The Tower of the Winds in Athens, the oldest weather station
“Tower of the Winds” or “Kyrristos clock” is the oldest meteorological station and clock in the world. It is also called the “Andronicus Clock” and at one time was considered the temple of Aeolus. The name “Tower of the Winds” was given by Vitruvius and described the structure in great detail.
The tower of the winds was built by the astronomer Andronicus of Cyrros in the first half of the first century BC, presumably in 47 BC.
The exact reason why it was built near the Athenian agora is not known. But researchers suggest that the weather station helped not only to find out the time. Athens was a major trading center. The tower showed the time and wind direction, so merchants could calculate when goods would arrive or be delivered.
The Tower of the Winds and its plan
The monumental structure is located near the Agora in Athens and represents typical Hellenistic architecture. The tower is octagonal and built of Pentelian marble.
Plan of the Agora near the Acropolis
Representations of the winds on the Tower of the Winds
The time was known by the sundial outside. During cloudy weather and at night, the time was told by a water clock (klepsidra) placed inside the tower. On each face of the tower, which were located on the sides of the world, the winds were depicted and signed.
- Boreas – north wind
- Kekia – northeast wind
- Apeliotas – east wind
- Evra – southeast wind
- Note – south wind
- Lipsa – southwest wind
- Zephyr – west wind
- Skirona – northwest wind.
Winds in Greek mythology
Below will be drawings of the winds and pictures from the Tower of the Winds itself
Boreas – north wind
Kekia – northeast wind
Apeliota – east wind
Evra – southeast wind
Note – south wind
Lipsa – southwest wind
Zephyr – west wind
Scirona – northwest wind.
The images were accompanied by inscriptions which made it possible to determine which wind was blowing at the time. The conical marble roof was surmounted by a copper weathervane in the form of a newt with a rod drawn in his right hand which indicated the direction of the wind.
Beneath the figures of the winds was the marking of a sundial.
The two doors of the tower were always open, so everyone had access to the water clock.
In 1967, Derek de Solla Price, a professor at Yale University, and Joseph Noble, an art historian, attempted to visualize the original shape of the monument and how the hydraulic clock worked.
The clock is thought to have been destroyed during the early Christian centuries, when the Tower of the Winds was converted into a church or baptistery of the neighboring church, and there was a Christian cemetery outside of it.
In the 18th century, after the departure of the Venetian Morozini and the re-occupation of the city by the Turks, it was turned into a tekke (place of prayer) of the dervishes of the Mevlevi order. A little later, windows appeared in the tower. The dervishes used the Tower of the Winds until 1821. During this period the tower was half buried. After the revolution and liberation from the Turks, the dervishes fled to Asia Minor.
Athens 1850. Photographer Claudius Galen House.
The Tower of the Winds was not fully excavated until the 19th century by the Greek Archaeological Society.
Architecture of the Tower of the Winds in Athens
The tower is 12.1 meters high, and its inner diameter is 8 meters. The sides of the tower are 3.2 meters and are oriented to the sides of the world. Each of the sides is topped by a frieze with a symbolic image of the flying wind.
Two doors, framed by two columned porticoes, led to the tower from the northeast and the northwest. The capitals of the porticoes had pointed palm leaves surrounded by a crown of low acanthus leaves. The cantilevered trunks of the columns are placed on the upper step of the stylobate without a base, i.e. as it is characteristic of the Doric order.
The volumetric composition of the tower, its details and ornamentation testify to the free interpretation of architectural forms. Thus, for example, relief images of flying winds overlap the architectural profiles of the entablature which crowns the tower.
Plan of the Tower of the Winds in Athens
The scale of the tower is underestimated, since its walls are built of large stone quadras and its sculptural frieze is very wide.
In the Tower of the Winds the main cornice gets a brilliant solution, the elements of which are built on the basis of a reconstruction of the order cornice with reference to the completion of the monumental large-square wall. This is associated with a reduction in the overhang, the development of the supporting part and complication of profiles of its breaks, a violation of the canonical proportional relations between the unsupported supporting parts of the entablature.
World History of Architecture. Volume II.
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The Tower of the Winds in Athens – the weather station of the ancient Greeks
A monument from the depths of time, the Tower of the Winds in Athens attracts tourists from all over the world to admire the graceful lines of ancient Greek architecture. The artifact, apart from its aesthetic pleasure, evokes genuine admiration for the human genius of the ancient civilization. The structure is a veritable weather station, which the Greeks used effectively for several centuries, for research purposes.
Accurate science combined with absolute paganism creates an indescribable atmosphere of an alternate reality. Near the Tower, the famous myths and legends are no longer perceived as fantasies of the romantic inhabitants of ancient Hellas, but as reliable historical facts. And if only for the sake of this magical feeling, it is worth visiting the ancient Agora, to examine closely one of the first monuments of Science.
History of the Tower of the Winds in Athens
There is no unequivocal opinion in archaeological circles, nor is there conclusive evidence as to when the Tower of the Winds was built. Based on secondary data (mentions in chronicles, diaries of contemporaries) it is generally accepted that the ancient architectural structure was erected in the first century BC by the astronomer Andronicus of Cyrene. From the geometric point of view, it is an octagonal antiprism, the sides of which are precisely oriented on the four sides of the world.
In ancient Athens, the Tower had two names – “Klepsydra” (Greek Κλεψύδρα water clock) and “Aerides” (Greek Ἄνεμοι wind). Both the first and second names fully conveyed the purpose of the building – determining wind direction and time. Inside was a clock with a hydraulic mechanism. The time intervals were measured by drops of water flowing gradually out of the opening of the vessel. Hence the winged expression “Time is up.” In ancient Athens it had a literal meaning. But it wasn’t the only way to tell what time it was. There was a sundial on the outer facade – the dial is clearly visible on the frieze.
On top of the Tower was a weathervane in the form of the pagan god Triton, messenger of the depths. On the cornice of the building you can see a frieze with allegorical representations of the 4 main winds and their helpers:
- Boreas, wrapped in a thick mantle – the north one;
- Kekia, bringing snow and hail from the mountain peaks – northeast;
- Apeliot, heralding sunrise – eastern;
- Evr, driving away the morning star from the sky – southeastern;
- Noth, cooling the heat with saving showers – south;
- Lips, accompanying sailors – southwestern;
- Zephyr, scattering flowers – westerly;
- Skiron, the old man with vessels full of ashes – northwest.
When paganism was replaced by Christianity, the Tower from the scientific and applied center of ancient Athens turned first into a bell tower, then into a church, and in the 18th century generally became a dervish abode. Apparently believers did not take seriously the astronomical research of the Greeks and in matters of meteorology they relied entirely on higher forces.
Numerous wars, changes of rulers and religions, had no effect on the Tower of the Winds, unlike the Acropolis. And only time, which faithfully served the building, covered the foundations and took away the weathervane in the form of Triton. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the ancient weather station was used as a warehouse, for artifacts found during excavations. The three-story base was previously cleared of soil. Large-scale restoration took place only in the early twentieth century. Some fragments were restored in 1976. But the structure is still in need of reconstruction.
The Tower of the Winds was the prototype of the famous Oxford Observatory, built in 1774 on the initiative and at the expense of John Radcliffe. And the same name structure in Sevastopol, erected in 1849 to ventilate the archive rooms of the Naval Library.
Tower of the Winds in Athens – how to get there, opening hours
The ancient weather station is located on the grounds of the Roman Agora – in the heart of Athens. The exact address is Aiolou, Athina 105 55, Greece. It is easy to find it, you should only stick to the main tourist destination – the Acropolis.
On your own, you can get there by metro on the green line. The end station is Monastiraki and 2-3 minutes on foot following the signs.
For those who do not want (do not like, are afraid) to take the subway, to Monastiraki Square there are buses. Only 5 minutes of walking separates the stop from the Tower.
You can visit the significant attraction of Athens with a single ticket to the Acropolis, the cost is 15-30 euros, depending on the number of historical sites that you want to see. The opening hours are daily, from 8 to 18 in summer and from 8 to 14 in winter. If the main ruins of Greece have been visited more than once and the main purpose of the tour is the Tower of the Winds, then you must pay only for a visit to the Roman Agora 3 euros and enjoy the experience solely from the antique weather station.
What to see nearby
A visit to the Tower of the Winds is convenient to combine with a tour of nearby monuments of ancient civilization. The Roman Agora, where the monument is located, is itself an interesting object of study. There are fragments of the colonnade, the Gate of Athena Archaegetis, and a part of the ancient Roman fountain on the southern side. In the northern part of the agora is the Fethiye Mosque built in the 17th century on the ruins of a Christian temple.
Nearby is the Museum of Greek Folk Music Instruments. The exhibition consists of more than 1200 items.
On the square of Monastiraki there is another interesting museum – Decorative Arts. The main feature is the building – it is an Ottoman mosque Tsisdaraki, built in 1759.
200 meters from the Tower of the Winds are the temples of Erechtheion and Hecatompedon, which are part of the Acropolis complex. Here the history of ancient Greece is presented in its usual form – myths, legends and unconditional belief in many Gods.
The Church of the Holy Apostles Solakis or Agii Apostoli of the 10th century is the oldest Christian relic in Athens. From the Roman Agora you have to walk only 300 meters to see with your own eyes the unique architecture of the Byzantine period.