HISTORY - ARCHAEOLOGY > CLASSICAL PERIOD > BUILDINGS > BUILDINGS - IN THE NW CORNER OF THE AGORA
Location: Beneath the Stoa of Attalos and the Square Peristyle of 300 BC [See TOWSEND, R.F., The Athenian Agora XXVII. The East Side of the Agora. The Remains beneath the Stoa of Attalos (Princeton 1995), fig. 2].
Date of construction: 5th-4th cent. BC
Periods of Use: Classical
 
INTRODUCTION
 
Beneath the Stoa of Attalos and the earlier Hellenistic Square Peristyle, five plain buildings were erected during the 5th and the 4th cent. BC; on the basis of the finds but also due to their location in the NW corner of the Agora, these buildings are usually identified as law courts.
 
DESCRIPTION
 
Building
 
Buildings and are located in the east section of the Panathenaic Way, in an area previously devoid of public buildings but featuring many workshops and residences. At the end of 5th cent. BC, the city’s authorities decided to demolish the earlier buildings so as to make room for a simple rectangular structure measuring 41 × 22 m, which covered an area of approx. 900 m2. Of this building only the traces of its foundation on the bedrock remain under the Square Peristyle, as well as some of its slabs in secondary use.
 
Apparently the structure was unroofed and possibly housed one of the city’s law courts. It used to be identified as the Parabyston, which is mentioned by the orator Antiphon (420-415 BC). In its tentative reconstruction its interior is surrounded by a stoa with a gabled roof.
 
Building
 
The same law court has at times been identified with Building . This structure was completely destroyed in the extensive building projects undertaken in the area during the Early Imperial period. Only some traces of its foundations remain. Today it is thought to have been rectangular in plan, in contrast with earlier views which ascribed a triangular ground plan to it. It had modest dimensions (17 × 12.5m) and we should imagine it as an unroofed enclosure. The pottery unearthed in its foundations strengthens the view that it was built during the same period as Building , that is, in the late 5th cent. BC.
 
Building C
 
Building C was contiguous to the east wall of Building . This structure resembles a stoa, measured 28.4 × 7.8m on the inside of the walls, and its orientation matched that of Building . Several traces of its east wall survive, which correspond to the area beneath and next to the NW corner of the Stoa of Attalos. The south wall consists in a colonnade shut off with parapets. The interaxial distance was 2.70-2.80 m. The entrance to the building lay at its south side, and consisted in an opening in the second interaxial distance from the right. The columns would have supported a wooden epistyle. There remain some tympana of porous stone, tentatively ascribed to this building, as well as a series of tiles used again in Building E. The floor was made of compacted earth, and contains potsherds of the late 5th cent. BC. It is thought that this building was constructed in c.340 BC.
 
Building D
 
Building D is situated south of Buildings A and C and survives in a very poor condition. Only the traces of its foundations and certain slabs from its north wall have been discovered in their original position. It has been suggested –on the basis, however, of inadequate evidence– that it had a rectangular ground plan, measuring 16.70 × 42m and covering an area of approx. 900m2, roughly the same as Building . This structure was supplied with water via a duct coursing its north side. It is impossible to ascertain the date of its construction. The likeliest date is thought to be c.325 BC.
 
Building
 
Building was erected in 325 BC, when the four earlier buildings were torn down, and was meant to take on their functions until the completion of the Square Peristyle. This is a rather makeshift structure of unknown dimensions; we should imaginatively reconstruct it as a Pi-shaped stoa, or as a rectangle with an internal stoa.
 
Use of the Buildings
 
The suggestion that these buildings were used as law courts follows from the general shape of their ground plans as well as by their location, but also from the fact that these are the most suitable candidates for the structures that fulfilled this function. Another strong clue is provided by the discovery of tribunal tablets, clepsydrae (=hourglasses) and other object generally associated with ancient Athenian legal procedures. The question, therefore, is not whether these were law courts, but precisely which Athenian tribunals were housed here. The Parabyston mentioned in Pausanias is one of these, although this has been identified with Building A as well as with Building . It is also possible that the Heliaia assembled in one of the structures in this area (Building A or C). Finally, more cogent appears the correlation of Buildings A, B and C with the first, the middle and the third of the new law courts mentioned on an inscription dating to 342/341 BC (Agora I 1749, line 12-13, 116-117).
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY
MERITT, B.D., ‘Greek Inscriptions’, Hesperia 5 (1936), pp. 355-411 (esp. pp. 393-413).
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. 54-60.
TOWSEND, R.F., The Athenian Agora XXVII. The East Side of the Agora. The Remains beneath the Stoa of Attalos (Princeton 1995).
 
 
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