City Walls

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Tour the Walls!
Dipylon Gate

Long Walls
Sacred Gate

Contents


Description

The first walls around Athens had been built under Peisistratos during the VIth. However, they were destroyed by the Persians in 479 BC. When the Athenians returned to their city after the victories of Salamis and Plataea, one of their first task was to rebuild fortifications to protect the city. Therefore, under Themistokles, they fortified the city with walls now known as the "Themistoklean Walls". These new fortifications, built within a year, had a perimeter of about 6 km and a diameter of 1,5 km.

These 2.5 m deep walls rested on a stone base rising about 1 m above the ground. Even tombstones (near the Kerameikos) and column-drums from the Olympeion (on the east side of the city) were used for these stone bases such was the haste of the Athenians to enclose their city inside protective fortifications. On top of this stone base, 7 m high mud brick walls brought the total height of the walls to about 8 m. At regular intervals stood 5 m square towers. Fifteen gates and several sally ports were placed in strategic places in the walls.

The Phaleron Wall was built between 437 and 432 BC as part of the great Periclean Building Program.

Several Athenians were going outside the walls to attend the teaching of famous philosophers like Sokrates at the place designated as the "Garden of the Poets".

City Gates

There were 15 city gates:

  1. the Demian Gate located at the foot of the Hill of the Nymphs
  2. the Peiraic Gate, the departure of the road leading to the Peiraieus
  3. the Sacred Gate located on the Eridanos at the lowest point of Athens, the departure of the Sacred Way leading to Eleusis
  4. the Dipylon Gate (also known as the Thriasian Gate or the Kerameikos Gate) located a mere 70 m to the north of the Sacred Gate, the departure of two roads leading respectively to the Akademeia and to Eleusis
  5. the Eriai Gate where passed the road leading from the Agora to the Kolonos Hippios and Phyle
  6. the Acharnian Gate, the departure of the road leading to Acharnai, the largest deme of Attica about 12 km north of Athens
  7. the Northeast Gate
  8. the Diochares Gate, the departure of the road leading to the Lykeion and to the Mesogaia
  9. the Hippades Gate (Cavalry Gate) just north of the Olympeion, the departure of the road leading to Agryle
  10. the Diomeian Gate, the departure of the road leading to the Kynosarges
  11. the Itonian Gate just south of the Olympieion, the departure of the road leading to the bath of Isthmonikos
  12. the Halade Gate (Seaward Gate), the departure of the road leading to Phaleron
  13. the South Gate
  14. the Dipylon above the Gates located in the saddle between the Pnyx and the Mouseion
  15. the Melitides Gate located in the saddle between the Pnyx and the Hill of the Nymphs an giving access to the quarter of Melite

Later Features

Soon after 421 BC, a moat was added about 8 m in front of the main fortifications. Posterns measuring 1.5 m wide gave access to these advanced defensive works from the main fortifications.

After the battle of Chaironeia in 338 BC, a proteikhisma (low stone wall) was added about 10 m in front of the main fortifications in the areas were the ground was flat, basically between the Hill of the Nymphs to the Mouseion Hill.

The fortress on the Museion, at the junction with the Long Walls was built by Demetrios I Poliorketes in 295 BC.

The Philopappos Monument was erected on the crest of the Mouseion Hill between 114 and 116 AD.

References

Brouskari, Maria; The Monuments of the Acropolis, Athens: Archaeological Receipts Fund, 2001

Camp, John M.; The Archaeology of Athens, Yale University Press, 2001, p. 274

Flacelière, Robert, La vie quotidienne en Grèce au siècle de Périclès, Hachette, 1959

Hurwit, Jeffrey M.; The Acropolis in the Age of Pericles, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004

Martin, Jacques; Les voyages d'Alix - Athènes, Casterman, 2001

Travlos, John, Pictorial dictionary of Ancient Athens, Books that matter, New York, 1971, p. 158-161, 462

To do

  1. Determine if the stele of the Amazon Antiope already stood by the shrine of Olympian Ge, near the Itonian Gate in 421 BC
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