In the historic center of Athens, a 12 meter high white Pendelic marble tower stands as a landmark in the Roman agora, situated between the popular quarters of Plaka and Monastiraki. This impressive structure is none other than the Tower of the Winds or Horologion of Andronikos Kyrrestes. It once functioned as a time-piece and is considered to be the world’s first meteorological station, combining a weather vane, water clock and sundials. It was built in the first half of the 1st century BC by the Greek astronomer from Kyrros in Macedonia, Andronikos Kyrrestes.
The octagonal clocktower, measures 8 meters in diameter, and each of the building’s 8 sides faces a point of the compass, decorated with a frieze of figures in relief at the top, representing the winds that blow from that direction.The 8 Wind Deities depicted in the frieze are: Boreas(North);Kaikias(NE);Apeliotes(E);Eurus(SE);Notus(S);Lips(SW);Zephyrus(W) and Skiron(NW).
Beneath the frieze , 8 vertical sundials were etched, where the shadow was cast on hour lines that, while faint, are still visible.
During cloudy days and at night when the sundials would be ineffective, a water clock was built in its interior, to record time when the sun was not shining. The water clock or Clepsydra was driven by water flowing down from a large well under the Acropolis.
In its time, a bronze weather vane topped the structure, depicting the Greek Messenger of the Sea Triton, indicating wind direction.
The Tower of the winds during the Christian times and the Ottomans
During its long history, the Tower of the Winds underwent many uses. In early Christian times, it was used as a bell tower of an eastern Orthodox church. Under the Ottomans, it became a tekke or place of gathering by whirling dervishes.
After the Ottomans, the building was left to deteriorate until the restoration project between 1837-1845 by the Archeological Society of Athens which brought to light the bottom half of the structure that had been covered in debris and buried in the earth.
Recreations of the Tower of the winds
Its unique architectural design has inspired many in the course of history to recreate it in other surroundings. Among them, John Bacon and James Wyatt built a scaled up version in 1794 in Oxford, England to house the Radcliffe Observatory Tower. Another example is the Vagliano tomb at West Norwood Cemetery in London. And there is a Tower of the Winds in Sevastopol in Ukraine.
In the summer of 2014, the Athens Ephorate of Antiquities started a conservation project and the cleaning and restoration of it was completed by 2016. The ancient scientific ingenuity and classical architecture of the Tower of the Winds still attracts visitors from all over the world.
Cover Photo Credit: mritz_p