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date: 02 December 2021



  • Malcolm Bell, III


The bouleuterion housed the boule or council of a Greek polis in the form of a roofed meeting space. Most, if not all, cities had one; the remains of more than fifty buildings are extant. Although there were also bouleuteria in large sanctuaries and federal capitals, the major examples are urban. Bouleuteria were almost always located near a city’s agora. Over time their architects designed increasingly unobstructed interior spaces.

Construction of dedicated bouleuteria began in the late archaic period; earlier councils may have met in porticoes or other buildings. Councils were generally composed of 100–500 bouletai and required a capacious meeting place; the bouleuterion became one of a city’s largest secular buildings. In the 5th and 4th centuries bce, the usual form was a hypostyle hall with symmetrically spaced interior columns, level floors, and seating on benches, as at Argos and Athens. Sloping stone seating was introduced early in the Hellenistic era and became standard; both rectilinear and curvilinear versions are known, the latter much more common. Secondary meeting spaces for committees of prytaneis or probouloi were sometimes adjacent. From c. 250 bce the design of bouleuteria became increasingly ambitious. After adoption of the wooden roofing truss, interior supports could be more widely spaced, as at Priene and Miletus, and eventually eliminated. Often the product of Hellenistic and Roman euergetism, bouleuteria were constructed by private citizens and rulers; sculptures were often dedicated within their precincts. Rare architectural sculpture was limited to motifs symbolizing the council’s role as a defense against a city’s enemies.

A majority of known bouleuteria are in Asia Minor, where Greek cities long retained their civic identity under Rome; membership in the council came to signify high status, in some places becoming hereditary. Many bouleuteria were built between the 2nd century bce and 2nd century ce, often incorporated, as at Ephesus and Aphrodisias, into large urban complexes. As multivalent roofed halls, bouleuteria provided useful settings for civic ceremonies and were often used for cultural activities including oratory and spectacle. Later examples became more like odeia or roofed theaters, with vast open interiors, a raised stage, and a two-storey scaenae frons that was separated from the cavea by parodoi and populated by sculptures of benefactors, deities, and emperors. When epigraphical evidence is lacking, identification of a later building as an odeion or bouleuterion can be uncertain; while some roofed halls may have served both functions, location on or near the agora points at least to political use. In Asia Minor some bouleuteria continued into the late antique period; the building at Nysa may have survived until the 10th or 11th century ce.


  • Greek Material Culture


As the seat of a major civic institution, the bouleuterion was usually placed near a city’s political center.1 Large roofed buildings did not, however, fit comfortably into the open public space of the agora, which was reserved for outdoor political, religious, and social activity; bouleuteria were consequently sited on the periphery, often among the stoas and other structures that framed the open center (Figs. 14).

Figure 1. Athens, plan of the agora, c. 300 bce.

Courtesy of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Figure 2. Assos, plan of the agora with bouleuterion on east side. From Investigations at Assos: Joseph T. Clarke, Francis H. Bacon, and Robert Koldewey, Investigations at Assos (Cambridge, MA: Archaeological Institute of America 1902–1921), Fig. 4.

Figure 3. Sicyon, plan of Hellenistic city center. From Yannis Lolos and Ben Gourley, “The Town Planning of Hellenistic Sikyon,” Archäologischer Anzeiger 1 (2011), 94, Fig. 6.

Figure 4. Priene, plan of Hellenistic agora. From Theodor Wiegand] and Hans Schrader. Priene: Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen und Untersuchungen in den Jahren 1895–1898 (Berlin: Reimer, 1904).

The early buildings were free-standing and box-like (Fig. 5). Rarely did a bouleuterion dominate one side of the agora, as it did at Assos (Fig. 6). Essentially an interior space, the bouleuterion never gained a characteristic façade, as peristyle temples had done. In the Hellenistic era and later, bouleuteria were often entered from stoas, behind which they might effectively be hidden, as at Stratos (3rd century bce), Iaitas (2nd century bce), and Iasus(1st century ce; see Fig. 7). Even the façade of the remarkable building at Priene, which initially fronted the agora, was masked by the eventual construction of a stoa (Fig. 4). The impressive bouleuteria at Ephesus (Fig. 8) and Aphrodisias (Fig. 9) of Roman imperial date were entered respectively from a basilica and a stoa; both were elements in coordinated, large-scale urbanistic compositions.

Figure 5. Athens, Old Bouleuterion, restored view, drawing by Richard C. Anderson.

Courtesy of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

Figure 6. Assos, perspective view by Robert Koldewey of agora, bouleuterion at east. From Clarke, Bacon, and Koldewey, Investigations at Assos, 27.

Figure 7. Iasus, aerial view of bouleuterion and stoa, second century ce.

Courtesy of Yachtworks.

Figure 8. Ephesus, section and elevation of early imperial bouleuterion, drawing by Lionel Bier. From Ephesus: Bier, 2014.

Courtesy Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut.

Figure 9. Aphrodisias, aerial view of bouleuterion, 3rd century ce.

Courtesy of New York University Excavations at Aphrodisias.

