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Location within Athens
Kerameikos (Greek : Κεραμεικός, pronounced [ce.ɾa.miˈkos] ) also known by its Latinized form Ceramicus, is an area of Athens, Greece, located to the northwest of the Acropolis, which includes an extensive area both within and outside the ancient city walls, on both sides of the Dipylon (Δίπυλον) Gate and by the banks of the Eridanos River. It was the potters' quarter of the city, from which the English word "ceramic" is derived, and was also the site of an important cemetery and numerous funerary sculptures erected along the road out of the city towards Eleusis.
The area took its name from the city square or dēmos (δῆμος) of the Kerameis (Κεραμεῖς, potters), which in turn derived its name from the word κέραμος (kéramos, "pottery clay", from which the English word "ceramic" is derived).The "Inner Kerameikos" was the former "potters' quarter" within the city and "Outer Kerameikos" covers the cemetery and also the Dēmósion Sēma (δημόσιον σῆμα, public graveyard) just outside the city walls, where Pericles delivered his funeral oration in 431 BC. The cemetery was also where the Ηiera Hodos (the Sacred Way, i.e. the road to Eleusis) began, along which the procession moved for the Eleusinian Mysteries. The quarter was located there because of the abundance of clay mud carried over by the Eridanos River.
The area has undergone a number of archaeological excavations in recent years, though the excavated area covers only a small portion of the ancient dēmos. It was originally an area of marshland along the banks of the Eridanos river which was used as a cemetery as long ago as the 3rd millennium BC. It became the site of an organised cemetery from about 1200 BC; numerous cist graves and burial offerings from the period have been discovered by archaeologists. Houses were constructed on the higher drier ground to the south. During the Archaic period increasingly large and complex grave mounds and monuments were built along the south bank of the Eridanos, lining the Sacred Way.
The building of the new city wall in 478 BC, following the Persian sack of Athens in 480 BC, fundamentally changed the appearance of the area. At the suggestion of Themistocles, all of the funerary sculptures were built into the city wall and two large city gates facing north-west were erected in the Kerameikos. The Sacred Way ran through the Sacred Gate, on the southern side, to Eleusis. On the northern side a wide road, the Dromos, ran through the double-arched Dipylon Gate (also known as the Thriasian Gate) and on to the Platonic Academy a few miles away. State graves were built on either side of the Dipylon Gate, for the interment of prominent personages such as notable warriors and statesmen, including Pericles and Cleisthenes.
After the construction of the city wall, the Sacred Way and a forking street known as the Street of the Tombs again became lined with imposing sepulchral monuments belonging to the families of rich Athenians, dating to before the late 4th century BC. The construction of such lavish mausolea was banned by decree in 317 BC, following which only small columns or inscribed square marble blocks were permitted as grave stones. The Roman occupation of Athens led to a resurgence of monument-building, although little is left of them today.
During the Classical period an important public building, the Pompeion, stood inside the walls in the area between the two gates. This served a key function in the procession (pompē, πομπή) in honour of Athena during the Panathenaic Festival. It consisted of a large courtyard surrounded by columns and banquet rooms, where the nobility of Athens would eat the sacrificial meat for the festival. According to ancient Greek sources, a hecatomb (a sacrifice of 100 cows) was carried out for the festival and the people received the meat in the Kerameikos, possibly in the Dipylon courtyard; excavators have found heaps of bones in front of the city wall.
The Pompeion and many other buildings in the vicinity of the Sacred Gate were razed to the ground by the marauding army of the Roman dictator Sulla, during his sacking of Athens in 86 BC; an episode that Plutarch described as a bloodbath. During the 2nd century AD, a storehouse was constructed on the site of the Pompeion, but it was destroyed during the invasion of the Heruli in 267 AD. The ruins became the site of potters' workshops until about 500 AD, when two parallel colonnades were built behind the city gates, overrunning the old city walls. A new Festival Gate was constructed to the east with three entrances leading into the city. This was in turn destroyed in raids by the invading Avars and Slavs at the end of the 6th century, and the Kerameikos fell into obscurity. It was not rediscovered until a Greek worker dug up a stele in April 1863.
Archaeological excavations in the Kerameikos began in 1870 under the auspices of the Greek Archaeological Society. They have continued from 1913 to the present day under the German Archaeological Institute at Athens.
During the construction of Kerameikos station for the expanded Athens Metro, a plague pit and approximately 1,000 tombs from the 4th and 5th centuries BC were discovered. The Greek archaeologist Efi Baziotopoulou-Valavani, who excavated the site, has dated the grave to between 430 and 426 BC. Thucydides described the panic caused by the plague, possibly an epidemic of typhoid which struck the besieged city in 430 BC. The epidemic lasted for two years and killed an estimated one third of the population. He wrote that bodies were abandoned in temples and streets, to be subsequently collected and hastily buried. The disease reappeared in the winter of 427 BC.
