Location: Northwest corner of the Agora, on the northeast edge of the hill of Agoraios Kolonos. No 27 in the Agora plan of the Guide: Μc Camp II, J., The Athenian Agora, A Short Guide to the Excavations, Excavations of the Athenian Agora, Picture Book no 16, American School of Classical Studies (Princeton 2003), p. 2 and pp. 24-25.
Date of construction: After 480 BC.
Periods of Use: Classical, Hellenistic, Roman.
The Stoa Basileios (Royal Stoa) was the seat of the Archon Basileus, whose duties were religious and juridical. It is located in the northwest part of the Agora, outside the boundaries of the modern archaeological site. It was constructed at some point after 480 BC and remained in use until the 6th cent. AD.
The Stoa Basileios, previously misidentified as the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios, was first excavated in June 1970, while the excavations in the surrounding area were completed in 1973 and in 1982-1983. The building has not been published. Compared to other structures of the Agora it survives in a rather good condition, as from ancient times already it was covered by a layer of mud which protected it. A very narrow passageway (1m) divided it from the Stoa of Zeus, with which it is confused in certain modern studies and in some ancient lexica.
The stoa is located in the lowest part of the Agora. Its floor stands 3.2m lower than that of the neighbouring Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios and 5.82m lower than the level of the modern Adrianou Str. The foundation of the stoa survives in an excellent condition, save for their south end, which was overlaid by the retaining wall of the cutting for the Metropolitan Railway. They measure 17.72 x 7.57m, while the interior area of the stoa measures 16.63 x 6.02m. This is one of the smallest buildings in the Agora. The stylobate and one step of the stereobate survive in whole. These are made up of hard, dark-colour limestone and rest on foundations comprising column drums in secondary use. In the south end of the rear side, the building's foundation may have stood at a higher level than that of the façade and could have been arranged in two or three steps. This part of the foundation is polygonal and its craftsmanship is superior to that employed in the rest of the building.
The façade comprised a colonnade of 8 Doric columns, with an intercolumniation of 1.9205m, flanked by posts. There are traces of the first and the seventh columns from the left. The south post was discovered in 1973; it survives to a height of 0.78m and was unearthed under the retaining wall of the cutting for the Metropolitan Railway. It corresponds precisely to the north post, as both measure 0.59m in width. A retaining wall, exactly parallel to the south side of the stoa, leads off from the southeast corner of the building, extending for 11m to the east; it constitued the south end of its original peribolos. In some parts this enclosure survives to a height of three blocks, the upper blocks set slightly more inwards than the lower ones. A similar wall was discovered in the north part of the stoa, but it was buried by the north annex, built in the late 5th cent. BC. No traces remain of the south end of the enclosure. This will have been removed when the construction of the great sewer was completed (3rd quarter of the 5th cent. BC).
In the interior, the central beam of the roof rested originally on two columns, set along the axis of the third and the sixth exterior columns respectively. Their bases survive, made up of material in secondary use (the base of the first originally supported another column, while the bases of the other three originate from reworked capitals). At some later point (but not later than the middle of the 5th cent. BC), there were four columns spaced out evenly (intercolumnal space: 3.2m. The two terminal columns are arranged symmetrically to the columns of the outer colonnade, the second and the seventh, respectively). The bases of all four columns survive in situ – one also preserves the lower part of its shaft. The interior colonnade was probably a two-storey colonnade (ditone).
Two Doric capitals have been discovered in higher strata of the same site, and obviously these originate from the building. One of these (Α 485), was unearthed in 1935, 15m southwest of the building and probably belongs to the exterior colonnade. These are its dimensions: width of abacus: 0.702m, height of abacus: 0.118m, height of echinus: 0.121m, shaft’s upper diameter: 0.368m. The second one (Α 3846) was found due east of the stoa and probably originates from the upper storey of the interior colonnade. These are its dimensions: width of abacus: 0.4895, height of abacus: 0.106m, height of echinus: 0.084m. The shaft's upper diameter is 0.239m.
The interior as well as the exterior columns were in the Doric order. The exterior columns had a diameter of 0.58m, while the interior ones had a diameter of 0.42m. Their shafts had 16 flutes. The capitals and the column shafts were painted.
