The Stoa of Attalos

In front of us, to the east, rises the marble facade of the Stoa presented by Attalos II, King of Pergamon, 159-138 BC, to the city of Athens in which he had studied as a youth. The building was restored in the years 1953-56 by the American School of Classical Studies on the original foundations and in keeping with the original design. In addition to its historical interest the building is an excellent example of the stoa type of architecture in its full development. The basic element in the design is the twoaisled colonnade of the ground floor. This is repeated in the upper storey with nice variations in scale and architectural detail. These colonnades provided spacious promenades where hundreds of citizens might stroll especially in the morning hours before the sun penetrated the western front of the building. The promenade was augmented by a broad terrace that ran the whole length of the Stoa. From this terrace as well as from the two floors of the building proper one enjoyed always a lively outlook on the busy square, and on festival days one commanded a perfect view of the processions moving upward on the Panathenaic Way. Behind the colonnades on each of the two floors opened twenty one square rooms most if not all of which were undoubtedly shops.

In front of the Stoa at its midpoint may be seen the foundations of a bema or speaker’s platform of Hellenistic date from which orators addressed large gatherings in the open square. To the south of the bema have been set up the surviving fragments of the epistyle of the Stoa which preserve the name of its donor Attalos. We now enter the Stoa, as in antiquity, near its south end, and as we enter we note to the right the ancient fragments that have been incorporated in the reconstruction of the facade, as well as the ancient steps and extensive remains of the end and back walls that had survived in place.

The Stoa was reconstructed not only to illustrate an important type of Greek architecture but also to house the finds from the excavation of the Agora. All the material from the current excavation as well as the relevant records, and some outstanding finds from earlier exploration are now to be found in this building. A representative selection is accessible to the public.

Within the colonnades of the Stoa are displayed much of the sculpture and some of the inscriptions found in the Agora. Note especially on the ground floor the statue of Apollo Patrons, the personifications of the Iliad and Odyssey, a great female figure of Good Fortune that once stood in front of the Royal Stoa, a statue of Nike (Victory) from the Stoa of Zeus and, in front of an interior column, a law against tyranny passed in 336 BC. Several of the ancient shops on the ground floor have been restored to house special exhibits; particularly interesting is the display of ancient wine jars in the fourth room from the south. Ten of the shops in the mid part of the building have been thrown together to form a long gallery in which is shown a selection of the finds from the excavation. This material illustrates the history of Athenian private life, arts and crafts from the Neolithic to the Turkish period. It includes also many examples of the equipment used in civic life such as a waterclock and bronze ballots from the lawcourts, some of the inscribed potsherds (ostraka) that gave their name to ostracism, standard weights and measures from the Tholos.

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