Athenian Agora - The Odeon of Agrippa

tritons adorned the facadeThe Odeon was, like the Temple of Ares to its north, a Roman addition to the old Greek Agora. It was also called the Agrippeion, after Marcus Vipsianus Agrippa, son-in-law and general of Augustus, who was probably responsible for its construction in 16-14 BC. The Odeon (a roofed concert hall) measured 51.4 x 43.2 m and had a – for those days large – roofspan of 25 m. There were two superimposed colonnades of Corinthian columns around the central hall. (The remaining capitals of these columns can be seen around the Odeon.) The Odeon could hold some 1000 visitors, who would be seated on the 19 rows of benches around the marble-paved orchestra. There were two entrances to the Odeon: a front one in the north for the notables and performers, and a ‘back door’ in the south for common visitors.

Around 150 AD the roof of the Odeon collapsed and the structure had to be rebuilt. The interior was subdivided by a cross wall that reduced the capacity in half, to 500 visitors. In this period large statues of Giants (with snake tails) and Tritons (creatures of the sea, with fish tails) were added to the façade. The torsos of the Giants were modeled on that of the statue of Hephaistos in the east pediment of the Parthenon, those of the Tritons on that of Poseidon in the west pediment. The main function of the Agrippeion in 2nd century AD was that of lecture hall, which explains the presence of several statues of philosophers. Musical performances from now on were more usually held in the newly built Odeon of Herodes Atticus on the South Slope of the Acropolis.

odeon of agrippaIn 267 AD the Odeon invading Herulian tribes reduced the building to rubble. It was not until the 5th century AD that a large complex, with rubble and brick walls, was built over the former Odeon. It consisted of numerous rooms, peristyle courts and bathing establishments. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘gymnasium’, but it may have been a school or university complex or the luxurious mansion of the governor of 5th century AD Athens.

Four of the earlier Giants and Tritons were reused in the façade of this 5th century AD building and this is the position in which they are visible today (pic top).

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