Location: In the northwest side of the Agora, close to the Panathenaic Way and next to the temple of Aphrodite Ourania. The Hellenistic Gate, which adjoins the Stoa, was erected in this spot. No 28 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), pp. 2 and pp. 24-25.
Date of construction: 475-450 BC
Periods of Use: Classical, Hellenistic, Roman
The Stoa Poikile was excavated in 1981. It was erected in the second half of the 5th cent. BC, and it is thought that it was dedicated by Peisianax, brother-in-law of Cimon. It is one of the most celebrated buildings of the Agora, as it contained the renowned paintings of Polygnotos, Micon and Panainos, with themes taken from Athens’ mythological and historical past.
The Stoa Poikile, one of the most important and most celebrated buildings of the Athenian Agora, was identified by the American excavators with the badly ruined and fragmentary building excavated in 1981. Only part of it has been exposed (the rest is overlaid by residences) and only some preliminary excavational reports have been published. The excavations still continue today.
On the basis of the finds unearthed in its foundations, the stoa was erected between 475 and 450 BC. The literary sources mention the Stoa of Peisianax – the building had taken its name from the person who funded its construction (Cimon’s brother-in-law, according to one version). From the 4th cent. BC onwards it is called Poikile, because of the paintings that adorned its walls and made it one of the most renowned Athenian buildings.
The crepidoma on which the stoa rested survives in a good condition. It comprises very finely worked poros blocks, all of which measure three Athenian feet (pous, pl. podes) in length (0.99m). We may note a structural particularity: while in the west there are four steps, there are only three (the norm) in the south and north. This was obviously due to the difference in elevation between the east and the west side of the building.
The width of the building is 11.573m at the level of the stylobate. The excavators think that the building comprised one Doric colonnade in antis at its façade, and one Ionic colonnade in its interior.
An earlier suggestion by Meritt (1970) attributing parts of an Early Classical Doric frieze to the stoa is no longer accepted. The building’s superstructure has been deduced by finds discovered incorporated in Byzantine buildings of the area. More important among these are parts of Doric column shafts, some rather fragmentary triglyphs and small fragments of the Doric cornice. An intact section of the Doric frieze (Α 4661) unearthed directly outside the northwest corner of the building's foundations is made up of the same hard poros used in the steps of the western edge of the crepidoma and has the same dimensions (three Athenian feet - 0.999m). It comprises a triglyphs and the rear part where the marble metope was fixed. The total thickness of the frieze was 0.718m. The triglyphs were 0.384m wide and the marble metopes had a width of 0.615m. The total height was 0.63m. The intercolumniation under the frieze will have been 1.998m, and this space will have been taken up by blocks exactly 0.999m in length. A frieze comprising 12 triglyphs and 11 metopes will have stood in the west side of the building, with a total length of 11.373m. The length to be represented for the long sides of the building depends on the number of columns posited for the interior: if these were 9, the total length of the building at its stylobate would have been 42.37m, while if these were 11, its length would amount to 50.362m. The intercolumniation in the interior would have been 3.999m.
Of the interior colonnade, the base of the westernmost column survives in situ; it comprises two poros slabs forming an imperfect square 1.1 x 1.3m. This will have been on the same axis with the second Doric column of the exterior colonnade, as was common in Doric stoas of this period. Six parts of unfluted Ionic columns and of Ionic capitals have been recovered from this colonnade. Two of these are sufficiently complete to allow the safe deduction of their dimensions, as well as of the dimensions of the shafts of the columns. In the upper part, each column had a diameter of approximately 0.496m, and 0.6m at their lower part. The diameter of the abacus has been calculated to 0.562m and the distance between the helices to 0.558m.
The lateral wall had no opening, so access to the Agora Square and the Panathenaic Way was possible only through the building’s south side. The foundation for a very low bench has been preserved in the interior, along the rear wall; it is made up of irregular poros stones.
The carefully crafted ashlar masonry work is impressive. The blocks of the steps were all cut in the same length and were joined with T-shaped clamps, while every second joint was precisely aligned to the vertical axis of each column.
Behind the north wall there is a very narrow passageway, 1.35m from the next building. The stereobate and the masonry of the walls are not particularly well crafted on this side.
The paintings were creations of Polygnotos, Micon and Panainos; Pausanias describes in detail the Battle of Oinoe, where Athenians under Theseus fought against the Amazons attempting to invade their city; the sack of Troy by the Greeks during which Locrian Ajax rapped Cassandra who had taken refuge in the Temple of Athena; and the most celebrated artwork, the Battle of Marathon. He then mentions the statues that stood in front of the stoa: these portrayed Solon the lawgiver and king Seleucus I. According to the testimony of bishop Synesius, the paintings were removed in the late 4th cent. AD. Pausanias also witnessed shields, war trophies of the Athenians (taken from the Sikyonians and the Spartans on Sphacteria). The persons initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries were recorded here, while in extraordinary circumstances law courts convened here, composed of up to 501 judges. Costermongers, philosophers and various idlers frequented the stoa. Another famous frequenter of the Stoa Poikile was Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy.
The extent of our knowledge on the building does not allow us to distinguish building phases.
Various views have been recently put forth, disputing the identification of this building with the Stoa Poikile. Di Cesare claims that the stoa named after Peisianax would have been dedicated shortly after the battle of Marathon (490 BC), therefore its donor was some other Peisianax, not Cimon’s brother-in-law. Accepting this revision would entail rejecting the identification of the building under discussion as the Stoa Poikile of 490-480 BC. This view, however, does not result from a proper interpretation of the relevant sources. In fact, the only secure indication for the dating of this stoa provided in Pausanias’ text is that the building was erected after 490 BC.

DI CESARE, R., ‘Testimonianze per la Stoa di Peisianax come edificio (tardo-) arcaico dell’Agora di Atene’, Annuario della Scuola Archeologica di Atene 2 (2002), pp. 43-50.
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), pp. 42-43.
Mc CAMP II, J., Η Αρχαία Αγορά της Αθήνας. Οι Ανασκαφές στην καρδιά της κλασικής πόλης 2 (Αθήνα 2004), pp. 89-96.
ΜΕRITT, L.S., ‘The Stoa Poikile’, Hesperia 39 (1970), pp. 233-264.
SHEAR, T.L., ‘The Athenian Agora: Excavations of 1980-1982’, Hesperia 53 (1984), pp. 1-57, plates 1-11 (esp. pp. 5-19).
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. 91-94.
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. 31-59.

Poikile 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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