Latest findings in the Kerameikos include the excavation of a 2.1 m tall Kouros, unearthed by the German Archaeological Institute at Athens under the direction of Professor Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier. This Kouros is the larger twin of the one now kept in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and both were made by the same anonymous sculptor called the "Dipylon Master".
Large areas adjacent to those already excavated remain in to be explored, as they lie under the fabric of modern-day Athens. Expropriation of these areas has been delayed until funding is secured.
The area is enclosed and visitable through an entrance on the last block of Ermou Street, close to the intersection with Peiraios Street. The Kerameikos Museum is housed there, in a small neoclassical building that houses the most extensive collection of burial-related artifacts in Greece, varying from large-scale marble sculpture to funerary urns, stelae, jewelry, toys etc. The original burial monument sculptures are displayed within the museum, having been replaced by plaster replicas in situ. The museum incorporates inner and outer courtyards, where the larger sculptures are kept. Down the hill from the museum, visitors can wander among the Outer Kerameikos ruins, the Demosion Sema, the banks of the Eridanos where some water still flows, the remains of the Pompeion and the Dipylon Gate, and walk the first blocks of the Sacred Way towards Eleusis and of the Panathenaic Way towards the Acropolis. The bulk of the area lies about 7–10 meters below modern street level, having in the past been inundated by centuries' worth of sediment accumulation from the floods of the Eridanos.
As of spring 2007 Keramikos is the name given to the metro station which belongs to Line 3 of the Athens Metro is adjacent to the Technopolis of Gazi.
The kerykes or ceryces of Bronze Age Pylos 1200 BC, home to the aged Homeric hero Nestor and the Neleides, are listed in the Linear B tablets as 𐀏𐀬𐀐 ka-ru-ke serving the 𐀨𐀷𐀒𐀪 ra-wa-ko-ri, the commander of armed forces. In Athens, this office became ceremonial, functioning from the Leokoreion, a building site at the Dipylon Gate. Linear B tablets that refer to the keryx mention the office in context with 𐀁𐀔𐁀𐀀𐀩𐀊 e-ma-a2 (e-ma-ha) a-re-ja, Hermes Areias, meaning either the Warrior, or the Curser (aras).
The sculpture of ancient Greece is the main surviving type of fine ancient Greek art as, with the exception of painted ancient Greek pottery, almost no ancient Greek painting survives. Modern scholarship identifies three major stages in monumental sculpture in bronze and stone: the Archaic, Classical (480-323) and Hellenistic. At all periods there were great numbers of Greek terracotta figurines and small sculptures in metal and other materials.
Eridanos was the small stream that flowed from a source in the foothills of the Lykabettos, through the Agora of ancient Athens in Greece to the archaeological site of the Kerameikos, where its bed is still visible. In this area lives a population of Greek Tortoise.
Geometric art is a phase of Greek art, characterized largely by geometric motifs in vase painting, that flourished towards the end of the Greek Dark Ages, circa 900 BC – 700 BC. Its center was in Athens, and from there the style spread among the trading cities of the Aegean. The Greek Dark Ages are also called the Geometric period in reference to this characteristic pottery style, although the historical period is much longer than the art-historical period, being circa 1100 – 800 BC. The vases had various uses or purposes within Greek society, including, but not limited to, funerary vases and symposium vases.
The Dipylon Master was an ancient Greek vase painter who was active from around 760–750 BC. He worked in Athens, where he and his workshop produced large funerary vessels for those interred in the Dipylon Gate cemetery, whence his name comes. His work belongs to the very late stage of the Geometric Style. His vases served as grave markers and libation receptacles for aristocratic graves and as such are decorated with a depiction of the prothesis scene representing the mourning of the deceased. Almost 50 vases have been attributed to the Dipylon Master and his workshop. Examples include the Dipylon Amphora in National Archaeological Museum, Athens, and the Elgin Amphora in the British Museum.
The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was the major urban centre of the notable polis (city-state) of the same name, located in Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Isagoras. This system remained remarkably stable, and with a few brief interruptions remained in place for 180 years, until 322 BC. The peak of Athenian hegemony was achieved in the 440s to 430s BC, known as the Age of Pericles.
The Dipylon was the main gate in the city wall of Classical Athens. Located in the modern suburb of Kerameikos, it led to the namesake ancient cemetery, and to the roads connecting Athens with the rest of Greece. The gate was of major ceremonial significance as the starting point of the procession of the Great Panathenaea, and accordingly it was a large, monumental structure, "the largest gate of the ancient world". Erected in 478 BC as part of Themistocles' fortification of Athens and rebuilt in the 300s BC, it remained standing and in use until the 3rd century AD.
