The Attalids in Athens

The Stoa of Attalos © David Gill

I am looking forward to next in the seminar series from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens that will be looking at the Stoa of Attalos that forms the eastern edge of the Athenian Agora.

Complex heritage sites like the Athenian Agora and the Akropolis can present a series of narratives. The two-storeyed colonnade or stoa was dedicated by King Attalos II of Pergamon in north-west Anatolia (159–138 BC).

The Eponymous Heroes in the Agora © David Gill

The father of Attalos II, Attalos I (along with Ptolemy III Euergetes), was added to the representation of the ten heroes (The Eponymous Heroes) representing each of the Athenian tribes in 200 BC.

Retaining Wall of the Stoa of Eumenes © David Gill

Eumenes II (197–159 BC), the elder son of Attalos I, added a two-storeyed stoa on the southern slope of the Athenian Akropolis adjacent to the theatre of Dionysos. The rear of the stoa consists of a substantial retaining wall. Above and behind the stoa was the road that ran around the Akropolis and into the theatre of Dionysos. The effect of the colonnade would have mirrored the stoa at Pergamon that flanked the theatre on the slope of the royal city’s akropolis.

Monument of Eumenes II at the north-west corner of the Propylaia © David Gill

A major monument celebrating Eumenes II and dated after 178 BC was placed adjacent to the Pinakotheke at the main western entrance to the Athenian Akropolis. It in effect balances the temple of Athena Nike on the other side of the main access ramp. Eumenes was placed in a four-horse chariot. At the end of the 1st century BC the portrait of Eumenes was replaced by that of Agrippa.

Cutting for the Attalid monument at the north-east corner of the Parthenon © David Gill

The cutting for another Attalid monument, dedicated to Attalos II, can be found immediately to the north-east of the Parthenon. This also supported a monumental chariot; this referenced the chariot of Helios that appears in the most northerly of the metopes on the east side of the Parthenon.

To the east of the Parthenon itself were displayed a series of sculptures, seen by Pausanias (1.25.2), celebrating victories over the giants, the Amazons, the Persians and the Gauls. These had parallels in the sanctuary of Athena on the Pergamon akropolis.

The north-east corner of the Parthenon © David Gill

Tyntesfield and the Areopagos

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Tyntesfield, chapel © David Gill

The chapel at Tyntesfield (managed by the National Trust) contains this stained glass window designed by Harry Ellis Wooldridge in the 1870s. (The chapel was completed in 1875.) The scene shows the Athenians, seated on the rocky Areopagos, listening to Paul. The backdrop is the Athenian akropolis with the Propylaia and the Parthenon. Note that the view of the akropolis is not the one seen from the Areopagos.

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Athens, Akropolis © David Gill

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Athens, akropolis from the Areopagos © David Gill

An olive tree was inserted into the panel.

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Athens, olive tree adjacent to the Erechtheion © David Gill

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.