Location: Next to the Old Bouleuterion, at its west, in the west side of the Agora. No 7 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: Its construction began in 412/411 BC and was completed shortly after. It is tentatively thought that it was constructed between 415 and 406 BC. (Mc Camp, Η Αγορά της Αθήνας, p. 116).
Periods of Use: Classical, Hellenistic, Roman
The New Bouleuterion was erected to the west of the Old Bouleuterion, shortly before 412/411 BC. It replaced the earlier building and remained in use until the Roman period. This is one of the few Agora buildings repaired and used again after the raid of the Heruli in 267 AD.
History of the excavations
The building was excavated by the Athenian Archaeological Society in 1907-1908, but its use was not originally understood, as the then prevailing view (Judeich) was that Bouleuterion (council house) was located in the south part of the Agora. Its excavation was completed in 1934-1935 by the American School of Classical Studies.
Description of the ruins
The building was erected due west of the Old Bouleuterion, on a higher plane. For this reason, the rather soft bedrock of the spot was dug out.
The surrounding space was cleared so as to allow unimpeded circulation around its west and north sides, while to the south, a wide space, adjoining the peribolos of the Tholos, was left clear to serve as a forecourt. A staircase was coursing the east side of the Bouleuterion forecourt was created (at a distance of 10.50m from the building), so as to connect the Bouleuterion with the Tholos and the Agora square. Several foundation blocks from the steps of the stairway and parts of the euthenteria survive.
The foundations measured 22.50m (N-S) × 17.50m (E-W). Sections of the foundation survive in the east and west part of the building. In the east, the foundations comprise reworked hard red poros blocks in the lower layer and soft fair-coloured poros blocks in the upper layers.
Ten carefully hewn hard grey poros blocks survive from the superstructure (though not in their original place, but east of the building); these were joined with double T-shaped clamps. Their height is 0.565m, while their length measures 0.615 and 1.35m, alternately; they bear signs of anathyrosis.
In fact, there are no other clearly identified parts of the buildings superstructure, neither in its interior nor in its exterior. A part of the interior epistyle, made up of Pentelic marble, was unearthed in the northeast corner of the Hellenistic Metroon, but apparently it originates from the Tholos and not from the New Bouleuterion, as it had been originally suggested.
Building’s plan
This is a rectangular building with four unfluted columns supporting the roof in the interior.
The building’s dimensions on its toichobate are 21.50 × 16.90m on the exterior, and 20.20 × 15.60m on the interior.
The building's walls, at least in the lower section, were 1.50m thick. The upper part of the structure will have certainly featured windows.
Of the west side columns, all that survives is the trace of their foundation on the bedrock. Of the northeast column only one of the foundation blocks remains, made up of soft poros. Of the southeast column only the foundation survives. It has been deduced that their lower diameter measured approx. 0.624m. Parts of their tympana and their Ionic capitals survive. Along the columns of the eastern side a low abutment survives – it obviously supported a wall made up of perishable material, of which no traces remain, or it functioned as a supporting wall for the auditorium-like construction inside the Bouleuterion.
In its interior we have represented the New Bouleuterion. It probably comprised wooden benches resting on wooden beams. In this case, their arrangement would have been polygonal or orthogonal, and the benches probably had a southern orientation.
The arrangement of the floor supports the view that some kind of an auditorium existed in the interior of the building: the bedrock had been carefully dug out so as to create a gradient in west, north and south side gently sloping towards the centre of the east side, where the ‘orchestra’ of the amphitheatre would have been formed.
With respect to the amphitheatre, the east side of the building created a kind of parodos. For this reason, the excavators suggest the placement of the building’s entrances to the southeast and the northwest. There is also a view that a third entrance existed, in the middle of the east side, but there is no evidence for this. In the drawing published by Mc Camp (p. 117, fig. 67), a monumental entrance with 4 columns is represented in the east side of the building, on the same line with the 4 central columns of the Hellenistic propylon.
Later, during the Hellenistic period, the wooden seats were replaced by stone ones of a semicircular arrangement, as indicated by the curved marble slabs of the floor which supported the benches, but also by the cuttings on the bedrock. Based on a Hymetian marble bench discovered in the great duct of the Agora, the Hellenistic amphitheatre was represented using a circle with a radius of 2.64m. Twelve seating rows are represented, with an average width of 0.62m, while the width of each seat should have been at least 0.50m, so that the 500 bouleutai could be -marginally- accommodated.
The sources mention an altar dedicated to Hestia Boulaia in the middle of the orchestra. A fragment from a large Pentelic marble altar discovered in the southwest corner of the Old Bouleuterion could originate from this altar. It measures 0.855m in length, and survives to a height of 0.79m. Other sources relate that a shrine dedicated to Zeus Boulaios and Athena Boulaia also existed inside the Bouleuterion, where the members of the Boule prayed.
