Reconstructing buildings: the Stoa of Attalos

The Agora and the Stoa of Attalos © David Gill

Reconstructing archaeological remains can be problematic. How do they influence the visitor’s interpretation of an archaeological site? Do they enhance the visit?

The Athenian Agora © David Gill

One of the most successful reconstructions is the two-storeyed Stoa of Attalos that forms the eastern side of the Athenian agora. It is some 116 metres in length. It was given to the city of Athens by Attalos II (159–138 BCE) of Pergamon. The reconstruction was undertaken by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens from 1953 to 1956. Its colonnade not only provides welcome shade to visitors to the site, but the rooms to the rear of the colonnade house the archaeological finds made during the excavations.

Stoa of Attalos © David Gill
Stoa of Attalos © David Gill

The fragmentary dedicatory inscription that was originally placed on the architrave above the lower set of columns is displayed in front of the Stoa. It identified the donors as ‘King Attalos, son of King Attalos, and Queen Apollonis’. The text was not incorporated on the reconstruction in case new fragments required an adjustment.

Dedicatory inscription from the architrave of the Stoa of Attalos © David Gill
Fragmentary inscription from the Stoa of Attalos mentioning Queen Apollonis © David Gill

A large base made of Hymettian marble was found in front of the stoa. This may be the statue mentioned in the dedicatory inscription on the stoa. Cuttings suggest that it supported a bronze chariot, similar to that placed at the western approach to the Athenian acropolis. It was later rededicated to the emperor Tiberius.

Dedicatory base in front of the Stoa of Attalos © David Gill

Author: David Gill

David Gill is Honorary Professor in the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent, and an Academic Associate in SISJAC at UEA; Professor of Archaeological Heritage.

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