In cities with regular orthogonal plans, the problem of siting a bouleuterion could be solved by placing it on a house lot bordering the agora, as happened at Morgantina and Priene, where two lots were taken. At Miletus(Fig. 10), the large and impressive Hellenistic bouleuterion occupied an entire city block between the city’s two agoras. The eventual adoption of sloping stone seating in the early Hellenistic period suggested, where possible, a hillside near the agora, as at Priene (Fig. 11), Ephesus, Aegae, Arycanda, and Ariassus (Fig. 12). On level sites, the seating had to be supported instead on artificial fill, as at Athens, Miletus, and Morgantina; later in the Roman era vaulting was used for the purpose, as at Cos, Nysa, Iasus (Fig. 7), and Aphrodisias (Fig. 9).

Figure 10. Miletus, plan of bouleuterion, 175–163 bce. From Fritz Krischen, Antike Rathäuser (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1941), Taf. 25.

Figure 11. Priene, view of bouleuterion, 1904, c.1904.

Photo courtesy Staatliche Museen zu Berlin—Antikensammlung, Neg.-Nr. PM 1114.

Figure 12. Ariassus, Hellenistic agora with bouleuterion. From Ariassus: Stephen Mitchell, “Ariassos 1990,” Anatolian Studies 4 (1991): Fig. 2. Plan courtesy British Institute at Ankara.

Figure 13. Acrae, plan of bouleuterion and theater, third century bce. From Acrae: Luigi Bernabò Brea, Akrai (Catania, Italy: Società di Storia Patria per la Sicilia Orientale, 1956), tav. A.

Beginning in the Hellenistic era, several bouleuteria appear to have been intentionally placed near theaters, which commonly served as the meeting place of the citizen assembly or ekklesia; such proximity enhanced communication between a city’s primary political bodies.2 This was the case in Sicilian Soluntum, Iaitas, and Acrae, where an underground passage even connected the two meeting places (Fig. 13). Adjacent bouleuteria and theaters are also found at the sanctuary site of Dodona in Epirus, capital of the Aetolian League; at Perge, Sillyon, Patara in Asia Minor; and at Philadelphia (Amman) in Palestine. Only at Antiphellus in Asia Minor does it appear that the council house was situated far from both agora and theater.3


In some cities, the dimensions of the bouleuterion reflected the actual size of the boule.4 After c. 400 bce, the large council in Athens met in a relatively modest building replacing the Old Bouleuterion (Fig. 1); the new one appears to have been designed specifically for its 500 members.5 Later increases in the number of Athenian bouletai may have resulted in crowding with full attendance. Early Hellenistic bouleuteria in smaller cities like Acrae (Fig. 14) and Morgantina (Fig. 15) could seat c. 100 persons, a number that must correspond to the size of the local council.

Figure 14. Acrae, view of bouleuterion from south, photograph by Erik E. Thorkildsen.

Figure 15. Morgantina, plan of bouleuterion, mid-3rd century bce, by Erik Thorkildsen.

Courtesy American Excavations at Morgantina.

Figure 16. Priene, restored view of bouleuterion, looking south, drawing by Fritz Krischen. From Fritz Krischen, Antike Rathäuser (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1941), Taf. 19.

Figure 17. Miletus, interior of bouleuterion, drawing by Fritz Krischen. From Krischen, Antike Rathäuser, Taf. 5.

Even from the start, some very large buildings were probably functionally multivalent, serving as meeting places for both councils and assemblies, and from the Hellenistic period, for various civic events; these include the buildings at Sicyon (Fig. 3), Priene (Fig. 16) and possibly Miletus (Fig. 17).6 At Argos, the early square building identified as a bouleuterion measured 100 Greek feet (32 m) to a side; such a spacious interior would have sheltered more than 2,000, using M. H. Hansen’s calculation of 0.40 m2 per individual.7 The council at Argos was no doubt a much smaller body and may have utilized only the central area. In the even larger hall at Sicyon (c. 40 m square), the plastered mud-brick seating in the center appears to have imitated wooden benches; an opening in the roof above may have provided light.8

Only in a few places can an excavated bouleuterion be compared with a council of recorded size.9 At Acragas a synkletos of 110, presumably the boule, may have met in a hall that seated c. 200–300 (IG XIV 952).10 The building at Ephesus (Fig. 8) seated four times the number of councillors, known to have been 450.11 Such discrepancies may be typical of other large bouleuteria in Asia Minor; the council at Iasus appears to have numbered under 100, while the building of the 1st century ce could seat at least 900 (Fig. 7). The large and influential 2nd-century bce bouleuterion at Miletus, which could seat c. 1,200, may have been the model for such over-capacity. Seating in the later buildings came to be divided into an ima and summa cavea by a central passage or diazoma (Fig. 9). Perhaps the boule met only in the lower zone, while the entire auditorium was used for civic ceremonies, musical and dramatic shows, lectures, and orations. At Aphrodisias, where the bouleuterion could seat c. 1,700, late inscriptions assigned specific areas to various civic groups, Jews, and circus factions; such distinctions would not have applied to meetings of the council.12

The Design of Bouleuteria

Bouleuteria fall into four general groups: (a) square or rectangular, with horizontal floors of beaten earth, interior columns, and seating on wooden benches (see Fig. 5; Assos, reconstruction of interior of bouleuterion, in F. Krischen’s drawing, the benches are not represented); (b) square or rectangular, with sloping stone seating of rectilinear shape (Fig. 4, Fig. 18); (c) square or rectangular, with sloping stone seating of curvilinear shape (Fig. 14, Fig. 10); and (d) buildings with a semicircular rear wall and a theater-like stone cavea in two tiers, facing a scaenae frons (Fig. 8, Fig. 9).13 Early bouleuteria of the 5th and 4th centuries bce are consistently of the first type. The examples in the second and third groups are of both Hellenistic and Roman date, the third group much the largest. The fourth group originated in the later 1st century ce at Ephesus and continued through the 3rd century in Asia Minor, Palestine, and elsewhere.