When Pausanias visited the Bouleuterion in the 2nd cent. AD, he witnessed a xoanon of Zeus Boulaios and the statues of Demos and Apollo Prostaterios, by the obscure sculptors Peisias and Lyson respectively. In the tables of the thesmothetai, a work by Protegenes of Kaunos is also mentioned and another one by the otherwise unknown Olbiades portraying Kallipos (a hero of the 279 BC war against the Gauls). It is thought that these Hellenistic paintings adorned the building’s extension formed by the addition of the propylon in the south.
Literary sources mention a kind of wooden fence (dryphaktoi), dividing the area dedicated to the business of the Boule from that which visitors or other persons could visit. Some sort of a fence or rope should have also been used in the surrounding space, barring access to people having no business in the Bouleuterion.
Propylon in the Old Bouleuterion
The space leading up to the building acquired a more monumental aspect during the Hellenistic period. An Ionic propylon was constructed in the southeast corner of the Old Bouleuterion, adjoining a polygonal wall to the west, along the southwest corner of this building’s foundation. This wall follows the course of the Bouleuterion’s south wall, thus creating a narrow passageway to the New Bouleuterion. It was constructed to control access to the New Bouleuterion, but also to compensate for the difference in elevation between the Old and New Bouleuterion.
Several architectural members survive from this propylon, which based on the pottery discovered in its foundations has been dated to the beginning of the 3rd cent. BC at the earliest. Its foundation comprises soft fair coloured poros blocks infilled with Acropolis limestone. The layer of the euthenteria was 0.41m in height. A block from the first step has been discovered in the northeast corner. Parts of two steps survive in the eastern section of the foundation.
The propylon was tetrastyle prostyle in its eastern façade, and distyle in antis in its western side.
The length of the propylon has been calculated to 8.5m along its eastern side, with Hymettian marble blocks, 0.225m in height, in the euthenteria. It comprised two steps. The Pentelic marble columns had a lower diameter of 0.604m and an upper diameter of 0.464m; these were in the Ionic order, as indicated by fragments originating from their capitals. The columns bore 24 flutes, while several architectural members of the epistyle, the Ionic frieze and the cornice (with a crowning decorated with egg pattern) survive.
The propylon of the New Bouleuterion, the propylon of the Old Bouleuterion, and the polygonal wall are contemporary. A pit was opened during the same period in the west side of the New Bouleuterion’s forecourt. Later, in the 2nd cent. BC, a new wall was erected around the New Bouleuterion’s forecourt, to further limit visual contact with and physical access to the building.
The building’s uses
This building was designed specifically as a Bouleuterion (council house), obviously because the capacity of the so-called Old Bouleuterion was judged inadequate for the needs of the city. This structure was built after the fire of 412/411 BC, which destroyed the Tholos and damaged the Old Bouleuterion, and throughout its history functioned as the Bouleuterion of the city of Athens. After the sack of 267 AD it was rebuilt, but its final use is uncertain.
Its surrounding space was not particularly monumental: only two monument bases have survived. The floor was made up of compacted earth, and apparently the area, behind the Tholos and the Old Bouleuterion, was not visible from the Agora square. Apart from the bouleutai, this was evidently not a place frequented by many Athenians.
A monumental Ionic propylon was constructed during the Hellenistic period. Its foundations were made up of hard grey poros blocks, while the floor was composed of compacted earth. Based on the traces in the foundations, we have represented a propylon of 8 Ionic columns on its long, east side, with a depth of 2 columns in the east and west. The columns, with a lower diameter of 0.856m, were crafted of Pentelic marble. The roof of the propylon leaned on the south wall, at such a height so as to not obstruct the windows.
Αρχαία Αγορά της Αθήνας – Άρειος Πάγος. Σύντομο Ιστορικό και Περιήγηση, Έκδοση της Ένωσης Φίλων Ακροπόλεως (Αθήνα 2004), p. 11.
BOERSMA, J.S., Athenian Building Policy from 561/560 to 405/404 B.C. (Scripta Archaeologica Groningana 4, Groningen 1970), pp. 91, 204, no. 77.
Mc CAMP II, J., The Athenian Agora: A Guide to the Excavation and Museum4, (Αθήνα 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), p. 14.
Mc CAMP II, J., Η Αρχαία Αγορά της Αθήνας. Οι ανασκαφές στην καρδιά της κλασικής πόλης2 (Αθήνα 2004), pp. 116-117.
THOMPSON, H.A., ‘Buildings on the West Side of the Athenian Agora’, Hesperia 6 (1937), pp. 1-222 (esp. pp. 140-172).
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. 31-35.
TRAVLOS, J., Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Athens (Princeton 1971).

New Bouleuterion, 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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