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date: 20 October 2019


The name stoa is applied to various types of building, comprising essentially an open colonnade, generally in the Doric order (see orders, architectural), and a roof over the space to a rear wall.

There are many possible elaborations of this simplest type. An interior colonnade may be added, often of Ionic columns rather than the outer Doric, supporting the ridge of the roof. This gives more usable space (the Ionic columns being at double the exterior interval to minimize obstruction). Rooms may be added, behind the wall.

In plan, they may be elaborated by construction of additional wings, to give ▢ and ⊓ shaped structures, or completely surrounding a courtyard. Most are single storey. One of the first stoas to have an additional storey is that constructed about 300 bce at Perachora, where ground space is severely limited; the upper colonnade is Ionic, a distinction which becomes normal in two-storey stoas. See also aegae. Pergamene architects constructed stoas to an even greater height, by building them against terraces, facing inward over the terrace and outward in the form of basements utilized for storage and shops. See pergamum.

In their simplest form they provide shade and shelter, whether for people watching religious activities in a sanctuary (the stoa at the Samian Heraion, of the 7th cent. bce; see samos) or engaged in the various activities of the agora; these can be political, judicial, or social, whether philosophical discussions (see stoa poecile) or feasting (the south stoa of the Athenian agora has a series of rooms behind its double-aisled facade clearly arranged to accommodate dining couches).

Rooms behind the north stoa of the agora at Priene were covered with official inscriptions, suggesting they served as a record office; varied but indefinable office functions can be attributed to rooms behind other stoas, such as the Stoa of Attalus at Athens. See athens, topography.

In sanctuaries, stoas are inevitably ancillary to the main religious structures. As architecture, their main impact is on the agora, which they help to define by being placed on the boundary. In the agoras of planned cities this can lead to their being nothing more than linked lines of columns defining a regular shape. In the irregular agoras of unplanned cities, more variety is possible. Thus the agora at Athens, already by the end of the 5th cent., had acquired several stoas of differing forms and functions.

Construction is generally inferior in quality to temples. Stone work is limestone, not marble, columns are more spaced; the cheaper Doric is preferred to Ionic even in east Greece. Floors are often of beaten earth, walls may be mudbrick. Quality improves in the Hellenistic period, especially in stoas like that of Attalus II at Athens, a royal gift to the city.

See basilica; portico.


R. Martin, Recherches sur l'Agora grecque (1951), 440 ff.Find this resource:

R. E. Wycherley, How the Greeks Built Cities2 (1962), 110 ff.Find this resource:

J. J. Coulton, The Architectural Development of the Greek Stoa (1976).Google PreviewWorldCat A. Kottaridi, in D. McCarthy (ed.), Heracles to Alexander the Great (2011),Google PreviewWorldCat App. (the palace at Aegae, now redated to *Philip (1) II, with two two-storey stoas).

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