Karameikos - The Cemetery, Attic Gravestone and Stele with Relief
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Karameikos - The Cemetery, Attic Gravestone and Stele with Relief

Kerameikos is an area of Athens, Greece, located to the northwest of Acropolis, which includes area both within and outside the city walls, on both sides of Dipylon Gate and the river banks of Eridanos River. It was also the site of an important cemetery and numerous funerary sculptures erected along the road out of the city.


Kerameikos is an area of Athens, Greece, located to the northwest of Acropolis, which includes area both within and outside the city walls, on both sides of Dipylon Gate and the river banks of Eridanos River. It was also the site of an important cemetery and numerous funerary sculptures erected along the road out of the city.


The origin of its name was derived from the city quarter or "demos "of Kerameis, which in turn derived its name from the word keramos, “pottery clay”, from which the English word “ceramic” is derived. The “Inner Kerameikos” was the former “potter’s quarter” of the city and the “Outer Kerameikos” covers the cemetery and also the public burial monument where Pericles delivered his funeral oration in 431 BC. It is where the Hiera Hodos (the Sacred Way, the road to Eleusis) began, along which the procession moved for the Eleusinian mysteries.

The area has undergone numerous archeological excavations in the recent years, though the excavated area covers only a small portion of the ancient demos. It was originally an area of fenland along the banks of the Eridanos River which was used as a cemetery since the third millennium BC. It became an organized cemetery from 1200 BC, where numerous graves and burial offerings have been discovered by archeologist. Increasingly large attic gravestones were built along the south bank of Eridanos, lining the Sacred Way while houses were constructed on the higher drier ground.

Following the Persian sack of Athens in 480 BC, the building of a new city wall changed the appearance of the area. Themistocles suggested that all funerary sculptures were built into the city wall and two large gates facing north-west were erected in Kerameikos. The Sacred Way ran through the Sacred Gate south side to Eleusis. On the north side, the Dromos, a wide road ran through the double-arched Dipylon Gate, also known as the Thriasian Gate and on the Platonian Academy a few miles away. State graves were built on either side of the Dipylon Gate, interring heroes of Athens such as notable warriors and statesmen, including Pericles and Cleistenes.

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 fourth century BC.

The construction of such mausoleum was banned by a decree in 317 BC, following only inscribed square marble blocks or small columns were permitted as grave stones.


According to Greek sources, during the Classical period, a hetatomb (a sacrifice of 100 cows) was carried out during Panathenaic Festival in honor of Athena. The Pompeion, a public building inside the walls of the two gates served as a function room, where the nobility of Athens would eat the sacrificial meat. The people received the meat in Kerameikos, possibly in the Dipylon courtyard, excavators found heaps of bones in front of the city wall.

The Pompeion was razed twice, in 86 BC by the Sulla’s forces and the second century AD. The ruins became the site of potters’ workshop until 500 AD, and 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 destroyed during the invading Avars and Slavs at the end of the sixth century, and the Kerameikos fell into obscurity. It was not rediscovered until a Greek worker dug a stele in 1863.

PHOTO Grave relief of Dexileos, son of Lysanias, of Thorikos. Kerameikos museum – ca. 390 B.C.

 Grave shrine from Kerameikos - Aristonautes as warrior - ca. 330-310 B.C. marble h. 2.91m


Under the auspice of the Greek Archeological Society, archaeological excavations in the Kerameikos began in 1870. 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 century BC were discovered. Thucydides describes 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.

Latest findings in the Kerameikos include the excavation of a 2.1 m tall Kouros, a work of the so-called Dipylon sculptor unearthed by the German Archaeological Institute at Athens.

Street of the Tombs. KARAMEIKOS

Dexileus was one of the knights who died at Nemea. The monument is superbly curved, showing a horseman trampling upon a hoplite. Consideration of the anomaly of the Dexileus monument will help strengthen this interpretation, for of the thousands of Athenian gravestones to have survived from the antiquity, it is the only one that notes the date or death of its subject. The stele records that Dexileus was born in the archonship of Teisander (414/13) and died in that of Euboulides (394/93). The explicit mention of Dexileus’ age makes a clear that a man who was 20 in 394/03 – an innocence which all knights did not share. Hence the funerary monuments of 394 may well reflect the tensions of contemporary Athens.

Stele of Dexileos from Thorikon, son of Lysanias, 394 BC.

He was killed during the Korinthian war and here seated on his horse,

he is slaying an enemy.K2

Dionysius was an Athenian commander during the Corinthian War. In 388 BC, he participated in naval operations around Abydus. Along with fellow commanders Demaenetus, Leontichus and Phanias, Dionysius unsuccessfully pursued the Spartan fleet under Antalcidas. However, Antalcidas was able to evade them and link up with an ally Syracusan and Italian squadron at Abydus.