Figure 18. Sagalassus, view of late Hellenistic bouleuterion.

Photo courtesy Marc Waelkens.

Figure 19. Assos, reconstruction of interior of bouleuterion, drawing by Fritz Krischen.

Figure 20. Priene, restored view of bouleuterion looking south, drawing by Fritz Krischen. From Krischen, Antike Rathäuser, Taf. 18.

The bouleuterion at Assos, dated to the end of the 4th century bce, illustrates the early type (Fig. 2, Fig. 6, Fig. 19).14 The square building (20.60 m to a side, or 70 feet of 0.294 m) closed the east end of the narrow agora and was entered through a façade of five unfluted Doric columns of early Hellenistic Pergamene style; at some point, doors were inserted between the columns.15 A similar entrance had been used earlier in the Old Bouleuterion at Athens, where the building was turned away from the agora, as would be its successor of c. 400 bce, the New Bouleuterion) (Fig. 5, Fig. 1). At Assos, the bouleuterion boldly faced the public square. The hipped roof was carried by four columns. Slight differences in the nearly symmetrical spacing of those supports suggest that the seating on benches had a north-south orientation; windows seem likely on the side walls (not included in Robert Koldewey’s reconstruction). A base against the north wall may have supported a sculpture. The building inscription declares that the bouleuterion (so identified) was the gift of Laodamas and his wife.16

A bouleuterion with inclined rectilinear seating seems a natural development from the type with a level floor, as the permanent stone seats are aligned with the sides of the building and seem to imitate the earlier arrangement with wooden benches.17 The carefully designed bouleuterion at Priene of c. 200 bce is the earliest known example of this second group (Fig. 4, Fig. 16, Fig. 20). Ten rows of facing seats were combined with a central section of sixteen, providing space for c. 600 persons.18 The sloping site permitted doors at the back and one side for late arrivals; there were also entrances at the front, facing the agora. The roof was carried by five trusses that were supported on free-standing piers and spanned 14.50 m. In the center of the front wall is a conspicuous arch, a feature that may here be making its debut in Greek civic architecture. The arch spans a stone bench, to which it gives bold visual emphasis. At least in a later period, the bench was flanked by two others, an arrangement that appears to have served as a meeting place for a smaller group of officials.19 At some point in the building’s history the roof had to be reconstructed; the piers were moved closer to the center, presumably because timbers sufficient for the original span were no longer available. The three other halls in Asia Minor with rectilinear seating are also of striking design, at Heraclea under Latmus, Sagalassus (Fig. 18), and Notion.20

The inclusion of curvilinear seating within the traditional square or rectangular bouleuterion begins as early as the second quarter of the 3rd century bce, the inspiration surely coming from built stone theaters. Variations of this third, very long-lived type are represented by buildings at Acrae (Fig. 14), Miletus (Fig. 17), Ariassus (Fig. 12) and Iasus (Fig. 7). Whether the councillors spoke from their seats or from the orchestra, the semicircular rows brought them closer together. By offering superior acoustics and sight-lines, such seating better reflected the egalitarian character of political assemblies, at least as they are known in the Hellenistic era when there were no reserved areas or special seats.21 There is remarkably little evidence for a speaker’s platform or bema, suggesting that most debate took place from the seating. The earliest known examples of semicircular seating are found in the east Sicilian cities of Acrae (Fig. 13, Fig. 14, Fig. 21) and Morgantina (Fig. 15), which lie within the political sphere of Syracuse. The model may have been the large bouleuterion on the Syracusan agora, a building known to us only from Cicero, who called it amplissima and addressed the local council within the building in 70 bce; it probably seated at least 600 (Cic. Verr. 2.4.62).22 The excavated Sicilian buildings lack the analemmata and parodoi characteristic of later bouleuteria in Asia Minor. The small bouleuterion at Acrae in the mountains above Syracuse could seat c. 100 councillors on five rows of semicircular seats inscribed within the front and side walls, an arrangement requiring that the cavea be entered directly from a central doorway; proximity of the bouleuterion to a theater of contemporary date has been noted. The similar hall at Morgantina was entered through a courtyard and Ionic portico, features that may also have had Syracusan models.23

Figure 21. Acrae, plan of bouleuterion, third century BCE. From Acrae: Luigi Bernabò Brea, Akrai, 1956, Fig. 12.

Figure 22. Miletus, façade elevation of bouleuterion and section through court, drawing by Fritz Krischen. From Krischen, Antike Rathäuser, Taf. 7.

Figure 23. Miletus, restored view of interior of bouleuterion, drawing by Fritz Krischen. From Krischen, Antike Rathäuser, Taf. 1.