Gustav Eduard Schaubert 27 July 1804, Breslau, Prussia – 30 March 1860, Breslau) was a Prussian architect, who made a major contribution to the re-planning of Athens after the Greek War of Independence.
The Kerameikos Archaeological Museum is located in Kerameikos, Athens, Greece and was built in 1937. It houses many important early Geometric Art pieces that date as far back as 860 BC. It was expanded in the 1960s by the Boehringer brothers of Boehringer Ingelheim fame. Its official address is Ermou, Athens 125, Greece.
Alfred Brueckner was a German classical archaeologist. He was a specialist in Greek funerary art.
The Funerary naiskos of Aristonautes is a funerary monument dating to around 320 BC, on display in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens (NAMA) with the inventory number 738.
The theme of death within ancient Greek art has continued from the Early Bronze Age all the way through to the Hellenistic period. The Greeks used architecture, pottery, and funerary objects as different mediums through which to portray death. These depictions include mythical deaths, deaths of historical figures, and commemorations of those who died in war. This page includes various examples of the different types of mediums in which death is presented in Greek art.
Dipylon kraters are Geometric Period Greek terracotta funerary vases found at the Dipylon cemetery, near the Dipylon Gate, in Kerameikos, the ancient potters quarter on the northwest side of the ancient city of Athens. A krater is a large Ancient Greek painted vase used to mix wine and water, but the large kraters at the Dipylon cemetery served as grave markers.
The Themistoclean Wall, named after the Athenian statesman Themistocles, was built in Athens, Greece during the 5th century BC as a result of the Persian Wars and in the hopes of defending against further invasion.
The Grave Stele of Dexileos, is the stele of the tomb of an Athenian cavalryman named Dexileos who died in the Corinthian War against Sparta in 394 BC. The stele is attributed to “The Dexileos Sculptor”. Its creation can be dated to 394 BC, based on the inscription on its bottom, which provides the dates of birth and death of Dexileos. The stele is made out of an expensive variety of Pentelic marble and is 1.86 metres tall. It includes a high relief sculpture depicting a battle scene with an inscription below it. The stele was discovered in 1863 AD in the family plot of Dexileos at the Dipylon cemetery in Kerameikos, Athens. It was found in situ, but was moved during World War II and is now on display in the Kerameikos Museum in Athens.
The Kerameikos steles are a collection of sculptures used as grave-markers in the Kerameikos necropolis of Attica. Kerameikos is located outside the Themistoclean Wall's Dipylon Gate. Stelai come in various shapes/designs and depict images varying from pottery to narrative scenes. They were often marble or limestone, and were carved or sculpted to depict the person being memorialized sometimes with relatives or slaves. Reliefs decorating the graves were meant to show the dead in their best light, using imagery to recognize their bravery in battle, or pathos, or wealth. These monuments marked the graves of Athenian men, fallen warriors, as well as non-citizens. Women were also included in Kerameikos but typically it was the wealthiest or prominent women who were given stele. In many vase paintings of grave scenes wreaths are seen resting at the base of stele. This was likely a popular way to adorn the graves of Greek loved ones.
The Dipylon Amphora is a large Ancient Greek painted vase, made around 750 BC, and now in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Painted amphorae of this size were made as grave markers. The intact clay pottery vessel was found at the Dipylon cemetery, near the Dipylon Gate, in Kerameikos, the ancient potters' quarter on the northwest side of the ancient city of Athens. It is one of around 50 examples attributed to an unknown artist given the notname of "the Dipylon Master", one of the earliest individually identifiable Greek artists.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Athens:
The Sacred Gate was a gate in the city wall of Classical Athens, in the modern neighbourhood of Kerameikos. Its name derives from the Sacred Way that led from it to Eleusis, the site of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The site is uniquely well preserved for Athens, and shows clear evidence of the successive building phases from the 5th century BC to the 1st century AD. The Eridanos river passed through the gate in a channel.
The Propylaea was the monumental gateway to the Acropolis of Athens, and was one of several public works commissioned by the Athenian leader Pericles in order to rebuild the Acropolis a generation after the conclusion of the Persian Wars. Pericles appointed his friend Phidias as the supervisor and lead architect of this massive project, which Pericles allegedly financed with funds appropriated from the treasury of the Delian League. According to Plutarch, the Propylaea was designed by the architect Mnesikles, about whom nothing else is known. Construction began in 437 BC and was terminated in 432, when the building was still unfinished.
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