Kerameikos

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Kerameikos (Greek: Κεραμεικός) is an area of Athens, Greece, located to the northwest of the Acropolis, which includes an extensive area both within and outside the 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.

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History and description

The area took its name from the city quarter or dēmos - δῆμος of Kerameis (Κεραμεῖς), which in turn derived its name from the word κέραμος (keramos, "pottery clay") from which the English word "ceramic" is derived.[1] The "Inner Kerameikos" was the former "potter's quarter" of the city and "Outer Kerameikos" covers the cemetery and also the dēmosion sēma - δημόσιον σῆμα (a public burial monument) 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 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 third 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.[1]

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, interring heroes of Athens such as notable warriors and statesmen, including Pericles and Cleisthenes.[1]

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