Location: South side of the Agora. No 17 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: 2nd cent. BC.
Periods of Use: Hellenistic, Roman (?).
The Middle Stoa was erected around 180 BC. It was a gift from Pharnakes I, the ruler of Pontus. Together with the East Building and the South Stoa II it formed the complex of the South Square.
The Middle Stoa was excavated in 1936 and its exploration was completed in 1951. It incorporated the SW Fountain and the quadrilateral peribolos known as the Aiakeion. Together with two more structures, the East Building and the South Stoa II, it formed the so-called South Square.
The Middle Stoa is earlier, as it does not include any building material from the Square Peristyle used for the construction of South Stoa II and for a small part of the East Building. The stoa’s construction intimates that the Athenians implemented a well thought-out programme for the arrangement of the square, notwithstanding the somewhat belated erection of the other buildings.
Based on amphora shards unearthed in the site, Victoria Grace has dated its construction to c.180 BC. This date is consonant with what is mentioned in an inscription found on Delos, concerning a large donation of money to Athens by Pharnakes I, the king of Pontus. It is thus possible, although this is somewhat tentative, that Pharnakes, who controlled the Bosporus Straits, the regular sea route for shipping grain to Athens, wished to honour the city by funding the construction of a building where the goods he provided would be stored. The inscription found on Delos has been dated to 183 BC, so it agrees with the history of the stoa: novel building techniques, not attested before in Athens for that period, were employed in its construction – this points to the presence of a foreign architect, perhaps accompanied by a group of non-Athenian artisans.
When the construction of the stoa begun, the buildings south of the Tholos were destroyed. The construction work begun on the east side and progressed towards the west. When most of the structure was complete, the earlier buildings were demolished and the south corner of the stoa was constructed.        
The Middle Stoa was an elongated building, measuring 147 x 17.5m. It divided the Agora Square in two unequal parts, taking up most of the square’s free space and enlarged it towards the south, if we consider that the foundations of the stoa’s east side incorporated an earlier boundary marker. The stoa had a peculiar shape, as it was flanked by Doric colonnades on its lateral sides, and it lacked a rear wall. Thus the north side served mainly the main square of the Agora, while the south side served the South Square.
It rested on a crepidoma of two steps, which survives in a rather good condition in the east. A colonnade which supported the roof divided the interior into two aisles. The lower drums of 3 columns survive in situ on the eastern side. Traces of holes on their flanks reveal that the columns were interconnected with a low parapet, creating a long, unbroken wall. Half of the numerous column drums from the exterior colonnades preserve such holes on their flanks, and this indicates the existence of a parapet in the interior as well – it is unclear, however, whether this parapet surrounded the building in its entirety. It was probably confined to the corners of each long side. Large windows opened in each intercolumnal space between the parapets and the epistyle, providing ventilation and allowing the sunshine in. 
Notwithstanding its size, it was constructed using rather low quality materials: the columns and the entablature were made up of Aegina poros, save for the marble metopes and the clay sime, which survives in a very good condition. The Doric columns bore no flutes. The floor was made of compacted earth. Although built using low quality materials, its construction was executed with great care and was rather precise.
It has been argued that the building is quite similar to the Stoa of Phillip on Delos, especially after its expansion in the early 2nd cent. BC. North of the stoa lay a large courtyard, this stretched from its east end until 5.50-6.00m before its west end. The corner was not used so as to allow the unimpeded passage of people. The width of the courtyard was approximately 5m. Its western end contained the impressive base of a monument; the pedestal’s dimensions (length 6.65 at its foundation) allow us to suppose that it carried a figure on a chariot. This was probably the city’s benefactor who donated the stoa. At that spot, the level of the courtyard was 4m higher than the level of the square. We may imagine that the monument dominated the area. It is possible that, after the sack of Athens by Sulla, the monument was removed and the pedestal was completely destroyed. A stairway was constructed in the spot of the unoccupied corner in front of the stoa’s west corner, it was probably built to provide better access to Agrippa’s Odeion.   
In the late 2nd or in the early 1st cent. BC, two small structures were erected at the centre of the South Square. The eastern building, the earlier of the two, was a small peripteral temple. We have no indications for the function or the precise design of the other building. Both were destroyed during Sulla’s sack and only their foundations remain today. The temple may have been reconstructed in the 2nd cent. AD, but the West Building was not restored.
Earlier views connecting the South Square with Ptolemy’s Gymnasium or with a shrine, or considering it as an extension of the Heliaia law court, have been abandoned today, especially since the so-called Heliaia is probably identified with the Aiakeion. Thus, nowadays, it is thought more likely that it served purely commercial purposes.
The Middle Stoa was damaged during the sack of 86 BC, but not much is known about the building’s history during this time. In that period, and up to the mid-2nd cent. AD, the square is taken up by workshops and shops. 

GRACE, V., ‘The Middle Stoa dated by Amphora Stamps’, Hesperia 54 (1985), pp. 1-60.
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. 26-27.
Mc CAMP II, J., Η Αρχαία Αγορά της Αθήνας. Οι Ανασκαφές στην καρδιά της κλασικής πόλης 2(Αθήνα 2004), pp. 211-216. 
THOMPSON, H.A., ‘Excavations in the Athenian Agora: 1951’, Hesperia 21 (1952), pp. 86-90.
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. 65-71. 

Middle 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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