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Athens Sights - Ancient Keramikos Cemetary Page 2

keramikos simple marble columnsAfter the erection of the city wall in 478 BC, burials were confined to the area outside, to the west and northwest. Many of the leading families of Classical Athens owned a burial plot here, laid out on terraces along the roads radiating from the Dipylon and Sacred Gates. These burial plots have yielded some of the most beautiful and moving examples of Classical funerary sculpture. The originals are in the Kerameikos Museum and in the National Archaeological Museum, but replicas have been set up in the cemetery itself, to retain the original impression of the burial plots. One relief, in the Kerameikos, Museum depicts a woman by the name of Ampharete, together with her grandchild who passed away before her. The epigram on her tomb reads: ‘My daughter’s beloved child is the one I hold here, the one whom I held on my lap while we looked at the light of the sun when we were alive and still hold now that we are both dead.’

At the end of the Classical period, around 317-307 BC, the governor of the city of Athens decided that the size and expense of funerary monuments had gotten out of hand. From then on, he allowed only either simple marble columns, inscribed with the name of the deceased, or table shaped constructions and marble funerary vases, nothing taller than 1.5 m high. That was the law. A large number of such columns and other simple grave markers can be seen just outside the Kerameikos Museum, to the right of the entrance.

Finds from the Submycenaean to Roman tombs are on display in the Kerameikos Museum, as well as a selection of the funerary reliefs and statues. Other funerary monuments from the Kerameikos are in the National Archaeological Museum.

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