wycherley: the ionian agora

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The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 62 (1942), pp. 21-32


  • The Ionian AgoraAuthor(s): R. E. WycherleySource: The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 62 (1942), pp. 21-32Published by: The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic StudiesStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/626710 .Accessed: 04/08/2014 17:37

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  • THE IONIAN AGORA THE agora, the nucleus of all Greek cities, was in the beginning simply a convenient

    open space, around which buildings were irregularly placed. With the growth of systematic planning in Ionia a new type was evolved, and henceforth the old-fashioned agora and the Ionian existed side by side. Several years ago F. J. Tritsch wrote an account I of the old type of agora, taking Elis (Fig. I) as the best example. Since then Athens has yielded richer and more interesting material. The new evidence clarifies and confirms the picture drawn by Tritsch, which may still be accepted as true in principle. One might, however, attempt a brief general account of the new or Ionian agora, which has not perhaps been given the place it deserves in the history of Hellenic architecture. Finally, since remarkable Hellenistic

    A -

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    Pausanias' Route



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    (From Oe. J. XXVII, fig. 77.)

    developments have been revealed in the Athenian agora, one is prompted to ask whether the influence of new ideas and methods produced modifications in the older type.

    The difference between the two kinds of agora depends on the treatment of the stoas, as Pausanias 2 realised. The stoa was, in fact, the most characteristic building of the classical Greek town, particularly of its agora. Dependent and interior uses of colonnades are not particularly Hellenic; they were common in Egyptian and Minoan-Mycenean architecture, and were perhaps traditional in Greece. The stoa which was so characteristic of the Hellenic cities was an independent architectural unit. Possibly it was evolved from earlier dependent forms. One is tempted to see in some features of the later Greek town the result of the opening-up or spreading-out of a royal palace, as royal functions were split up between

    1 Jahreshefte des Ost. Arch. Inst. xxvii. (1932), 64-105. 2 VI. xxiv. 2. 21I

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  • 22 R. E. WYCHERLEY

    magistrates. The hearth of the Prytaneion is the royal hearth. The chamber where the king meets his counsellors becomes the Bouleuterion, the shrines become independent temples. In place of the colonnades of the palace courts are stoas built on the public places of the city, providing the citizens with pleasant spots in which to gather and talk and do business. The connexion may be fanciful. The type of architecture which might have been labelled 'stoic ', if the word had not been appropriated for higher uses, was natural in Greece in any case; it suited the climate, was adaptable to a variety of uses and had great architectural possi- bilities. Whatever its origin,3 the stoa-later a combination of stoas-was developed as an independent factor and became a dominating feature.

    In the old-fashioned agora the buildings in general and the stoas in particular were irregularly placed, and did not form a single architectural whole, except perhaps in a vague sense. The words used by Pausanias about Elis probably imply more than that the stoas were ' separated ' from each other-the north stoa at Ionian Priene was separated from the rest; 'standing independently of one another' perhaps conveys his meaning better, or even ' scattered here and there.' The picture he tries to give is of an area cut up by streets and with stoas placed as separate units about it.

    When he speaks of' the cities of Ionia and the Greek cities near Ionia,' Pausanias is no doubt thinking of those which, like Miletus and Priene, were laid out and built according to a single scheme. He implies by contrast that in these the agora was distinguished by groups of stoas built contiguous to one another, and forming a single whole. Though by Pausanias' time certain alien tendencies had set in, this is, in fact, precisely what characterises the agoras of the best-planned towns. One need not go further and single out a particular scheme as the regular type. The so-called ' horseshoe' 4-three stoas at right angles-was favoured, but there were variations and other possibilities. Before good examples were revealed by excavation it was often assumed that the ideal consisted of four stoas completely enclosing a rectangular space. This idea, though thoroughly disproved,5 dies hard. Vitruvius 6 certainly says that the Greeks made their 'fora' 'in quadrato'; but he is describing a late type, which can hardly be all that the agora in the full sense of the word was to a classical town.

    To investigate the real nature of the Ionian agora one must go back to Hippodamus and fifth-century town-planning. The Hippodamian system did not change the vital char- acter of the Greek city 7--old and new cities alike were all that ' polis ' implies, and had the same essential parts. But architecturally the reforms were important enough. The develop- ment which had formerly been haphazard and partly unconscious was now carefully con- trolled and subordinated to a fixed design, though not necessarily much'more rapid. The agora was still at first a convenient open space in which the citizens could gather for various purposes; but it had its proper place in the dominating system of sets of parallel streets at right angles to each other. Possible future needs could be calculated better than before in planning the whole city and in assigning a place to the agora. An area of suitable size and situation was reserved.

    This is all one can say as far as the fifth century is concerned. The task of evolving appropriate building schemes was left to the fourth and later centuries. Hippodamus came from Miletus to apply the new methods at Peiraeus in the middle of the fifth, and the agora was called 'Hippodameia' after him, but this need not mean more than that he allotted its position and marked it out; there is no reason to believe that he erected stoas or other buildings around; indeed, the fact that a house could stand upon it in the fourth century 8

    3 G. Leroux (Origines de l'?difice Hypostyle, p. 185) called the stoa (in its common form with interior columns) an elongated megaron with a central row of interior supports, of which one side has been replaced by a colonnade. But the essential openness of the stoa makes it different in principle from any kind of megaron. Possibly its simplest form (as in the stoa of the Athenians at Delphi) was suggested by simple lean-to shelters placed against a wall, and other forms were developed from this.

    4 The German writers constantly use the term 'Huf- eisen'; the arrangement could be compared more aptly to goal-posts.

    5 A. von Gerkan, Griechische Stddteanlagen, p. 94- 6 V. i. 7 Cf. Tritsch, Die Stadtbildungen des Altertums und die

    Griechische Polis. Klio, xxii. (1929), 1-83; see p. 76. 8 Cf. Demosthenes (?) xlix. 22; see W. Judeich, Topo- graphie von Athen (193i), p. 452.

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  • THE IONIAN AGORA 23 indicates that even then a certain openness was preserved. Little is known of this agora; it was probably a large square, a centre of both commerce and political life.

    The richest material for the history of the Ionian agora is provided by Miletus, greatest of the Ionian cities (Fig. 2). Here one can see what could be done at a city with growing resources, whose architects were gifted with powers of vision. Miletus was, of course, a very ancient town, and irregular in its archaic form. Its destruction by the Persians was very thorough, and the Milesian survivors, unlike the returning Athenians, planned a new and modern city. The chessboard plan seems to have involved the whole peninsula from the first,9 though building would proceed slowly as the population grew and prosperity gradually returned. The Milesians apparently had visions of their city regaining much of its former greatness, and planned accordingly. An extensive central area, comparatively low-lying and

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    FIG. 2.-MILETUS: AGORA AREA IN MIDDLE OF SECOND CENTURY B.C. (Plans from Milet, I. ii, vi and vii.)

    flat, was reserved for development as agora-there is no sign of houses having to be cleared away for the great architectural schemes carried out later.10

    Early in the fourth century the agora had hardly even begun to