Kerameikos – City Walls

Kerameikos was called the area around the city’s western part of the wall. Kerameikos border from the east was the Agora (Inner Kerameikos) and from the west, outside the wall (Outer Kerameikos), was the biggest and most important cemetery. In there were buried the soldiers killed in battles along with the most important Athenians. The name Kerameikos was propably derived from the many pottery makers (Kerameis) who lived there.


Η περιοχή του Κεραμεικού (Έξω) από δυτικά. Διακρίνονται τα τείχη της πόλης με τις δύο κυριότερες πύλες: Το Δίπυλον αριστερά και την Ιερά Πύλη δεξιά. Στο βάθος, η Ακρόπολη.

The area of Kerameikos (Outer) from west. The city walls can be seen with the two main gates: The Dipylon and the Sacred Gate. In the background, the Acropolis.

The Temistoclean Wall

The two Kerameikos were divided by the western part of the city’s wall that was constructed by Themistocles in 479 BCE immediately after the Persian Wars. It had a total length of 6.500 metres, height 8-10 m, width 3m and had at least 13 gates. The most important of them were in Kerameikos. The northern and biggest one was the Dipylon. Its name was derived from its shape, e.g. the two rows of towers it had for best defense. Its older name was “Thriasiai Pylai” and from there begun the road that led to the Plato’s Academy, Piraeus, Eleusis, and Peloponnesus.


The second gate in Kerameikos was also important. It was the Sacred Gate from where the Sacred Way passed, leading to Eleusis. From there used to begin a 22 kilometres procession in the day of Eleusina feast. From the same gate passes the river Eridanos.

The city was fortified with more walls. In 459 BCE Cimon begun the construction of the Long Walls. He built the Northern and the Phalericon Walls. Between 446 and 443 BCE Pericles built the Southern Long Wall parallel to the Northern and so the Phalericon was no used any more. The Long Walls connected Athens to Piraeus. They were 6 kilometres long each and the distance between the two was almost 200 metres. Today their lines are followed exactly by Peiraios street (Northen) and a part of the metro line 1 (Southern).

The Athenians had to destroy all their fortifications after their defeat in the Peloponnesian war. But soon, when the democracy was reestablished, Conon repaired the walls in 394 BCE.  In 338 BCE when about to face the Macedonian danger, they built a smaller wall in front of the main one, as an extra defense in Kerameikos (the Proteichisma). In 86 BCE, Roman general Sylla invaded the city after breaching the wall in the area of Kerameikos. When the Heruli invaded in 267 AD and destroyed the city, they found the walls in desperate situation. The Athenians would never be able to rebuilt the Themistoclean wall. They built a very small wall made of the city’s ruins, around Acropolis, the Postherulian wall.


The Pompieion

The Pompeion was a rectangular building built south to the Dipylon. It was constructed in the beginning of the 4th century BCE in order to be used as a preparation place for the Panathinaia procession, wich begun from this place to end up in the Parthenon. It had a square court with rooms around which were used as warehouses or food facilities. The internal walls were decorated with paintings and in the court probably stood a statue of Socrates created by Lysippos. The main entrance was in the northeast, built in Ionic order. The building was also used as a gymnasium. It was destroyed during the Roman invasion of 86 B.C.  The site was later (150 AD) occupied by a new bigger building, probably a warehouse.


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