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Athenian Agora - The Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios

stoa of ZeusA sizeable stoa was erected on the west side of the Agora, to the south of the earlier Stoa Basileios, around 430-420 BC. It was set up in honor of Zeus, who was given the epithet Eleutherios (‘Freedom’) because the Athenians believed he had saved them from Persian domination.

The Stoa of Zeus was considerably larger than its Archaic neighbor to the north and measured 12 x 46.5 m. It has an unusual plan, with two additional wings projecting from the main colonnade. (The north end has been destroyed by the railway.) The exterior columns were Doric, the interior columns Ionic. Two marble Nike figures (‘Victories’) decorated the roof. (One of them is on display in the Agora Museum.) A double annex was added to the west side in the 1st century AD.

Pausanias saw a statue of Zeus Eleutherios in front of the Stoa and paintings by the 4th century BC artist Euphranor inside. These depicted the ‘Twelve Gods’ , the legendary Athenian king Theseus and the historical battle at Mantineia (in Arcadia), where the Athenians had helped the Spartans. As in the Painted Stoa across the Panathenaic Way, the Stoa of Zeus also housed the shields of warriors: in this case not shields taken from defeated enemies but of Athenians who had died for their city.

Although the Stoa was dedicated to Zeus, its function was not exclusively official. As it was freely accessible, the Athenians turned it into an informal meeting place. Here all kinds of people would gather, including Sokrates who would come to discuss philosophical matters.

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