Akademia Platonos (Plato’s Academy district)
The district of Akademia Platonos is situated to the west of the centre of Athens and is bordered by the Avenues Konstantinoupoleos, Athinon, Kifissou and Lenorman Street. The first traces of habitation in the region are dated to the prehistoric times. The district took its name by the hero Academus, whose cult was probably established during the Geometric period (ca. 1100-750 BC). Thence, it was developed to a residential area and particularly to one of the most delightful suburbs of ancient Athens, with a special natural beauty due to its vegetation and to the vicinity of Kifissos River.
In the 6th century BC, one of the three public gymnasia was founded there, and later a “sacred grove” was created at the instigation of Cimon. Furthermore, Demosion Sema, a funerary place for the war victims and other remarkable figures of the Athenian public life, was placed in the street connecting the area with the city centre. In 387 BC, Plato founded inside the grove his philosophical school, which remained operative until AD 529.
The information concerning the later history of the district is quite scant. During the last period of the Ottoman occupation, it was part of the estate of the Athens ruler (voivode) Hadji Ali Haseki. Until the end of the 19th century, the area remained almost uninhabited, with orchards and olive groves, while the successive expansions of the city plan during the next decades included parts of the district, which started gradually to be resided by working classes. In 1908, it was officially renamed to “Akademia Platonos” (Plato’s Academy). In 1929, the architect Panagiotis Aristofron (with personal cost at first and later with the support of the Academy of Athens) purchased estates and undertook excavations until 1940 in the area. The excavations were repeated from 1955 to 1963 by the Archaeological Society at Athens.
During the post-war decades, the area was seriously degraded, due to the pollution of Kifissos River and the heavy traffic of the surrounding avenues. Today, the district contains a variety of territorial and functional elements: the archaeological park, avenues of heavy traffic, zones of habitation, handicraft and other professional use and non-built-up expanses, used for different purposes (parking lots for big vehicles, sports fields, gardens etc.).