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Sacred Gate

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Delphi shuffled across the little bridge over the river and emerged on the main road, which was busy with travellers.

Delphi liked this part of the Kerameikos.  It had little of the dignity or seriousness of the graveyards and sculpture of much of the rest of the place.  It was close to the Dipylon Gate, where travellers would quench their thirst at the fountain after their long journey.  There were groups of men lounging in the shade, and groups of women chatting as they filled up their water jugs.  It was also close to the Pompeion, a large and lively building and a common haunt of the philosophers.

It felt right to Delphi, having so much life so close to death.

Death was a part of life in Athens – she knew that all too well.  Everybody in Athens did.  In recent years there had been wars, plagues and invasions.  It made you happy to be alive.  And sad too.

Still, it was raining.  Maybe she should find her dad.

Kerameikos Sacred Gate: Fact box

  • Athens was circled by a huge city wall.  The walls were completed in 457 BC, after a Persian general named Xerxes invaded the city and Athens was at war with another city named Sparta.


  • The Sacred Gate was perhaps the most famous gate.  It was the starting place for many of the major ceremonies or processions that went through the city, and the roads from here led to the Agora, the Olympieion and the Acropolis.  Nearby was the Dipylon Gate, which led to Plato’s Academy.  There was also a large building here, called the Pompeion, where the festival processions were prepared and was a favourite spot for philosophers to gather, like Diogenes.


  • The Kerameikos district was named after the potters who worked here (in Greek, kerameis). Pots were a serious business in Ancient Greece.  Not only were they used for storage and holding water, they were often richly decorated with scenes from mythology or everyday life and used for offerings to the gods.  Historians have learned a lot about Ancient Greece from their pots!


  • Diogenes was a very unique philosopher and was in Athens in the period after Socrates' death, when Plato had founded his Academy.  He preferred to sleep in a barrel or a jug and thought the best life to live was one as simple as possible, with no possessions or desires. For a time, his only possession was a wooden bowl – until he saw a boy drinking water from his hands, so he decided he didn’t really need it and threw it away!


  • He was a ‘Cynic’ philosopher – meaning he thought a simple and uncomplicated life was best, rejecting most of the comforts and identity of society.  He didn’t agree with Plato’s philosophy much at all!​


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  • He did have one big fan however – Alexander the Great.  Alexander is one of the greatest generals and soldiers who’s ever lived, and he conquered most of the known world.  Alexander must have heard a lot of good things about Diogenes because when he met him, he offered the philosopher whatever he desired. Diogenes just told him to get out the way and stop blocking the sunshine!


  • Alexander was apparently so impressed that he said that if he could be anyone else in the world, he would be Diogenes.  Not a bad compliment from the most powerful man in the world to a smelly man in a barrel!

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