The Tholos at Athens

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The tholos in the Athenian Agora © David Gill

The tholos is located at the southern end of a line of buildings linked to the Athenian democracy. These are positioned on the west side of the Agora, tucked into the Kolonos Agoraios.

The tholos was constructed in the 460s BC, and served as the headquarters of executive of the council (boule) that was situated in an adjacent building.

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The Athenian Agora and Akropolis © David Gill

Further details and reconstruction from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens [ASCSA].

Traces of history and the Parthenon

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Parthenon, north-east corner © David Gill

It is important to remember that the Parthenon was in use over several centuries and that it was adapted through time. In this north-east corner of the pediment is the (replica) of one of the horses of Selene, and at the south-east corner Helios emerging.

Below the pediment is a series of metopes showing a gigantomachy. (This theme was developed by the later Attalid sculptures, dated after 200 BC, placed in front of the east end of the Parthenon.)

The north-east corner of the Parthenon was later obscured by the construction of the Attalid monument, surmounted by a bronze chariot, for Attalos II, c. 178 BC. His chariot made the visual connection with the chariot containing Selene.

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Parthenon, south-east corner © David Gill

On the architrave below each metope is a hole with the shadow of a circle. These are where the 14 gilded shields from Alexander the Great’s victory at Granikos (334 BC) were mounted. Thus Alexander was making the point that his victory over the Persians was as heroic as the gigantomachy.

Between each of the shields, and immediately below the triglyphs, are a series of holes. These are the traces of a bronze inscription that was pegged onto the architrave during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in AD 61/2. This text honoured Nero, and it was erected by Tiberius Claudius Novius. They may have reflected Nero’s campaigns against the ‘new’ Persians, in the areas of Armenia and Parthia. In this way the dedication picked up the original 5th century BC Athenian iconography that celebrated the Hellenic victories over the Persians at Salamis and Plataia.

Whose heritage?

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© David Gill

Standing at the west end of the Athenian akropolis the viewer is faced with a dilemma about the heritage. The main entrance to the akropolis was constructed in the third quarter of the fifth century BC as part of the Periklean building programme. But the Attalid dynasty from Pergamon (in modern Turkey) constructed a victory monument on the north side. This in turn was remodelled in the early Roman imperial period.

So this Hellenic monument can be linked to a range of modern nation states.