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

The Death of General Wolfe


Earlier this evening I attended a lecture by Loyd Grossman on Benjamin West’s painting ‘The Death of General Wolfe’ that hangs in Ickworth (see here). One of the points made was West’s knowledge of classical sculpture from his Grand Tour visit to Rome. Wolfe’s body evokes, to my eye, the Dying Gaul displayed in Rome. Note that a musket lies at Wolfe’s feet instead of the sword and trumpet on the base of the Dying Gaul.

Dying Gaul © David Gill
Dying Gaul © David Gill

Detail on the base of the Dying Gaul © David Gill
Detail on the base of the Dying Gaul © David Gill

Whose heritage?

Image
© 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.