Below one of the busiest squares in Athens today, Monastiraki Square, lies a fascinating discovery that came to light only a couple of decades ago.
When construction of the new metro line began a few years before the 2004 Athens Olympics, the excavations revealed remains of different civilizations from the 8th century BC to the 19thCentury AD, all focusing around the once-lost Eridanus River, which was rediscovered as the metro was being built.
The excavations show how during Roman times the river was vaulted over and became a sewer. Private buildings were built all around, and this is where a hoard of finds emerged during excavations: coins, bones, mosaics, sculptures, vases and more. The little museum area below Monastiraki square can be accessed free of charge on the level of the green line if you have a valid metro ticket in hand.
You’ll see the river still trickling through, the river banks, the vault added from the time of Emperor Hadrian, part of a street, and foundations of buildings from different periods: classical, Roman, and Early Christian. Informative illustrations show what remains are from what period, as well as a large poster depicting all the objects, urns and vases found that belong to different epochs.
Tip: At street level, just a few steps away from the main entrance of Monastiraki Metro in the square, you’ll find a railed ledge or ‘balcony’ that looks down on the flowing river partially covered by the vault from another perspective.