Stoa of Attalos

Lining the east side of the Agora square is the Stoa of Attalos (Fig. 47), built during the reign of Attalos II of Pergamon (159–138 B.C.), who studied in Athens under the philosopher Karneades before becoming king. In a sense, this is a gift from a loyal alumnus, and what he gave the Athenians was a shopping mall. Double colonnades on two storeys provided shaded walkways in front of forty-two shops that were rented out by the city. White Pentelic and blue Hymettian marble were used, along with limestone for the walls. The facetting of the lower part of the outer colonnade reflects the intense use of the building; lots of people and goods will have passed through, rubbing and banging against the columns, so there was little point in fluting them at the level of potential damage and wear. The column capitals used upstairs for the inner colonnade are of an unusual type ("Pergamene"), a late adaptation of early Egyptian prototypes.

Figure 47. Plans of the Stoa of Attalos, 159–138 B.C.

The stoa served as the main commercial center for the Athenians for centuries; it was destroyed by the Herulians in A.D. 267 and then incorporated into the new fortification wall, which preserved its northern end up to roof level. It was fully restored in 1953–1956 (Figs. 48, 49) to serve as the site museum (separate guide). It houses storage facilities in the basement, a public display area on the ground floor, and offices and workrooms on the first floor. Parts of the original building were left or incorporated at the south end, so the visitor can check the validity of the restoration. The reconstruction demonstrates the effectiveness of the stoa as the ideal architectural form for a public building in Greece: the colonnaded walkways provide light and fresh air for literally thousands of people, while protecting them from the intense sun of summer or the wind and rain of winter.

Figure 48. Reconstructed Stoa of Attalos (1953–1956), viewed from the north-northwest.
Figure 49. Interior view of the lower colonnade of the Stoa of Attalos.
Excavations in the Athenian Agora are conducted by the American School of Classical Studies.
Primary funding is provided by the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI).