Athens – The Tower of the Winds

A most curious building stands at the eastern end of the Roman Forum, at the opposite end from where it joins up with the Ancient Agora. This tall, clean-lined, eight-sided building is the Tower of the Winds, so named because, high on the face of each wall, you can see the name and representation of the eight principal Winds of the Mediterranean. North, North East, East and so on, all the way back to the north.

An eight-sided building is just a curiosity, even in ancient times. This building was much more than that. It was a functioning piece of technology and served a valuable business need. For on the very top a large bronze wind vane was once set, so merchants in the market below could see whether their cargo of goods could sail into the harbour at Piraeus or not, and so close a deal on good terms.

Tower of the Winds, Athens - © Nicholas V.K. – All Rights Reserved.
Tower of the Winds, Athens – © Nicholas V.K. – All Rights Reserved.

Inside the building sat a water clock, the rhythm of time set by the gurgling stream that came down from the Acropolis.

On the face of the Tower facing the Agora was the face of a clock, so people could tell the time. And there were sundials too, for added reference. All this fully functional and operational before Caesar had even paid down the first denarius to finance his new Forum. Think about it.

The Classic Age gone, Christians turned the Tower into a bell tower for a nearby church to call the faithful to prayer; later the Turks used it as a gathering room for the mystical, whirling dervish who worshipped in the Fethiye Mosque.

The Tower managed to survive being half buried in the rubbish of centuries, so today you can see it almost as it was meant to be.