the mosque was turned into a Catholic church. However, nowadays it is on the list of the oldest and most valuable Turkish monuments in Athens.
Also on the territory of the Agora the visitors can see the remains of the Ionic courtyard of the 2nd century and the 12-metre Tower of the Winds. The latter is interesting for its octagonal clock shape made of pentelic marble, on which friezes depicting all types of winds have been preserved. Over a span of antiquity, this building was topped by a weather vane, where the Greek ambassador Sea Triton was depicted. The Tower on the territory of the Agora had special functions — it was showing the traders the exact time and the direction of wind. By the way, this was especially important for ship owners. In the early Christian era, the Tower became a Byzantine church.
There are also several ancient columns in the Roman Agora of Greek Athens, ruins of public toilets and a Roman fountain. Partially, we can distinguish the arch of Agoranomion, which was the administrative building for local officials. But the colonnades of the southern and eastern sides, as well as the entrance of the Athenian gate, are best preserved.
Several shrines also remained on the territory of this place of interest. First of all, it is the Church of the Archistrategos (archangels Michael and Gabriel) and Virgin Mary, built in the 12th century. However, it is worth saying that this is a copy of it, which was erected two centuries ago. In fact, the first church building was destroyed by the Turks. Today, the shrine is known for its miracle–working icon, which annually attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.
Despite the fact that the site occupies a huge territory, you can go over it for a maximum of 20–30 minutes. And you do not need booklets in order to navigate here. Except perhaps a map of Athens to get to the Roman Agora. By the way, we recommend going directly to the Tower of the Winds. It is the aim of thousands of scientists and art historians who come here every year.
The Roman Agora is located near the Hadrian's library, on Panos street. So, just walk here on foot and enjoy the architecture of Ancient Greece even more. If you are going to the Agora by metro, follow the green line to the “Monastiraki” station, and when you get out, follow the pointers in the street.