You are here


The stoa was a ubiquitous feature of the urban landscape of the Hellenistic period. In many cities and sanctuaries, the building owed its origin to royal largesse. As an architectural form, it helped organize space, framing the agora or channeling traffic along processional routes. Our epigraphical evidence suggests that the stoa also had a structural role to play in the economy and society of the Hellenistic polis. It produced revenues for the city, either rents on stalls, or taxes and fees on the activity that took place inside. And the archaeology, at least in Athens, is corroborative (Camp 2010:124). Thus, the stoa figured in the city’s fiscal outlook, as an asset, or as a liability (Coulton 1976:16). Yet so many stoas bear the names of kings, queens, and princes in our sources (Schmidt-Dounas 2000:23-25). Were these stoas and their rents royal property? It is the contention of my paper that they were not.

That scholarship has in the case of the Seleukids granted these property rights to kings is the result of a misinterpretation of a letter of Antiochos III to the Sardeians written in 213 (SEG 39.1285, ll.8-10). Antiochos agrees to release the Sardeians from the rent they are paying on ergastêria “insofar as other cities do not pay it” (“á¼€πολύομεν δá½² ὑμᾶς καὶ τοῦ ἐνοικίου οá½— τελεá¿–τε á¼€πὸ τῶν ἐργαστηρίων, εá¼´περ καὶ αá¼± ἄλλαι πÏŒλεις μá½´ πράσσονταÌ£ι”). In his publication of the text, P. Gauthier argued that the ergastêria were “atelier-boutiques” in royal stoas, i.e., stoas built by kings for cities (Gauthier 1989: 101-7; cf. Robert 1984). The kings, then, would have retained property rights over these stoas, which in this particular case, Antiochos has agreed to renounce. While Gauthier believes that as a rule the royal donor of a stoa retained de jure property rights, both inside and outside his kingdom, I argue the opposite: as a rule the king foreswore his property rights. Fundamentally, this was intrinsic to the gift as dedication (anatithêmi). Moreover, the king conceptualized the gift as a package that included both building and revenues. This is evident from those rare instances when sources depict a donor specifying a recipient for a stoa’s rents, as Antiochos I did in Miletos, where he dedicated a stoa in the astu,the rents from which were to pay for construction work on the Temple of Apollo at Didyma (I.Didyma 479); or in Pharsalos, where Leonidas of Halikarnassos placed his stoa’s rents at the disposal of the gymnasium (BCH 59 (1935), 514-19). In the case of the stoa, the moment of dedication was the last moment the king – or any other donor – had to exercise such rights.

Influential treatments of the Seleukid royal economy and Seleukid power in its confrontation with the polis have either adopted Gauthier’s interpretation or left it unchallenged (Ma 1999: 62, 131; Capdetrey 2007: passim; Aperghis 2004:157). In challenging it, I have several aims. First, I want to propose a more nuanced understanding of the stoa-gift as euergetism. It was not one of the many ways in which Hellenistic kings inflicted symbolic violence on the Greek city, or intervened in its economy, commuting revenues termed politikai into ones called basilikai. Second, I want to insist on greater clarity in our discussion of the king as property owner in order to sharpen our image of the king as an economic actor. Finally, in rethinking the royal stoa, I intend to question the restoration and interpretation of long-known but fragmentary dedicatory inscriptions, in particular, those of the stoas of Attalos II in Athens and in Termessos (SEG 16.158; TAM III 1,9).


  • Aperghis, G. 2004. The Seleukid Royal Economy: the Finances and Financial Administration of the Seleukid Empire. Cambridge.
  • Camp, J. 2010. The Athenian Agora: Site Guide. Princeton.
  • Capdetrey, L. 2007. Le pouvoir séleucide: Territoire, administration, finances d’un royaume hellénistique (312-129 avant J.-C.). Rennes.
  • Coulton, J. 1976. The Architectural Development of the Greek Stoa. Oxford.
  • Gauthier, P. 1989. Nouvelles Inscriptions de Sardes II. Geneva.
  • Ma, A. 1999. Antiochos III and the Cities of Western Asia Minor. Oxford.Schmidt-Dounas, B, 1995 Schenkungen Hellenistischer Herrscher an Griechische Städte und Heiligtümer, v.2. Berlin.

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy