Location: Northeast corner of the Agora square, in the north-western end of the Stoa of Attalos. No. 36 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, Αmerican School of Classical Studies (Princeton 2003), p. 2 and pp. 24-25.
Date of construction: The period of Emperor Hadrian’s rule (117-138 AD).
Periods of Use: Roman.
The Basilica, the large administrative building of the period of Hadrian’s rule (117-138 AD), once dominating the northeast corner of the Agora square, today survives in a very poor condition. Nowadays it is located east of the bridge leading to the entrance of the Agora; roughly half of the building still lies in the Agora archaeological site, partly buried under the modern Adrianou Str. and the nearby residences, and that part has not been excavated.
The term ‘basilica’ describes a spacious and roofed structure, internally arranged in three aisles, used during the Imperial Period for administrative, judiciary, as well as commercial purposes. Functionally, it can be considered analogous to a Greek type stoa.
The Basilica of the Athenian Agora was excavated in 1970. The excavation did not expose the building in its entirety, which demarcates the square of the Agora to the northeast. A large part of the structure (its east wall, south side of the peristyle, southwest corner of the outer building) must have been destroyed during the works for the construction of a cutting for the Metropolitan Railway in 1891, but the building’s plan was plotted by W. Dörpfeld. This structure was probably damaged the most during these construction works. A large part of it remains buried under the modern Adrianou Str. and the nearby residences.
The dating of the building is fixed by the pottery discovered in the stone pipe coursing the site where the west aisle of the Basilica was erected; this pipe was rendered useless and was partly destroyed. It is roughly dated to the first half of the 2nd cent. AD, and more specifically to the period of Hadrian’s rule (117-138), when other magnificent edifices were built in Athens (completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus) and the Agora (Nymphaeum, Hadrian’s Library).
The Basilica largely incorporated a substantial administrative building of the Augustan period, which was flanked by a colonnade. This colonnade lay in the south side of the Augustan building and rested on the foundation of its south side. Its intercolumniation was 2.73m. The large width of the foundations indicates that the colonnade rested on crepidoma of three steps. The shortening of the intercolumnal distances in the east end of the colonnade, allows the inference that the columns were Ionic. However, none of its architectural members survives.
Of the Basilica survive the foundations, as well as the foundations of the interior peristyle, which divided the structure in three aisles. It is made up of two layers of poros blocks (2m thick). The upper part of the foundation was arranged so as to support the bases of columns with a diameter of 1.65m. Columns with an intercolumniation of 3.05m rested on these bases. The peristyle defined a spacious area 15.30m in width (the distance between the axes of the colonnades), which was excavated to a length of 11m approximately, north to south. The peristyle is surrounded by an aisle 5.70m in width. As the available space was limited, the west aisle rests on the line of the earlier roadway surrounding the Augustan building. The east wall of this building was demolished and rebuilt as the west wall of the Basilica. Thus, the part of the city lying beyond the northeast side of the Agora had access to the Agora square only through the Basilica.
The precise dimensions of the building have not yet been exposed with respect to its N-S axis, but apparently this was a rather spacious structure. Its representation is mainly based on other Roman basilicas of the same period, chiefly on the basilica in the Forum of Corinth.
Notwithstanding its extremely fragmentary condition, and its inadequate exploration, this is revealed as one of the most richly decorated Roman edifices of the Agora. The floor of interior of the peristyle and the aisles were covered with marble slabs, very few samples of which survive. From their traces on the surviving binding material in which the slabs were set we can calculate their dimensions as 1.65 x 0.82m. The building's walls were internally veneered with marble slabs, abundant samples of which survive, unearthed during the excavation of the west wall. They are made up of marble of various colours and bore decorative motifs (relief vegetation ornaments).
On its south side, which faced the Agora square (its façade), the building was flanked by a colonnade, which covered the south side and the southwest corner of the structure, in such a way as to conceal the incorporation of the earlier, Augustan period building. This colonnade measured 4.50m in width. The colonnade’s foundation was excavated in the 1930s, but its use was not interpreted correctly. The presence of marble of the same type as the one used in the decoration of the building’s walls, and the construction techniques employed for the foundations clearly indicate that this colonnade is intimately related to the Basilica.
The edifice was severely damaged during the raid of the Heruli (267 AD), but more extensive destruction was visited upon it in the following centuries, when the building material of the Basilica, as well as that of the Augustan colonnade, was quarried by the Athenians and used to construct other buildings, mostly private residences. This activity apparently reached a climax in the 5th cent. AD, as testified by the pottery finds from this period in the workshops of the builders who despoiled the ruins.
Ruins and foundations of Roman residences and shops survive to the east of the Basilica.

Mc CAMP II, J., Η Αρχαία Αγορά της Αθήνας. Οι Ανασκαφές στην καρδιά της κλασικής πόλης2 (Αθήνα 2004), pp. 229-231.
SHEAR, T.L., “The Athenian Agora: The Northeast Complex”, Hesperia 40 (1971), pp. 261-265.
SHEAR, T.L., “The Athenian Agora: Northeast Basilica, Shops and Houses on the North Side”, Hesperia 42 (1973), pp. 134-144.
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. 23, 71, 108, 192, 211, 221, 223, 234.
WYCHERLEY, R., “The North-West Stoa of the Athenian Agora”, JHS 68 (1948), p. 152.

Basilica, 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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