Kerameikos was named after the community of the potters, or kerameis, who worked within the city walls (Inner Kerameikos) and occupied the area along the banks of river Eridanos. Outside the wall (Outer Kerameikos), was the major cemetery of the city (it was forbidden to bury the dead within the city walls), with burials dating from the 12th century BC. The walls of Athens were constructed between 478-477 BC, by Themistocles, in an huge economic and human common effort, in which took part every citizen.

The excavated area of Kerameikos incorporates a section of the 478 BC city wall and the ceremonial entranceways into Athens, from the cities of Eleusis, to the west, and Piraeus, to the south. The wall had two gates, Dipylon, or Double Gate, and the Sacred Gate, placed at the outset of the two most important processional roads of Athens. One was the Panathenaic Way, from whichThe Panathenian Festival Procession would start on its journey to the Akropolis. The second road was the Sacred Way, or Iera Odos, which led, through the Sacred Gate, the procession of the Eleusian Mysteries to Eleusis, or Elefsina.

Between the two gates is Pompeion, a spacious building, with a peristyle courtyard , where Panathenaic procession paraphernalia was stored and where those involved in major festival processions would ready themselves. The Pompeion survived for 600 years and was destroyed, by barbarians, in 267 BC.
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The Outer Kerameikos was used as a graveyard, from 1200 BC, and remained, from entire antiquity, the most important city cemetery. At Demosion Sema, the public cemetery of Athens, situated outside the Dipylon gate, along the road to Plato’s Academy, were buried, at public expense, major public figures, including Pericles, the philosophers Zenon and Chrysippos, the rhetoricians Euboulos and Lykourgos, but also those who have fallen heroically in war.

Outside the Sacred Gate, The Sacred Way intersected The Street of Tombs, which had, on both sides, funerary monuments erected, in the 4th century BC, by wealthy families. The beautiful grave steles found here give the impression of an open-air sculpture gallery.

Demetrios Falireas, the governor of Athens, issued a decree, in 317 BC, forbidding Athenians to erect any more luxurious funerary monuments. Thus, the monuments were replaced by humble little columns, called kioniskoi, that stated the name and the birthplace of the deceased persons.

Kerameikos was destroyed completely by Roman general Sullas, in 86 BC. Later, Roman emperor Hadrian restored the site but it was destroyed again, after the invasion of the Herulae, in 267 BC. Sadly, Kerameikos disappeared into the history obscurity.

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Kerameikos- The Street of Tombs Kerameikos - Eridanos River Kerameikos Photo Album Kerameikos Map