Royal Stoa

On the west side, lying just south of the Panathenaic Way, are the remains of the Royal Stoa (Stoa Basileios), one of the earliest and most important of the public buildings of Athens (Figs. 61, 62). It served as the headquarters of the archon basileus (king archon), second in command of the Athenian government and the official responsible for religious matters and the laws. Here, inscribed copies of the full law code of Athens were on display, the annual oath of office was administered to all those about to serve the democracy (Fig. 63), and Sokrates was indicted for impiety in 399 B.C. The identification of the building is secure, thanks to Pausanias and two inscribed herm bases dedicated by king archons and found in situ on the steps of the building.

Figure 61. Actual state plan of the Royal Stoa.
[Sokrates speaks]: "I must now present myself at the Stoa Basileios to answer the indictment of Meletos, which he has brought against me." (Plato, Theaetetos 210d)

The building is small for a stoa, only 18 meters long, with eight Doric columns across the front and four down the middle (Fig. 64). It should date originally to the years around 500 B.C., but was extensively rebuilt in the 5th century. Two projecting wings were added between 410 and 400 to display new copies of the law code of the city.

Figure 62. Reconstruction of the Royal Stoa, as it would have appeared in ca. 300 B.C.
"[The archons] took the oath near the Stoa Basileios, on the stone on which were the pieces of the victims, swearing that they would guard the laws." (Pollux 8.86)
Figure 63 (right). The lithos or oath-stone, set up on the steps of the Royal Stoa.
Figure 64. The remains of the Royal Stoa, view from the south.
Excavations in the Athenian Agora are conducted by the American School of Classical Studies.
Primary funding is provided by the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI).