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Athens in the Hellenistic Period 4 th – 2 nd century BCE "Hellenistic" Defines the period of Macedonian rule Lasts from 4 th century BCE (when Philip II defeats Athens) until 2 nd century BCE Philip II of Macedon Leader of Macedonia Wanted to expand Macedonian territory

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Athens in the hellenistic period l.jpg

Athens in the Hellenistic Period

4th – 2nd century BCE

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  • Defines the period of Macedonian rule

  • Lasts from 4th century BCE (when Philip II defeats Athens) until 2nd century BCE

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Philip II of Macedon

  • Leader of Macedonia

  • Wanted to expand Macedonian territory

  • 338 - Defeated Thebans and Athenians at Battle of Chaironeia in Boeotia

  • Respected Athen’s distinguished history

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  • Athenians were still hostile toward Macedonians

    • Posted a decree in 337 BCE:

    • “If anyone rise up against the Demos for tyranny or join

    • in establishing the tyranny or overthrow the Demos of Athenians or the democracy of Athens, whoever kills him who does any of these things shall be blameless.

  • Philip II was assassinated 336 BCE, but not in Athens

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Alexander the Great

  • Succeeded Philip

  • Was also inclined to treat Athens with respect

  • Busy with conquests in the east

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New Developments in Athens

  • Athenians were able to recover some lost fortunes

  • Mined silver at Laureion to the southeast

  • Able to build:

    • New Stadium for Panathenaic games

    • Theatre in Precinct of Dionysus

    • Some new structures at the Agora

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New Stadium

  • 330 - Lycurgus (important civic figure) had new stadium built

  • To the southeast of the city

  • Simple structure but was built over later

    • 2nd century AD by Herodes Atticus

    • 1896 for modern Olympic games

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Theatre of Dionysus

  • On the southeast slope of acropolis

  • Originally built around 500 BCE

  • Lycurgus builds first permanent stone theatre in Athens

    • Skene (background building) was made of stone

      • Roof and columned façade

      • 46 m long

  • Auditorium could hold audience of 14,000

    • Divided into wedges by stairways

  • Also constructed a new temple to the south of older, smaller temple to Dionysus Eleuthereus

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New Building Endeavors at Agora



  • Southwest corner of square

  • Major addition to Athenian water supply

  • Possibly marked period of drought

  • Against north face of old lawcourt

  • Flotation device measured water level as it drained

  • Kept time for trials, market opening and closing, etc.

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Temple of Apollo Patroos

  • Along west side of Agora

  • Small plain structure

    • Ionic columns in antis

    • 10 x 16.5 m

  • Contained several statues of Apollo by various artists

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  • 317 – Cassander gains control of Athens

    • Aristocratic government

  • 307/6 – Demetrios Poliorcetes

    • Liberates Athens

    • Democracy is restored, new tribes

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Civil Wars

  • 3rd century BCE

  • 307 – 261 BCE – government changes hands 7 times

  • Disputes between pro-Macedonians and nationalists

  • Bouleuterion shows signs of damage

  • Almost no new buildings in city

    • Square Peristyle – never finished

    • Arsenal

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Philip V of Macedon: More War

  • New war between Philip V and Greeks toward end of 3rd century

    • First Macedonian War

  • Romans aided Athens against Macedonians

  • Philip attacked and damaged buildings/graves outside city walls

  • 2nd century: Rome defeats Philip

    • Ushered in period of relative stability and independence in Athens

    • With new stability, could undertake civic building projects

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Reorganization of Agora

  • Attempt to impose sense of order and regularity

  • Stoa of Attalos II

  • New South Stoa (South Stoa II)

  • Middle Stoa

  • East building

  • New area known as the south square

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2nd century Changes in the Agora



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Stoa of Attalos

  • Attalos II of Pergamon

  • Show of gratitude

  • Two-storey

  • Marble façade, walls of stone from Peiraeus, terra cotta roof

  • Rooms behind colonnades were probably shops

  • Stoa recreated in the 20th century

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Middle Stoa – constructed ca. 180 BCE

  • Built at right angle to Stoa of Attalos

  • Single-storey

  • Doric colonnades on all sides

  • Inner ionic colonnade divided stoa into two aisles

  • Middle Stoa, East building, and South Stoa II to form South Square

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East building

  • Connected to both South Stoa II and Middle Stoa

  • Divided in two length-wise

    • Eastern section faced Panathenaic way and consisted of one room

    • Western section faced the direction of the Agora and had five square rooms

  • Helped form a new area called the South Square

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South Stoa II

  • Parallel to the Middle Stoa

  • Doric single-aisled stoa

    • North side 30 columns

    • Walls on south, east, west sides

  • Replaced an earlier structure (South Stoa I)

    • Was angled differently than the earlier building

    • An attempt to regularize the area

  • Connected to old law court building at west end

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South Square

  • Area closed-off by Middle Stoa, South Stoa, and East building

  • What was function?

    • First labeled as a commercial agora

    • New buildings were erected here just as old law court enclosures were abandoned for Stoa of Attalos

    • In the middle there are two rectangular foundations for small temples dated to 100 BCE

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Closing thoughts

  • When Athens was independent from foreign rule, civic architecture flourished

  • Conversely, during periods of war and instability there was little architectural development

  • Agora was a center of architectural development in Hellenistic period

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  • Camp, John M. – The Athenian Agora: Excavations in the Heart of Classical Athens

  • Tomlinson, Richard – From Mycenae to Constantinople

  • Wycherley, R.E. – The Stones of Athens

  • Perseus Building Catalogue: