The biggest and most important necropolis in Athens stretches along Ermou Street, near the junction with Pireos Street. One can see the ruins of the fortified enclosure with its two main gates, the Iera Pyli (Sacred Gate) and the Dipylon, public buildings, impressive civilians graves and military tombs.
The Kerameikos archaeological site also has a museum showing finds from the excavations.Peiraios Street is the street that from Antiquity onwards connects the city of Athens with its port. At its start is the Municipal Gallery, in the building of the old city nursery.
Further down one sees industrial buildings that have been transformed into kernels of cultural activity: the Technopolis in a former gas factory, the Melina Merkouri Cultural Centre in the Poulopoulos hat-making factory, Hellenic Cosmos in the former Viosol metal processing factory.
This was the official cemetery of ancient Athens from the 11th century BC until the 2nd century AD. The area derived its name from the existence of many pottery or ceramic workshops around it.
The walls of ancient Athens: Here, one can still see the lithologimata, three consecutive rows of stones that date from classical times.
Kerameikos Gates – Holy Gate, Dipylon: The Kerameikos Gates were the official entrances to this side of ancient Athens. These gates divided the area into inner and outer Kerameikos, where the tombs were situated. The Iera Odos, or Sacred Road, which led to the Shrine of Demeter in Eleusis, began at the Holy Gate. The procession in the direction of the Acropolis during the Great Panathenaic Festival used to begin at the Dipylon Gate.
The Dipylon was the largest gate of the ancient Greek world; its large size being useful for strategic and religious reasons alike. The road to Kerameikos began outside the Dipylon, commencing in a square for ceremonies (such as gatherings, sacrifices and athletic competitions) in honor of the dead who were being buried in the nearby Public Memorial.
Street of the Kerameikos: Just outside the Dipylon gate began the imposing Street of the Kerameikos, the so-called “Road to the Academy” that led to the most beautiful of the suburbs. It was here that Plato founded his school. The street was 39 m wide and 1.5 km long, and the sides of the road were lined with the graves of prominent Athenians.
On the left of the ancient Street of the Kerameikos, one could see the brightest of all monuments, the Public Memorial or Polyandreion that contained the graves of those Athenians that had died at war, who had been cremated at public cost. According to Thucydides, it was here that Pericles made his famous Epitaphios speech to honor the first victims of the Peloponnesian War.
In inner Kerameikos, inside the wall, stood the Pompeion, a structure used for the preparation of festival processions, built in three phases (400 BC; 2nd century AD; and 4th century AD). At the entrance stood an impressive propylaeum and, in front of this, a spacious plaza. Every four years, the Panathenaic procession began here.
Kerameikos Museum: This houses a large and varied collection of burial vessels that date from the 11th century BC (Sub-Mycenaean period) until the 2nd century AD (Roman era), and grave offerings from various periods.
The following items are indicative of the exhibits: an iron sword, the oldest found in Greece (1025 BC); unique archaic pots bearing designs of roosters, lotus flowers, and mourners of the ancient period; lekythi, a type of pot used to hold perfume for the departed; a small lead box; a statuette bearing an inscription with curses c. 400 BC; a case for sympathetic magic; archaic marble tomb plaques with emotive inscriptions; and the burial stele of Dexileos (394-393 BC).
Special mention should also be made of the recently discovered Kouros (male figure) of the Sacred Gate (c. 600 BC), a great work that is thought to be the work of the master sculptor of the Dipylon Gate.