Stoa (architecture)

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The ancient stoa of Attalus in Athens (reconstruction)

A stoa ( ancient Greek Στοά , plural Stoen ) is a hall that is closed on the back and usually also on the narrow sides, the open front of which is structured by supports, usually in the form of columns . In the rear part it can hold further rooms, in its open area it can be divided into two, very rarely into three naves by means of columns. Multi-storey impacts are proven. The Greek philosophy school of the Stoa and its teaching were named after a representative of this type of building.


Stoen can already be detected in the Minoan and Mycenaean architecture. From the 7th century BC They belong to the permanent repertoire of Greek architecture. Already two aisles is an approximately 70 meter long and free-standing stoa in the Heraion of Samos from the late 7th century BC. Other early representatives of this type are from the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Occupied for Argos , Delos and Didyma .

Soon after 478 BC The Athenians donated a stoa in the sanctuary in Delphi . The “Hall of the Athenians” leans against the mighty polygonal wall that supports the slope of the Temple of Apollo . With its slender Ionic columns supported by wooden beams, the hall hid loot from the Persian Wars . If not free-standing, it is addressed as the Stoa.

From the 5th century BC The porticoed halls can be extended by corner risalites , as in the one around 430 BC. Stoa Eleutherios erected on the Athens agora . The southern stoa in the sanctuary of Olympia from the 4th century BC. BC shows a central projection with open side wings. From the late 4th century BC The column positions, which until then had always been designed in antis , could be continued on the narrow sides. In some halls, such as the Agora in Sikyon , this was implemented for only one yoke depth, in others the side walls were completely replaced by lateral pillars - for example on the south and south-east Stoa in Olympia.

Columns were predominantly chosen as the support motif of the fronts. But there are also pillars with both square and rectangular floor plans, which could also be chamfered to form an octagon at the corners, as in the hall of the street sanctuary of Kassope . Finally, both motifs, angular pillar and round column, could also be combined alternately, as can be demonstrated in the halls in Andros and Corinth .

Partly restored remains (eastern corner projections) of the stoa of the Acropolis of Lindos

Between the 4th and 2nd centuries BC The stoa was an essential and formative part of the sanctuaries and agora of a city. As in the sanctuaries of Lindos , Kos and Pergamon , they increasingly determined the appearance of a town from a distance. Originally it had the function of offering visitors or objects protection from sun, rain and wind or, as in the case of the Stoa Basileios in Athens, as the official residence of the Archon basileus , in the Hellenistic period it could also accommodate shops and office rooms. The most famous example is that of the 2nd century BC. Stoa of Attalus , donated to Athens by Attalus II. , Two-aisled with rear shutters over two floors.

The stoa as a building type

The stoa is an independent and therefore free-standing structure. It differs in this from the portico , which is based on the existing building fabric . The stoa had a distinctly facade-like character, as it opened up to squares and, more rarely, to streets, but the design of the back was always neglected. The Stoa was a characteristic element of Greek architecture , but as a structure that was dependent on its surroundings, it did not represent the usually autonomous character of Greek buildings. Hence their conception hardly followed internal laws and proportions, but rather external needs. Its length was determined according to practical and economic aspects, its structure in height remained unaffected.

From the Hellenistic period onwards, one of the few regular design principles was halving the yokes of the inner column positions compared to the front column positions of two-aisled lobes. The outer columns were then mostly Doric order , the inner columns Ionic order .

With the increasing "occupation" of the peripheral development of public spaces by Stoen, it was inevitable that two of these structures were built next to each other in their rear part and referred to different squares or areas of the square. Consistent continuation of this type of square design was in the 2nd century BC. The construction of the so-called Mittelstoa on the Agora of Athens. Here, as it were, two pillared halls were merged with one another: The elongated hall had a row of pillars ( peristasis ) running around it on all sides , and inside there was a central partition wall that was not completely drawn through to the ends. The partition wall was formed by a column position closed by shear walls. All elements of a stoa were connected and at the same time reinterpreted: front and center column position as well as rear wall. In addition, both hall sections were connected to one another by three passages in the shear walls. The central stoa is the only verifiable solution in which the stoa was interpreted as an autonomous building on all sides.

The Stoa can be distinguished from other ancient Greek hall types such as the Lesche or the Skeuothek . Nonetheless, the motif of the frontal row of columns that has been practiced on it was transferred to other types of buildings, and the columned hall was placed in front of other structures. The development of the market basilica may ultimately have started from the three-aisled solutions of the Stoa , at least the still Hellenistic basilica in Palestrina suggests such a connection.

See also