A poros triglyph survives from the entablature (Α 3845) with a space for inserting a metope, possibly made up of a different material, most likely marble. Based on this triglyph, the dimensions of the entablature have been calculated. Its width is calculated to approximately 0.382m, the distance between the glyphs to 0.129m, while it survives to a height of 0.34m. A most important discovery was made in 1974; part of the entablature (Α 4536) was found incorporated in a Byzantine wall 10m east of the stoa and this filled in the picture. The height of the Doric frieze is 0.627m, its width 0.962m (it corresponds to the width of the stoa’s north wall) and the triglyph’s width is 0.382m.
The floor of the building was always made up of compacted earth. During its long history, the floor’s earth was removed and compacted again several times. The north wall, which survives to a height of 3 blocks (1.2m approximately), was rebuilt using carefully cut yellow limestone; the wall bore no coating and ashlar masonry was employed. The same material was also used for the columns, the capitals and the entablature. On the contrary, the rear wall, at least in its surviving lower layers, comprised irregularly shaped blocks in polygonal masonry. Originally the interior was not divided into separate rooms.
The base of a poros bench, measuring 28m in total and 0.79m in width, survives along the inside of the two side walls and the western wall. In the north side, there survive the poros supports of the bench that replaced the original in the second half of the 4th cent. BC. Other bases for various other furniture can still be seen in the interior of the building. Poros thrones, probably originating from this structure, were found incorporated in Herm bases. Marble thrones, similar to the proedriai of the Theatre of Dionysus, are dated to a much later period [2nd cent. BC.]. Although these were apparently meant to be used by the Archon Basileus and his paredroi, the more convincing hypothesis has been put forth that they were placed outside rather than inside the stoa.
The roof comprised clay tiles. Some kalypteres (Α 3849-3851, Α 3872, Α 4021-4022), antefixes decorated with anthemia (from the top as well as from the edges of the roof: Α 3871, Α 3946-3947, Α 103), parts of the raking cornice (Α 3848: height 0.115m) ova and a branch decorated with a lotus flower and anthemion (below it there is a branch with traces of a meander) have been discovered. Two fragmentary lion heads have been attributed to the corners of the sime (Α 3813-3814). Several of the tiles and the antefixes of the building date to middle of the third quarter of the 5th cent. BC, a period during which the building was apparently renovated extensively. Pausanias describes two clay sculpture complexes on the top of the building: these portrayed Theseus pushing Sciron into the sea and Eos abducting Kephalos.
The dating of the Stoa Basileios is problematic: the building material, at least some of it, indicates a date around 550 BC, but the pottery found in the foundations dates to after 500 BC, possibly after 480 BC. It is possible that all of the building material originated from an earlier structure destroyed during the Persian invasion. It is unclear whether this building was a predecessor of the Stoa Basileios in the same site.
In the late 5th cent. BC, the stoa’s design was altered two times successively. Around 410 BC, an annex was erected, a wing with three columns in its façade and one column on either side. A decade or so later, a similar annex was built on the south side. The two ptera, although symmetrically designed, differ in terms of their construction. The columns of the north annex are thin and smooth, they are made up of poros and rest on bases (no stylobate), much in the manner of the interior colonnade of the main stoa. The diameter of the columns is 0.33m and the intercolumnal spaces are irregular. Between the central column and the south one the intercolumniation is 2.267m, while between the central column and the east one it is 2.163m. The other ruins that survive in this pteron date to later periods. Of importance are two thrones leaning on the north wall of the pteron; these two, just like the second column of the pteron, rested on the blocks of the original stepped wall of the enclosure.
In the south extension, the colonnade rests on a poros stylobate, which survives in the north side. The corner block of the stylobate has been curved so as to match with the second column of the stoa’s exterior colonnade. This stylobate is placed 0.58m below the level of the stylobate of the stoa’s east side. The excavators believe that the columns of this pteron were Ionic, with a base diameter of 0.50m (or lower diameter if they were Doric). The intercolumniation was 1.587m. There survive traces of the two columns in the stylobate of the north side, as well as the trace of a small post opposite the second column of the stoa’s east side. In the second intercolumnal space of the original colonnade there is a large, thin slab of grey marble, which was used as a threshold between the stoa and the pteron, at a height of 0.35m over the old stylobate. This was also the level of the south pteron’s floor. Over this threshold is a second threshold of the Late Roman period.
The roofing of the ptera is unknown. The excavators have suggested two alternatives: one is a low gabled roof over each of the ptera, the other a flat or almost flat roof which would not conceal the capitals and the Doric frieze behind it. The second alternative appears more convincing.
It is thought that the ptera were constructed so that the city's laws could be posted in there, for all citizens to read. Between the columns of the south pteron there survive the bases for setting marble stelai, and these cover the intercolumnal space. In the north pteron, marble stelai were set side by side on a common base. There are finds to ascertain that, starting from 409/408 BC, these stelai contained the city’s laws.
Just in front of the stoa, a bit more to the north from the centre of the stylobate, there is a large piece of rough limestone (0.95 x 2.95 x 0.4m). This is probably the famous stone (Lithos), mentioned in the sources as the spot where the city’s officials swore an oath while stepping on sacrificed animal parts.
Uses and identification of the building
The Stoa Basileios was the residence of the Archon Basileus and his two paredroi; this archon was the most important religious magistrate of Athens, responsible for the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Lenaia, and charged also with certain juridical duties. The Areios Pagos convened here sometimes, while there are also references to official dinners being given here. It was here that Socrates appeared before the Archon Basileus to answer to the charges Meletos had brought up against him. The records of the Archon Basileus were kept in this stoa together with copies of the laws of Solon and Draco (on wooden tablets, called kyrbeis).
The identification of the building is considered rather safe, as, apart from the general consistency with Pausanias’ description, there is also epigraphical evidence, the votive Herms dedicated by two holders of the office in the Classical period. Nineteen Herms have been discovered in total in the area around and inside the stoa’s site, the most recent of which dates to the 3rd cent. AD.
In the second half of the 4th cent. or in the early 3rd cent. BC, a base was set right in front of the stoa, in the intercolumnal distance between the fifth and the sixth column; it comprised four large blocks of shelly marble, these formed the foundation of the pedestal which probably supported the large statue depicting a female figure, found incorporated into a nearby Byzantine residence and dated to 330 BC. The section from the neck down to the knees survives, while its original height has been estimated to 3m approximately. It depicts a female figure wearing a tunic, thought to portray some personified abstraction (Themis or Democracy).
Over time, the level of the road that passed on front of the stoa rose significantly. The excavation has revealed nine consecutive floor levels, with the total height of the area rising by 0.7m in the 5th cent. BC. It was deemed necessary to construct a small retaining wall to allow for the creation of a small courtyard. The original absolute height of the building was preserved. The northern end of the wall was stepped so as to form a staircase, while the courtyard as well as the steps of the stoa were covered with Herms. When Pausanias made his visit to the Agora, there were statues in front of the monument (an orator mentions that Pindar’s statue Pausanias had placed in the area of the Temple of Ares was actually situated in front of the Stoa Basileios).
The building was severely damaged during the capture of Athens by Sulla (86 BC), as testified by the fire marks on the stoa’s north wall. The entire wall was repaired and received a coating. The stoa was destroyed in 267 AD, but it was apparently rebuilt. The area was finally abandoned in the early 6th cent. AD.

Mc CAMP II, J., The Athenian Agora: A Guide to the Excavation and Museum 4 (Athens 1990).
Μc CAMP II, J., The Athenian Agora, A Short Guide to the Excavations, Excavations of the Athenian Agora, Picture Book no 16, American School of Classical Studies (Princeton 2003), p. 40.
Mc CAMP II, J., Η Αρχαία Αγορά της Αθήνας. Οι Ανασκαφές στην καρδιάτης κλασικής πόλης 2 (Αθήνα 2004), pp. 76-78, 127-134.
SHEAR, Τ.L., ‘The Athenian Agora: Excavations of 1970’, Hesperia 40 (1971), pp. 241-279 (esp. 243-260).
SHEAR, T.L., ‘The Athenian Agora: Excavations of 1973-1974’, Hesperia 44 (1975), pp.   331-3, plates 77-84 (esp. pp. 365-370).
THOMPSON, H.A. – WYCHERLEY, R., The Agora of Athens.The American Excavations in the Athenian Agora, vol.XIV, American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Princeton 1972), pp. 83-90.
WYCHERLEY, R., The Agora of Athens. Literary and Epigraphic Testimonia, The American Excavations in the Athenian Agora, vol.III, American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Princeton 1957), pp. 21-25.

Royal stoa, Representation in VR environment

The project "Virtual Reality Digital Collection 'The Ancient Agora of Athens'" has been co-funded in a percentage of 80% by the European Regional Development Fund and in a percentage of 20% by state funds in the framework of the Operational Programme "Information Society" of the 3rd Community Support Framework.

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