Of the many later bouleuteria with curvilinear seating, the grandest and most influential is the building at Miletus (Fig. 10, Fig. 17, Fig. 22, Fig. 23) erected by two politically well-connected brothers, Timarchus and Heracleides, who are associated in the building inscription with the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes.24 The king’s regnal dates of 175–163 bce are accepted for the building, which was dedicated to Apollo Didymaios, Hestia Boulaia, and the Demos. Notable features include a colonnaded courtyard with a propylon or columnar entrance; on axis is the two-storey hall with windows and sculptured relief decorations in the form of shields. The magnificent council room had space for c. 1,200 on fully semicircular seating rows. At either side, the seating at Miletus was contained within a high wall or analemma, allowing for a parodos-like corridor in front of the orchestra and cavea; both features are directly derived from theater design. Inner stairs at Miletus allowed councillors to enter or leave from the rear of the cavea so as not to interrupt meetings. The exposed wooden roof was supported on four widely spaced columns; the span of c. 15 m required timber trusses, which are depicted in Fritz Krischen’s careful reconstruction.

Such Milesian features as inner stairs, windows, parodoi, wide roofing spans, shields as a decorative motif, and an entrance court all recur in later bouleuteria in Asia Minor. The building at Iasus in Caria (2nd century ce) (Fig. 7) belongs to this group. The entry was through a stoa facing the agora. The elaborate scaenae frons decorating the interior face of the front wall is a further derivation from the theater. At Miletus, in an earlier and more austere day, the front wall was unadorned and attention in the hall was still focused on political debate (Fig. 17). The square or rectangular bouleuterion with semicircular, theater-style seating and parodoi became the norm in Asia Minor from the 2nd century bce through the 2nd century ce; other examples are found at Stratonicea, Metropolis, Smyrna, Teos, Nysa (Fig. 24), Pinara, Aizanoi, Sillyon (destroyed by landslide in 1969), and Anemurium; and in Thrace at Philippopolis (Plovdiv). At Apollonia in Illyria and Troy, the curvilinear cavea was horseshoe-shaped.

Figure 24. Nysa, view of cavea of bouleuterion, photograph by M. Bell.

Courtesy of Malcolm Bell.

Simpler versions of the curvilinear scheme, without courtyards and parodoi, were built in Ariassus (Fig. 12), Aegae, Arycanda, and Termessus, where all seating rows except the lowest are intercepted and cut by the side walls, eliminating the need for parodoi and analemmata; a central stair bisects the cavea. The influence of Miletus is felt in the provision of access to the assembly hall from the rear, and, at Ariassus, in the architectural sculpture in the form of military motifs.

Bouleuteria with semicircular rear walls form the fourth group. The earliest of these, at Ephesus, has recently received an exemplary publication; dating to the end of the 1st century ce, it forms one element within a monumental architectural composition encompassing continuous stoas, a basilica, and related political institutions (Fig. 8). The building at Aphrodisias is perhaps a century later and better preserved; it too forms part of a large-scale ensemble of porticoes and institutional structures (Fig. 9). As at Iasus (Fig. 7), it could be entered either from the agora through a stoa and doors in the scaenae frons, or by means of stairs rising within the cavea. The two-storey scaenae frons contained statues of benefactors, personifications, and deities, all products of the accomplished local sculptural school.25 A wide intermediate passage or diazoma (later narrowed) divided the cavea into two tiers of twelve rows, both supported on vaulting. No longer contained within a rectilinear building, the curvilinear seating now shaped the rear wall, to which were attached projecting buttresses aligned with bearing points on the scaenae frons. These surfaces carried a sequence of huge, parallel trusses of unequal length; the two longest spans at the center, of c. 25 m, approached the limits of such construction. Tall arched windows in the rear wall provided light. The buildings at Ephesus and Aphrodisias both underwent extensive renovations paid for by the powerful families who now dominated the local councils. In Asia Minor, buildings of similar design and scale are known at Aspendus and Cibyra; in Palestine, at Ashkelon, Gadara, and Philadelphia (Amman). Like contemporary odeia in Athens and elsewhere, these large buildings required both extraordinary resources of timber and the means of transporting it; their roofs will have called for constant maintenance.

Timber Roofing

Most, if not all, bouleuteria had heavy terracotta tile roofs carried on wooden timbers of different lengths and thicknesses. Early buildings with a grid of interior columns required bearing beams of uniform but modest length. The interior spaces or naoi of late archaic and classical temples often had greater clear spans than bouleuteria; the roofing requirements of the secular buildings in the early period could thus be met without great difficulty. In the very large bouleuterion at Argos of the early 5th century, the uniform span was c. 5.30 m; at Assos at the end of the 4th century, it had increased to c. 7.0 m (Fig. 19). At Argos there were sixteen interior columns; at Assos, with somewhat less than half the area of Argos, only four columns were needed. Though small, the increase in beam length and reduction in the number of supports demonstrate the move toward more open interiors. In the early Hellenistic period, this became the fixed aim of both architects and the city magistrates who commissioned their buildings. Over time, the Greek bouleuterion saw a gradual reduction in the number of internal supports and their eventual elimination; this development was necessarily accompanied by substantial increases in the length of the major timbers. Already in the early 3rd century bce, the small Sicilian halls had eliminated interior supports. At Morgantina (c. 275–250 bce) (Fig. 15), the span was 8.75 m; trusses are likely. At the end of the 3rd century, the architect at Priene was using timber trusses with a length of 14.50 m (Fig. 16).26 Somewhat later at Miletus, the length had increased to more than 15 m (Fig.24). At both Priene and Miletus, interior supports were still required, although they had either been pushed as far to the sides as possible (Priene) or reduced in number and attenuated (Miletus). Next would be their complete elimination, a step requiring both an adequate supply of very long beams and new techniques in carpentry.27 An important device was splicing with scarf joints, which allowed greater length in the horizontal tie beam; examples appear in Fritz Krischen’s graphic reconstructions of trusses at Priene and Miletus. The tie beams in the bouleuteria at Ephesus and Aphrodisias would have been substantially longer—daring challenges to the limits of wooden roofing.

Regular use of the bouleuterion by the council required that the meeting place be kept in good repair. The agoranomoi or magistrates charged with upkeep of the agora must often have been concerned by the demands of maintaining the tiles and expensive wooden construction that formed the roofs of the Hellenistic and Roman buildings. The evidence for a major renovation of the roof at Priene has been noted (see The Design of Bouleuteria); repairs to the roof of the bouleuterion of Aeolian Cyme were among the several recorded benefactions of Archippe (see Euergetism).28

Architectural Decoration

As the seat of one of a city’s two most important political institutions, bouleuteria often manifested civic pride in design and details. T. Leslie Shear’s examination of the exiguous remains of the first such building in Athens, known as the Old Bouleuterion, has argued for a dignified structure with Doric portico, frieze, and acroteria (Fig. 5). The bold inclusion of a central arched opening in the Hellenistic bouleuterion of Priene is the more remarkable because of the avoidance of arches by earlier Greek architects (Fig. 16). The elegant Ionic portico of the bouleuterion at Morgantina stood out among the city’s otherwise uniformly Doric civic architecture (Fig. 15). Even a building’s dimensions may have been intended to have symbolic value for the polis: the hundred-foot square bouleuterion at Argos was, in effect, a civic hekatompedon, comparable to contemporary hundred-foot temples. Although bouleuteria did not offer an appropriate setting for free-standing architectural sculpture, motifs of military nature appear in relief on several buildings in Asia Minor, as at Miletus (Fig. 22), Ariassus, Sagalassus (Fig. 25), and Nysa; shields were seen by Pausanias at Elis (Paus. 6.23.7). Such shields and helmets implied that the boule was an essential bulwark of the polis.29

Figure 25. Sagalassus, relief sculpture of shield, from bouleuterion.

Photo courtesy Marc Waelkens.


Although secular in function, bouleuteria often had religious associations. The buildings could be dedicated to gods and political personifications, as at Miletus (Apollo Didymaios, Hestia Boulaia, the Demos) and Aegae (Zeus Boulaios, Hestia Boulaia, the Demos); shrines of Zeus Boulaios and Athena Boulaia stood in the Old Bouleuterion in Athens. Although permanent altars are not typical, in some places and at certain times, sacrifices may have played a part in the procedure of meetings.30 The central position of altars at Priene (Fig. 11), Heraclea under Latmus (foundations), and Troy shows they were permanent features, although whether they were planned from the start is unknown.31 Other examples, like the marble altar found in the Old Bouleuterion at Athens, were secondary additions.32 In the bouleuterion at Dodona, the presence of altars is no doubt explained by the setting in a major sanctuary.

Many bouleuteria contained sculptures. Some were gifts or dedications that presumably accumulated over time, as in Athens where Pausanias saw images of Zeus Boulaios, Apollo, and a personification of the Demos, as well as two paintings, one by the master Protogenes (Paus. 1.3.4). The presence of built statue bases in some bouleuteria (Assos, Morgantina) indicates that sculptures could be anticipated from the start; the base at Morgantina is on axis with the cavea, suggesting an important, perhaps sacred subject (Fig. 15). Hellenistic euergetism resulted in the dedication of portraits of donors and family members, as at Aeolian Cyme and nearby Aegae.33 In Syracuse, a Roman governor of Sicily ordered that gilt bronze images of himself and his son be set up in the bouleuterion at the expense of the council—the very opposite of euergetism (Cic. Verr. 2.2.21, 2.4.62, 64).34

The adoption of the multi-storey scaenae frons as a regular feature of later bouleuteria provided a new architectural setting for sculptures of donors, gods, emperors, and personifications. At Ephesus (Fig. 8), Iasus (Fig. 7), Teos, Nysa, Cos, Aphrodisias (Fig. 9), and elsewhere, such sculptural displays formed an impressive visual backdrop to the manifold activities that now took place in bouleuteria. The assemblage of sculptured subjects in the scaenae frons was thus placed in constant visual communication with the audience in the cavea.35

Ancillary Institutions and Other Uses

Secondary meeting places for smaller groups or committees of the boule are known at Athens (Fig. 1), Priene (Fig. 16), Troy, and Morgantina (Fig. 15); these were located either within the main meeting space or nearby. At Athens, the daily business of the council was conducted by fifty prytaneis who met in the Tholos, a smaller adjacent structure.36 At Priene, the meeting place within the bouleuterion, marked by a central arch, has been described (see the section “The Design of Bouleuteria”), while at Morgantina a meeting room with masonry benches was added along one side of the main assembly hall. Rooms of uncertain function are adjacent to other bouleuteria; some of these may have been used for meetings, either by prytaneis, as at Athens, or by an executive committee of probouloi.37

