Monday, January 9, 2012

Keramikos Cemetery

Keramikos cemetery has been numerous things during its history, i.e. a shrine, a city gate, artists' quarter and the largest and oldest cemetery in Athens. The name given to this specific location derives from the prevalence of potters' workshops on the grassy banks of the river Eridanos, which cuts through the site, marking the north-west boundary of Ancient Athens. Another tradition dictates that it was named after Keramos, the son of God Dionysus and Ariadne, who was the hero of the potters. 

In 478 BC, that boundary was built in stone with the construction of the Themistoclean Wall around the entire city; the foundations of the wall to this day mark the outer edges of the Keramikos site. The Dipylon Gate and the Sacred Gate are easily evident, built in the 5th century BC. Great processions, during the city's major religious festivals, have passed through these gates on the way to the Acropolis and other religious sites. 

Cemeteries have always been an object of human curiosity, explaining the mystic charm of Keramikos, which dates back to the 12th century BC. 

The 'attractions' in Keramikos are the beautiful tombstones with depictions of the dead or scenes from mythology. 

Keramicos became famous after Pericles' Funeral Oration, contained in the second book of the History of the Peloponnesian War, written by Thucydides. Pericles, who was the mayor and governor of Athens at the time, delivered the funeral oration by the end of the first year of the war between Athens and Sparta (430 BC). This speech is even today analysed by numerous academic disciplines, including history and politics, due to the fact that it explains the way Athenian Democracy functioned, giving a basis for later generations on how to form a political speech in difficult occasions.

1 comment:

  1. Famous ancient cemeteries are quite the attraction. There's something enchanting about their architecture - gravestones, gates, shrines, etc. You don't witness those in modern cemeteries.