At the foot of the Acropolis you will the Areopagus, an ancient rocky outcropping that used to be the meeting spot of the Athenian council during classical times. Now, it is a place for visitors to the Acropolis to climb to the top then sit, lounge, check their phones, and take a selfie. From the vantage point of the rock you can enjoy a nice view of the Acropolis to one side, as seen in the photo above, and a view of the Temple of Hephaestus and the Greek agora to the other, as seen in the photo below. Unfortunately, many of the visitors also smoke, and the top of the rock is covered in cigarette butts in some areas. It’s an embarrassing testament to modern sensibilities that people would casually litter on the top of a place that played a prominent role in ancient Greek governance.
Incidentally, according to our guide you aren’t supposed to smoke atop the Acropolis, or in the Agora, or anywhere in the area, and our guide wasn’t shy about calling out the smokers she saw. Some of them ignored her and some put out their cigarettes quickly, but the sea of butts we saw atop the Areopagus demonstrated that a lot of visitors don’t give a crap about the smoking prohibition, or littering.
From the Areopagus you follow a narrow downhill trail. The pathway leads you past some musical performers playing for contributions, and then through the middle of a restaurant seating area, with tables wedged into each side of the pathway, requiring you to dodge waiters carrying trays of food and drinks. Obviously, the Greeks make use of every square inch of space in Athens! Ultimately, you emerge into a more open area, where you can see the ruins of the Roman forum, to one side, as shown in the photo below.
Our destination, however, was the old Greek agora, found at the base of the Acropolis. The agora is home to a wide avenue, shown below, that used to be the road followed by the processions of the faithful who journeyed up to the top of the Acropolis for important celebrations. There isn’t much left of the agora itself, but there is an interesting museum that provides some useful information about the daily lives, practices, and coinage of the ancient Greeks.
Our primary destination in the agora was the Temple of Hephaestus. It is one of the best preserved Greek temples in existence and, unlike the Parthenon, has all of its columns, its interior rooms, and some of its roof. The temple survived because it was converted to a Christian church in the seventh century AD, and later served other purposes.
As the photo above reflects, the Temple of Hephaestus would have towered over the Greek agora, which is fitting for a temple dedicated to the god of blacksmiths, metalworkers, sculptors, carpenters, and other craftsmen, who would have been plying their trades in the agora. Hephaestus obviously was a good who saw the value in commerce.
The Temple of Hephaestus is remarkably well preserved for a structure that is more than 2,000 years old. It’s graceful lines and proportions are a wistful reminder of how the Parthenon must have looked at one point in its history.
You can walk entirely around the Temple of Hephaestus and admire it from different vantage points. From the rear, you can look all the way through the structure to the front and get a sense of how the ancient Greeks designed their temples. If you like classical architecture, the Temple of Hephaestus is definitely worth a visit.