Because of its central political function, the boule could attract other civic offices to the vicinity of its meeting place. Civic records were of direct importance to governance; after construction of the new bouleuterion at Athens, the old one served as an archive (Fig. 1). Adjacent archives are also attested at Syracuse (Cic. Verr. 2.4.63) and are likely at Morgantina, Megalopolis, and Iasus.38 The posting of bronze inscriptions in bouleuteria is recorded at Acragas (IG XIV 952), Entella, and Thermai Himerenses (Cic. Verr. 2.2.46); the walls of the building at Stratonicea served as a surface for the display of Diocletian’s Price Edict of 301 CE.39 At Priene, Ephesus, and Aegae, the prytaneion and hearth of Hestia were immediately adjacent to the meeting place of the boule.40

As a roofed hall the bouleuterion was found to be an appropriate setting for civic ceremonies, as at Teos.41 In the Roman era, bouleuteria served for performances ranging from recitations and orations to musical and dramatic spectacles; the building became, in effect, “a small covered theater.”42 The rhetorician Aelius Aristides informs us in one surviving oration that he lectured in Smyrna to a packed bouleuterion, a building that has recently come to light; at the same moment, says Aristides, an Egyptian competitor was addressing a handful of auditors in the odeion “at the port,” a building as yet unknown.43


Construction of a bouleuterion appealed to well-intentioned and well-to-do citizens in the Hellenistic and Roman periods; some donors may have been council-members. The gift of the meeting place of such an important political institution can be understood as an act of civic pride, signifying and confirming the elite status of the donor. At Assos (Fig. 6) the handsome building of traditional design was constructed by a couple, Laodamas and his wife (whose name is unfortunately not preserved in the inscription).44 Perhaps the finest of all bouleuteria was built at Miletus by the brothers Timarchos and Herakleides (Fig. 17), who were the grandsons of a local tyrant; their association with the Seleucid monarch Antiochos IV Epiphanes is mentioned in the building inscription.45 To the king himself is attributed the council house at Antioch.46 At Aeolian Cyme, the benefactor was a woman, Archippe, who dedicated sculptures of her father and a personification of the Demos, in addition to repairing the roof.47 Not far away, the bouleuterion at Aegae was built by the euergetes Antiphanes, whose family members were honored inside by portrait sculptures.48 Like other buildings, bouleuteria might be named for their donors; the Lalichmion at Elis (Paus. 6.23.7) was presumably constructed by someone called Lalichmos (vel sim.). Local citizens who renovated the bouleuteria at Ephesus (P. Vedius Antoninus) and Aphrodisias (Claudia Antonia Tatiana, L. Claudius Antonius Dometeinus Diogenes) were named in inscriptions and portrayed in sculptures in the scaenae frons.49 At Perge in the time of Hadrian, the euergetai Demetrios and Apollonios were memorialized in an inscription.

History of Scholarship

The bouleuteria of Priene (1904) and Miletus (1908) were excavated and published within the same decade. The building type was thus made known in what are perhaps its most important manifestations; that the two bouleuteria lie on opposite sides of the mouth of the river Maeander is also remarkable. The detailed perspective drawings of Fritz Krischen (1941) (see Figs. 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23) consolidated the central place of these two Ionian buildings in the scholarly literature; in the same book, Karl Wulzinger’s chapter and plates dedicated to the counterpart at nearby Heraclea under Latmus remains the fullest treatment of that striking building.50 William A. McDonald’s comprehensive study of Greek political meeting spaces described c. 28 buildings, not all of which would be recognized today as bouleuteria; McDonald gathered the literary, epigraphical, and archaeological sources for the bouleuteria for the first time.51 In his authoritative handbook of Hellenistic architecture, Hans Lauter described the level-floored, 4th-century buildings of the Peloponnesus and emphasized the subsequent influence of Miletus.52 The dissertation of Doris Gneisz focused on the bouleuterion, with a collection of evidence from many sources and an inclusive if inadequately illustrated catalogue.53 Although the book of Jean Balty is concerned primarily with the curia or senate building of Roman cities, a useful chapter on bouleuteria contains much material not easily available.54 Balty’s distinction between buildings contained within four walls (“inscrit”; here types 2 and 3) and those with semicircular rear walls (“non inscrit”; here type 4) is often cited. Hansen and Fischer-Hansen’s briefer study of Greek political meeting places is mainly concerned with the peripheral issue of whether or not the buildings were monumental in nature (we would say that many were); the authors correctly insist that bouleuteria are by nature roofed halls, and their catalogue of more than seventy buildings includes examples known from literary sources, inscriptions, and excavations.55 Alfredo Iannello collected the archaeological, epigraphical, and literary evidence for the Sicilian buildings; Hans Peter Isler argued for a 4th-century bce date for several Sicilian bouleuteria, although those at Soluntum and Acragas are likely to be late Hellenistic.56 In an essay on bouleuteria and odeia, John M. Camp (2016) has emphasized the related history of the two building types, noting the uncertain identification of some later buildings.57 Several articles have treated bouleuteria more broadly, beginning with Klaus Tuchelt’s observations on Miletus and related buildings.58 A useful analysis of the functioning and political role of Hellenistic and later bouleuteria was made by Valentin Kockel in 1995, with observations on the differences between the Greek bouleuterion and the Rathaus of German cities (a term favored in earlier German archaeological scholarship); in the same volume Helmut Müller discussed the historical evolution of the boule in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.59 The broad approach of Kockel and Müller gives their essays particular value. Study of bouleuteria has been enriched by full publication of buildings at Iaitas (Daehn), Ephesus (Bier), Patara (Korkut), and Nysa (Kadioglu).60 Lionel Bier’s useful preliminary report on the bouleuterion at Aphrodisias contains many perceptive observations.61

