What are the best Roman ruins in Greece?
From the incredible Theatre of Herodes Atticus and the eye-opening city of Eleusis to the astonishing Roman Agora, the Roman monuments and ruins of Greece are absolutely mind-blowing places to discover. The sheer diversity of these extraordinary Roman sites is staggering, with other popular attractions including Philippi Battlefield, the Philopappos Monument and the Arch of Hadrian in Athens and these sites are definitely worth considering if you have a little more time on your trip. We’ve put together an expert guide to the Greece's Roman archaeological remains with our top places to visit as well as a full list of ancient Roman sites found in Greece which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
The Theatre of Herodes Atticus is stunning Roman theatre built in 161 AD. Built by an rich Greek-born Roman senator in the mid-second century AD, it was constructed it in commemoration of his wife, Regilia. Able to seat up to 5,000 people, the theatre was mostly used for music shows and festivals, a function it still performs today. For visitors to the site today, this ancient theatre is startlingly photogenic and offers some great shots of the city.
Eleusis contains a range of hugely impressive Greco-Roman ruins, including the Sacred Court, a Roman reproduction of Hadrian’s Arch and the Kallichoron Well. A number of these monuments and buildings have survived today and are a popular draw with tourists, providing as they do a picturesque scene to explore. For those seeking to know more about the history of the city, there is a museum located on site which gives more detail on the story of this ancient settlement.
Also known simply as the forum, the Roman Agora of Athens was founded in the early first century AD and its construction was funded by Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus. The agora is home to an array of fascinating ruins including the Gate of Athena and even the remains of some ancient public toilets! Probably the most impressive monument however is what is known as the Tower of the Winds. A clock, weather vane, sundial and compass all in one, it's very well preserved and fascinating to discover.
Although the Romans certainly did a lot of building in Greece, they also spent a lot of time there killing each other. Probably the most famous of these internecine clashes was the battle of Philippi. The clash took place in 42 BC, two years after Caesar’s assassination. The forces loyal to the heirs of Caesar met those of his assassins and the two sides met in Greece near the ancient city of Philippi. Today the battlefield is believed to be located outside the modern town of Krinides in north-west Greece, near the archaeological site of Philippoi. As well as the battlefield, visitors can explore the ruins themselves which contain a range of structures and monument from this once-thriving settlement.
The Philopappos Monument is an important mausoleum built around 116AD and celebrating the life of one of Athens’ most important citizens of the time, Gaius Julius Philopappos. When this great benefactor to the city died, the citizens built a spectacular two-storey marble monument close to the Acropolis to honour his name. The mausoleum was preserved virtually intact up until at least the late fifteenth century and, though degraded by the years, visitors can still view elements of the lavish decoration and burial chamber.
The Arch of Hadrian of Athens is a triumphal gateway built in the second century AD by this famous Roman emperor. While not necessarily the most impressive of ancient gateways when compared to those in Italy or North Africa, its Pentelic marble can still be seen, despite being somewhat damaged by years of exposure to pollution.
The archaeological site of Aptera contains an array of interesting Greco-Roman ruins. Today as well as the impressive Roman cisterns, visitors to Aptera can explore a number of fascinating ruins at the site including Roman baths, villas and an ancient theatre. The archaeological site also includes a small ancient temple most likely dedicated to the goddess Demeter as well as the ruins of early churches. There is a small museum at the site which expands the history of the settlement.
Hadrian’s Library was an important centre of ancient learning in Athens which was built by the Emperor Hadrian between 125 and 132 AD. In its heyday, this vast structure would have housed over 17,000 scrolls and other documents. Destroyed by the Herulae in 267 AD it was later repaired before being damaged again during the later barbarian invasions. The most impressive of ruins of the ancient building are the great Corinthian columns on the well-preserved outer wall, and the impressive portico which served as the entrance to the courtyard.
Another of the most important clashes in Roman history took place at Pharsalus. It was here that Julius Caesar decisively defeated Pompey the Great and his republican allies to effectively bring the Republican era to an end. It was a battle which Caesar won against the odds and confirmed his position as total ruler of Rome. The battle took place in August 48 BC and saw Pompey’s army decisively defeated and routed. e battlefield and was later killed when attempting to find sanctuary in Egypt. The exact location of the battlefield has been the subject of much debate but the most widely accepted location is just outside the modern Greek city of Farsala.
10. Byzantine Museum
The Athens Byzantine Museum contains over 25,000 artefacts from the late Roman period all the way up to the Byzantine, Medieval and post-Byzantine eras. It includes religious artefacts, sculpture, paintings, manuscripts, jewels and art. The artefacts come from all across the country as well as from nearby regions where Hellenic, Roman and Byzantine culture were prominent.
Full list of Roman Sites in Greece
While it’s fair to say that world-famous ancient Roman sites found in Greece such as Eleusis and the Theatre of Herodes Atticus usually grab the limelight, the less prominent ruins have a wealth of things to see and do and are often underrated in comparison. Our advice? Don’t ignore them, because the full list of Roman ruins in Greece can be among the very best to visit! That's why we've gone beyond the top ten and brought you a selection of these hidden gems below.
Asklepieion is an archaeological site containing the well-preserved ruins of the birthplace of medicine. Today, the pretty and relatively well-preserved ruins of Asklepieion are set over three levels and include several temples, some Roman baths, gateways and a banqueting hall.Read more
Dion Archaeological site is located just outside the modern town and contains a number of interesting ruins from the Greek and Roman periods. The site also contains the remains of a Hellenistic theatre, a partly-preserved 2nd century AD Roman theatre, ancient baths and the ruins of several ancient villas. A later-Roman church can also be found here.Read more
During the Roman period, Gortyna was the capital city of Crete and a number of important temples and buildings were built here, the remains of which can still be seen today. The Temple of Pythian Apollo is a particularly notable ruin, whose outline is identifiable as is its stepped altar.Read more
The Romans captured Pella in around 168 to 167 BC and it was incorporated into the Empire’s third regio. Thus began the decline of Pella’s political importance, quickened by the selection of Thessaloniki as the new capital of Roman Macedonia in 148 BC and finalised by an earthquake which destroyed it in the first century BC.Read more
Vast and impressive, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was begun by Peisistratus the Young in the sixth century BC but various events and circumstances meant it took hundreds of years to construct. It was the Roman emperor Hadrian who finally completed it in around 132AD.Read more
We’re constantly expanding this list of Greece's Roman archaeological remains and if you do notice any omissions then please feel free to contact us with further information and our editorial team will look to expand this collection further.