Tomb of Dionysius, son of Alfino from Kollytos, treasurer, 345 BC.

A bull often represents the god Dionysus.K3

View of the bull from the front. BullK3

Burial plot of a family from Herakleion of Pontos. K4

View of the tomb. Stale K4

The relief stele represents the deceased Hegeso, daughter of Proxenos, seated on a chair and, in front of her, a maiden servant. It was found in the cemetery of Kerameikos, in Athens. Dated to the end of the 5th century B.C. National Archaeological Museum of Athens, Greece K4 a

Stele is a grave stone with relief. Many steles produced in the period 420-317 BC in Attica until Demetrios of Phaleron of Athens passed a law that prohibited the erection of elaborate steles (anti-sumptuary decree). Pantelic marble stele for a woman called Hegaso inscribed on the stele. One of the most famous and beautiful pieces of sculpture, located in the kerameikos cemetery in Athens. Hegoso seating on a Klysmos chair with her servant facing her offering to her a jewelry box.

Stele of Hegeso, daughter of Proxenou, 410 BC.

She is dressed like a bride and seated on the chair.

She is admiring her jewels, from the box which

her maid holds, standing behind her. K5

The family burial plot of Koroibos, son of Kleidemidou

from the "deme of Milete", middle of 4th century BC.. K6

Stele of Pamphile and Demetrias, late 4th century BC.

In the sculpture, Pamphile is seated on a throne, extending her hand to her sister Demetrias, who is standing.

The sculpture is one of the last ones made, before the issue of the

prohibited law by Demetrious Phalereus in 317 BC, about ornamented tombs K7

View of the burial plot of Pamphile and Demetria above

and the steles of Consulates at the bottom. K8

The Kerameikos Museum with kioniskous, from the Hellenistic

and Roman period. KERAM_MUSEUM

Stele of Bion, son of Eubios from the demo of Potamou.

Eufrosyne, seated on a throne, gives her hand to the young Bion.

Eubios with a beard, her brother and father of Bion, looks at him with sadness.

A small dog is under the throne. After 338 BC. K9/K9 a

View of Kerameikos with Lykavettos in the background. K10

Loutrophoros K11

Loutrophoros of Hegetor

from the plot of Demetrias and

Pamphile, middle 4th century BC. K12

View of Kerameikos with the church of Agia Triada at the back. K13

Stele of Aristonautes, Archenautou Alaieus, 4th century BC.

The sculpture is one of the last ones made, before the issue of the

prohibited law by Demetrious Phalereus in 317 BC, about ornamented tombs. K14

View of Eridanos river and the Sacred Road, which was leading to Eleusis. K15


Loutrophoroe. K16/K16a

Stele of Philon Phalereus. K17

Loutrophoros of Olympichos. K18

Dexileos son of Lysanias, from Thorikos, born in the time of the Archon Teisandros, died during the time of Eubolides in Corinth as one the five horseman.

Ilissoos stele from the bed of Ilissos river in Athens, 340 BC,

Stele of Dermys and Kitylos, dedicated by Amphalkes to Dermys and Kitylos from Kokali necropolis in Tanagra, early 6th century BC.

Another Stele: A baby farewell to his dead mother

Stele and my Sirens and mournful pitcher that hold the little ash of Hades, tell those who pass by tomb to greet me, whether citizens or from another town, and say that I was buried here, still a bride, and that my father called me Baucis, that I was born in Tenos, that they may know. And tell them too that my companion Errina engrave this word upon my tomb.

I am the grave of Baucis the bride. Passing by my stele, say to Hades beneath the earth, “You are grudging, Hades. The lovely letters you see will tell the very cruel fate of Baucis: how her bridegroom’s father’s girl’s funeral pyre with the same torches that blazed for the wedding song, and you, Hymenaeus, exchanged the melodious marriage hymn for the mournful sound of threnodies sung for the dead.”

Plangon Stele, around 320 BC: Text; Plangon Tolmidoy Plataiki, Tolmides Plataeus. “Plagon, wife of Tolmides, from Plataea. Tolmides, the Platean”. Probably, the stele of a wife who died soon after becoming a mother. Discovered in Oropos, Athens.

Stale Stamp




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Comments (9)

Wow, excellent write, Ron. My kind of article.

Ranked #20 in Archaeology

a one-of-a-kind cemetery,,

Enjoyed this Ron, good one.

Very good article.

excellent info and pics.. fascinating

Interesting article and beautiful pictures.

Excellent historical sculptures. A wonderful history captured in writing. Two thumbs up, Ron.

Very deep article of history, here. Great work, Ron. Enjoy the images, too.

Ranked #11 in Archaeology

Thank you all for the comments.