Major Bouleuteria


  • Bernabò Brea, Luigi. Akrai, 44–51. Catania, Italy: Società di Storia Patria per la Sicilia Orientale, 1956.


  • Aybek, Serdar, and Yusuf Sezgin. “A Group of Portrait Statues from the Bouleuterion at Aigai: A Preliminary Report.” In Eikones: Portraits en Contexte, Recherches nouvelles sur les portraits grecs, edited by Ralf von den Hoff, François Queyrel, and Éric Perrin-Saminadayar, 17–43. Venosa, Italy: Osanna 2016.
  • Bohn, Richard. Altertümer von Aegae, 33–35, Abb. 35. Jahrbuch der Kaiserlich Deutschen Archaeologischen Instituts, Ergänzungsheft 2. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1889.


  • Bier, Lionel. “The Bouleuterion.” In Aphrodisias Papers 4. New Research on the City and its Monuments, edited by Christopher Rattéand Roland R. R. Smith, 144–168. JRA Supplementary Series Number 70. Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2008.


  • von Hesberg, Henner, and Werner Eck. “Die Transformation des politischen Raumes: Das Bouleuterion in Apollonia (Albanien).” Römische Mitteilungen 116 (2010): 257–287.


  • Roux, Georges. “Fouille de l’agora. La salle hypostyle.” Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 77 (1953): 248–250.


  • Mitchell, Stephen. “Ariassos 1990.” Anatolian Studies 4 (1991): 160–161, Fig. 2


  • Arslan, Nurettin. “Neue Forschungen zur Agora von Assos.” In Assos: Neue Forschungsergebnisse zur Baugeschichte und Archäologie der südlichen Troas, edited by Nurettin Arslan, Eva-Maria Mohr, and Klaus Rheidt, 85–106. Bonn: Habelt, 2016.
  • Clarke, Joseph T., Francis H. Bacon, and Robert Koldewey. Investigations at Assos, 27, 33–34, 53–59. Cambridge, MA: Archaeological Institute of America 1902–1921.


  • Rhodes, Peter J. The Athenian Boule, 33–36, plans B, C, D, and E. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972.
  • Shear, T. Leslie, Jr.Ισονόμος τ᾽᾽Αθήνας ἐποιησάτην‎: The Agora and Democracy.” In The Archaeology of Athens and Attica under the Democracy, edited by W. D. E. Coulson, O. Palagia, T. L. Shear, Jr., H. A. Shapiro, and F. J. Frost, 225–248. Oxford: Oxbow, 1994.
  • Thompson, Homer A. “Metroon-Bouleuterion Complex.” Hesperia 6 (1937): 115–217.
  • Thompson, Homer A. and R. E. Wycherley, The Athenian Agora XIV. The Agora of Athens, 29–46. Princeton, NJ: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1972.


  • Balty, Jean Ch. Curia Ordinis: Recherches d’architecture et d’urbanisme antiques sur les curies provinciales du monde romain, 488–490. Brussels: Palais des Académies, 1991.
  • Segre, Mario. Iscrizioni di Cos, 27 (ED 21), 151–152 (ED 230). Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 1993.


  • Bier, Lionel. The Bouleuterion at Ephesos. Forschungen in Ephesos, IX,5. Vienna: Österrreichische Akademi der Wissenschaften, 2011.

Heraclea under Latmus

  • Wulzinger, Karl. “Das Rathaus von Herakleia am Latmos.” In Antike Rathäuser. Edited by Fritz Krischen, 22–33, Taf. 26–34. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1941.


  • Daehn, Hans-Steffen. Studia Ietina III. Die Gebäude an der Westseite der Agora von Iaitas. Zürich: Eugen Rentsch, 1991.


  • Balty, Jean Ch. Curia Ordinis: Recherches d’architecture et d’urbanisme antiques sur les curies provinciales du monde romain, 443–447. Brussels: Palais des Académies, 1991.
  • Levi, Doro. “Gli scavi di Iasos.” In Annuario della Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Atene 45–46 (1967–1968): 537–590; bouleuterion, 544–552.


  • Knackfuss, Hubert. Das Rathaus von Milet, Milet I, 2. Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen und Untersuchungen seit dem Jahre 1898. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1908.
  • Tuchelt, Klaus. “Buleuterion und Ara Augusti: Bermerkungen zur Rathausanlage von Milet.” Istanbuler Mitteilungen 25 (1975): 91–140.


  • Bell, Malcolm. “Spazio e istituzioni nell’agora greca di Morgantina.” In Agora greca, agorai di Sicilia, edited by Carmine Ampolo, 111–118. Pisa, Italy: Scuola Normale, 2012.


