Monday, December 5, 2011

THE AGORA OF ATHENS, ARCHITECTURE




In the previous post we reviewed the historical process of urban formation of the Athenian Agora. This time we will discuss 4 representative buildings of different historical periods, and that still remain in some extent to this day. These are: Temple of Hephaestus (classical times,) the Stoa of Attalus (Hellenistic period), the Odeion of Agrippa (Roman period) and the Church of the Holy Apostles (Byzantine period).

Temple of Hephaestus or Hephaesteion (449-415 BC)


Despite being the oldest building that remains in the agora, built in the second half of the fifth century BC, the Hephaesteion is the best preserved Doric temple in all mainland Greece.


Its location on top the hillock Kolonos Agorarios gives a privileged vista of the complex, while standing out above the skyline of the agora.


It was dedicated to Hephaestus, god of fire and the forge (whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan) and Athena, goddess of arts and crafts. Hence, near the temple there were several shops devoted to the manufacture of metal objects.
The temple, of 31.8 m x 13.7 m, consists of a pronaos or portico preceding a central cella from east to west and surrounded by a Doric colonnade of 6 lateral columns and 13 in the front side (counting twice the columns in the corners).

Original layout of the Temple of Hephaestus and after conversion into a church.

As it is known, Doric columns have no bases (rely directly on the stylobate , the third of three steps that make up the krepidoma or platform on which the temple stands).


Its shaft is fluted and robust, wider at the bottom and is comprised of various drum-like pieces that perfectly strung together.



Its capital is simple, consisting of three parts: a collar, an echinus (an inverted flattened hemisphere) and an abacus (a flat box). Interestingly, for the researcher Dr. Robert Garland, it was the Doric order and not the Corinthian then one which came from Corinth.




The entablatures are decorated with war motifs: on the eastern side Heracles is represented and the western side corresponds to Theseus. For this reason, for many centuries it was thought that this would be the temple dedicated to the latter, and it was called Theseion, when the actual location of the agora was still unknown.


There is also evidence that the temple would have been surrounded by gardens, probably during the Hellenistic period.

Later in the seventh century the temple became the church of Saint George Akamates (and that is the reason for its excellent state of preservation), to which an apse was added later on the east side (where the Sun rises, and for that reason the altar was placed here), and a transept. However, the mythological figures were mutilated, with the exception of a Minotaur in the south that has kept his head. The church was demolished in order to appreciate the original temple.



STOA OF ATTALOS


The stoas are the quintessential Greek civic buildings. Business functions accommodated and provided a key element for the Mediterranean climate: protection against the hot sun in summer and rain in the winter.


This Stoa, of 115 m x 20 m, was located defining the eastern edge of the agora. It was made ​​by King Attalus II of Pergamon (158-138 BC), who studied in Athens and, to pay homage to the city he loved, he built it a "mall".


The building followed the typical pattern of the stoa: a row 42 commercial stands preceeded by a double Doric and Ionic colonnade, supporting a wooden roof. The same pattern was repeated in a second level. The colonnade provided ventilation and shade to the rooms, without depriving them of sufficient lighting.



White Pentelic and blue Hymettian marble was used, along with limestone for the walls. Also Sunsequently in Roman times, the floor that connected to the adjacent Roman Agora was also covered in marble the.



The building remained in existence for several centuries, until it was partially destroyed by the Heruli in 267 AD. It was completely restored between 1953-57 by the Society for American Archaeology (whom we owe the discovery of the agora and the systematic surveys and excavations for more than 75 years). The restoration included a basement for storage, a museum on the first level and offices and workshops in the second floor.



ODEION OF AGRIPPA

Located in the center of the public space, this great concert hall or oideion was a gift of Agrippa to the Athenians, a general and nephew of the Emperor Augustus, who also built the original Pantheon in Rome.


The Odeion, built in 15 BC was a huge two-story structure with capacity for 1000 spectators and had an orchestra made of marble and a raised stage. It is surrounded on three sides by a cryptoporticus (an underground colonnade), upon which small stoas were located.

Left: original plant Odeion of Agrippa. Right: additions during the late Roman period (fifth century AD), when it became part of a palace complex.
Section

However, the building collapsed near 150 AD due to the long span of the auditorium (25 m) but was rebuilt as a lecture hall for 500 seats, with a north face more elaborate than before, including pillars with sculptures of giants (men with snake tail) and tritons (fish-tailed men), figures that have survived until today.



CHURCH OF THE HOLY APOSTLES



This is a small, well preserved church dating from around 1000 AD, and given its age and excellent state of preservation, it was decided to restore it (unlike other recent churches that used to stand on the ground of the agora, which were demolished during the excavations).


The original layout follows the pattern of a Greek cross, in which its four arms are basically the same size (unlike the Roman cross layout of other European churches, where one arm extends considerably more than the other three). However, this layout has unique characteristics, since each side ends in a semicircular apse.


The central dome is supported by four central columns.
The exterior walls are adorned with a decorative brick called " Kufic ".


Meanwhile, the interior is decorated with frescoes dating from the seventeenth century.




***

In the next post we will discuss some comparisons between the Roman Forum and the Athenian agora.

SEE ALSO
- CLASSICAL ARCHITECTURE
Holding my breath in front of the Hephaesteion.

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