Location: south side of the Agora, directly related to the shrine of Theseus. Item no. 14 in the plan of the Agora in the Guide: Mc 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 24-25.
Date of Construction: 430-420 BC, based on the pottery unearthed in the building’s foundations.
Periods of Use: Classical  


The South Stoa , a large oblong building with fifteen rooms in its interior, was constructed around 430 BC, to accommodate symposiums and official dinners, but during the early Hellenistic period it was used for commercial purposes. The building was demolished in the middle of the 2nd cent. BC, to make room for the more luxurious South Stoa . 


Building’s description

The South Stoa was detected in 1936 by Eugene Vanderpool of the American School of Classical Studies and excavated by Margaret Crosby in 1952-1953.  The excavation was completed in 1966-1967 by John M. Camp.  It is an elongated, rectangular in plan stoa with an outer colonnade of 45 unfluted columns and an inner colonnade of 22 coated columns, probably of the Ionic order (as it was common in similar buildings of the 5th cent. BC). Very few pieces of the building remain in their original position: some stones from the south and the north walls are visible, several stones from the middle wall and the interior walls between the rooms, and certain sections of the stylobate’s foundations on the north side. A Doric capital also survives in a fragmentary state, discovered in the east side of the colonnade’s floor, and made of grey limestone. It bore no coating. The lower part of the capital had flutes, but the shaft had none. The lower diameter of the Doric columns in the outer colonnade is 0.53m. The intercolumniation of the outer columns is 1.74m. The colonnade rests on a simple limestone stylobate, of which some fragments survive. In the excavated south side of the foundations there were no more steps, but in the west side the difference in elevation perhaps necessitated the use of a second step.

The subbase of the five east inner columns has been discovered in place. The intercolumniation is 3.49m, nearly double that of the outer colonnade. The lower diameter of the columns in the outer colonnade is 0.57m. The shafts of the columns bore no flutes. These columns, larger in diameter than the outer ones, must have also been taller, to support the building’s roof. 

The building’s dimensions on the inside are 80.47 (N-S) 14.89m (E-W).  Obviously in the north side there was a supporting wall which formed a square overlooking the Agora; this wall was probably destroyed when South Stoa was constructed.

Fifteen quadrate or quasi-quadrate rooms are arranged on the inside; of these 12 survive in a rather good condition. The western part of the building is poorly preserved, as it was destroyed during the earthwork for the construction of South Stoa . The door openings, facing north, are not located on the central axis of the rooms, but are shifted by approx. 30cm eastwards. They measured 1.5m approximately. The central room had no door opening to the outside, but only to a narrow anteroom, measuring 4.86 1.45m. Double rings indicate the existence of a door leading from the outer colonnade to the anteroom of the central room. Rooms 1-6 from the east measure 4.86 4.86m, the rest of them measure 4.86 4.71 m to save space for the addition of the anteroom, which was probably added to the plan after the start of the construction work. The floor was of brown clay. 

At a later time, a staircase was built, taking up the area of the anteroom and part of the central room. Its purpose was to provide access to the street behind the stoa (N-S direction), but also to a presumed upper floor lying over the rooms of the stoa, but not the two colonnades. Just two steps of this staircase survive. For the upper floor, besides the construction of the staircase, there is no other material evidence. Another consideration strengthening the hypothesis of a second floor has to do with the difference of elevation in the area behind the stoa: the second floor, if there was one, would have had the height of a single-storey building to the South, with immediate access to the street. The suggestion has been put forth that the lower section of the staircase was of stone while the upper steps were made of wood. Rooms 1-6 from the West measure 4.86 4.86m, but the rest of the rooms measure 4.86 4.71m.  
Since there are no means of communication between the ground floor and the upper storey (at least at the building’s initial phase), it is possible that access to the upper storey was possible only through the South, via the street, and more specifically through the eastern corner of the S side. 

The building was built using materials which betoken a certain need for frugality, possibly related to the economic conditions in Athens during the period of the Peloponnesian War. The foundations consist in a series of soft grey limestone. The same material was employed for the lower layers of the walls, while the upper parts of the construction were made of sun-dried bricks, a rather second-rate material, which had obviously received some kind of coating. 
 Traces of beds were discovered on the inside of the two best-preserved rooms, 7 per room. Dinners and symposia were given in the rooms, that is also the reason for the shifting of the door away from the central axis of the room, to make space for one more  bed on the door’s wall. Two beds were placed in front of the rest of the walls. A platform discovered in one of the rooms is designed to protect the bed’s wooden legs from the ground’s dampness. 

Lion-shaped outlets from the sima discovered dispersed on the site of the excavation belong to different periods. Two bases were also discovered on the inside of the building, these probably supported statues or other monuments opposite the south wall of the stoa. 

Later, the east end of the colonnade, up to the second inner column, was covered by a wall of very slipshod masonry.  Around 300 BC, the beds in two at least of the rooms were replaced by a bench lining the walls.
The building’s uses

The form of the building, combined with its ascertained usage, leads to the conclusion that the South Stoa had a simultaneously administrative and commercial function. The arrangement of the rooms with beds indicates that symposia and dinners were given there, most likely for the needs of the city’s officials. One of the inscriptions unearthed there (dating to 222/221 BC) relates that the building was used by the metronomoi, the officers responsible for the city's weights and measurements. A large number of bronze coins (240 in total) was also found in the building, which testifies to the commercial character of its use. According to one view, it housed the businesses of Athenian bankers, which we known through literary evidence. One alternative suggestion is also intriguing (THOMPSON, H.A., Hesperia 35 [1966], pp. 47) that the stoa served exclusively the needs of the nearby Theseum, where the celebrations involved the giving of sacred dinners. 


BOERSMA, J.S., Athenian Building Policy from 561/560 to 405/404 B.C., Scripta Archaeologica Groningana 4, Wolters-Nordhoff Publishing, Groningen 1970, 89, 219, no. 97.
Mc CAMP II, J., The Athenian Agora: A Guide to the Excavation and Museum, 4th ed., Athens, 1990.
c 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. 21.
Mc CAMP II, J., The Athenian Agora: Excavations in the Heart of the Classical City², Cambridge University Press 2001), pp. 154-158.
THOMPSON, H.A., “Excavations in the Athenian Agora: 1953”, Hesperia 23 (1954), . 31-67, t 12-17 (esp. pp. 39-45, table 13).
THOMPSON, H.A., «Activity in the Athenian Agora: 1966-1967» Hesperia 37 (1968), pp. 36-72, tables 5-17 (esp. pp. 43-56,  tables 6-9).
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. 74-78.
TRAVLOS, J., Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens, Princeton 1971. 

South Stoa I, 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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