  • Kadioglu, Musa. Forschungen im Nysa am Mäander 3. Der Gerontikon von Nysa am Mäander. Mainz, Germany: von Zabern, 2014.


  • Sermpete, Eleutheria. Oiniades: Demosia oikododemata apo ten archaia agora. Athens: Kardamitsa, 2001.


  • Raeck, Wulf. “Priene.” Byzas 3 (2006): 315–324.
  • Rumscheid, Frank. Priene: Führer durch das “Pompeji Kleinasiens.” Istanbul, Turkey: Ege Yayinlari, 1998.
  • Wiegand, Theodor, and Hans Schrader. Priene: Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen und Untersuchungen in den Jahren 1895–1898, 219–231. Berlin: Reimer, 1904.


  • Talloen, Peter, and Jeroen Poblome. “The 2014 and 2015 Control Excavations on and around the Upper Agora of Sagalassos.” Anatolica 42 (2016): 111–150.
  • Waelkens, Marc. Sagalassos V: Report on the Survey and Excavation Campaigns of 1996 and 1997, edited by Marc Waelkens, 246–268. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2000.


  • Gneisz, Doris. Das antike Rathaus: Das griechische Bouleuterion und die frührömische Curia, 351–352. Vienna: Dissertationen der Universität Wien, 1990.
  • Lauter, Hans. Die Architektur des Hellenismus, 158–159, Abb. 16a. Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1986.
  • Lolos, Yannis, and Ben Gourley. “The Town Planning of Hellenistic Sikyon.” Archäologische Anzeiger (2011:1): 87–140.


  • Mert, Ibrahim Hakan. Untersuchungen zur hellenistischen und kaiserzeitlichen Bauornamentik von Stratonikeia, 198–207. Tübingen, Germany: Wasmuth, 2008.


  • Sielhorst, Barbara. Hellenistische Agorai: Gestaltung, Rezeption und Semantik eines urbanen Raumes, 338–339. Berlin, Germany: de Gruyter, 2015.


  • Balty, Jean Ch. Curia Ordinis: Recherches d’architecture et d’urbanisme antiques sur les curies provinciales du monde romain. Brussels: Palais des Académies, 1991.
  • Bier, Lionel. “The Bouleuterion.” Aphrodisias Papers 4. New Research on the City and its Monuments, edited by Christopher Ratté and Roland R. R. Smith, 144–168. JRA Supplementary Series Number 70. Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2008.
  • Camp, John M. “Bouleuteria and Odeia.” In A Companion to Greek Architecture, edited by Margaret M. Miles, 559–583. Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons, 2016.
  • Gneisz, Doris. Das antike Rathaus: Das griechische Bouleuterion und die frührömische Curia. Vienna: PhD diss., Universität Wien, 1990.
  • Gros, Pierre. “Les nouveaux espaces civiques du début de l’Empire en Asie Mineure: les exemples d’Ephèse, Iasos, et Aphrodisias.” Aphrodisias Papers 3. New Research on the City and its Monuments, edited by Charlotte Roueché and Roland R. R. Smith, 111–120. JRA Supplementary Series Number 20. Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 1996.
  • Hansen, Mogens Herman, and Tobias Fischer-Hansen. “Monumental Political Architecture in Archaic and Classical Greek Poleis: Evidence and Historical Significance.” In From Political Architecture to Stephanus Byzantius: Sources for the Ancient Greek Polis, edited by David Whitehead, 23–90. Stuttgart, Germany: Franz Steiner, 1994.
  • Iannello, Alfredo. “I bouleuteria in Sicilia: Fonti e monumenti.” Quaderni di Archeologia dell’Istituto di Archeologia della Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia della Università di Messina 9 (1994): 63–98.
  • Isler, Hans Peter. “Bouleuteria di Sicilia.” In Archeologia del Mediterraneo: Studi in onore di Ernesto De Miro, edited by Graziella Fiorentini, Maria Caltabiano, and Anna Calderone, 429–433. Rome: L’Erma, 2003.
  • Kockel, Valentin. “Bouleuteria: Architektonische Form und urbanistischer Kontext.” Stadtbild und Bürgerbild im Hellenismus. Kolloquium, München, 24. bis 26. Juni 1993, eds. Michael Wörrle and Paul Zanker, 29–40. Munich: C. H. Beck, 1995.
  • Krischen, Fritz. Antike Rathäuser. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1941.
  • Lauter, Hans. Die Architektur des Hellenismus. Darmstadt, Germany: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1986.
  • McDonald, William A. The Political Meeting Places of the Greeks. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.
  • Meinel, Ruediger. Das Odeion: Untersuchungen an überdachten antiken Theatergebäuden. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1980.
  • Müller, Helmut. “Bermerkungen zu Funktion und Bedeutung des Rats in den hellenistischen Stadten.” In Stadtbild und Bürgerbild im Hellenismus. Kolloquium, München, 24. bis 26. Juni 1993, edited by Michael Wörrle and Paul Zanker, 42–54. Munich: C. H. Beck, 1995.
  • Tuchelt, Klaus. “Buleuterion und Ara Augusti: Bermerkungen zur Rathausanlage von Milet.” Istanbuler Mitteilungen 25 (1975): 91–140.