Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum, 7.1

Ἀνακάμπτων δὴ ἐν τῇ ποικίλῃ στοᾷ τῇ καὶ Πεισιανακτίῳ καλουμένῃ, ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς γραφῆς τῆς Πολυγνώτου ποικίλῃ.

He used then to discourse, pacing up and down in the painted colonnade, also called the colonnade of Pisianax, but which received its name "painted" from the painting of Polygnotus. (Trans. Hicks 1925 revised)

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Il (Zenon) avait l'habitude d'enseigner allant et venant dans la Stoa Poikile, nommée aussi Peisianakteion, mais Poikile en raison de la peinture de Polygnote. (trad. Reinach 1921, modifiée)

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Commentary

  1. The word “stoa” refers to a vast public building, a free-standing portico with a long back wall, a row of columns in front, connected by two short walls at each end, and covered by a roof. Each city in the ancient Greek world had, at least, one such building (see: Coulton 1976, pp.1-17).

  2. The Stoa Poikile was one of the most famous building of Athens and one of the Athenian buildings with the longest history (ca 470 BC. to 500 AD. See : Shear 1984, pp. 15-17; Camp 2007, p. 650; 2015, p. 476). The building was famous both because of the paintings by Polygnotos, Mikon and Panainos (see text 114, 115, 116 and 135), and also because the building has given its name to the Stoic philosophical school (more on that point in: Diogène Laërce 2006, pp. 1-19).

  3. According to literary evidences, the Stoa was commissioned by Peisianax (ca. 500-440; PAA 771385), Kimon’s brother in law (see text 115; Jeffery 1965, p. 42). This, suggests a building date ca. 470-460 BC. which has been confirmed by recent excavations of a large building identified as a Stoa in the Northwest corner of the Athenian Agora. This building is certainly the famous Stoa Poikile, mentioned in ancient literature (Shear 1984, pp. 13-19 and fig. 1 to 3; Camp 2007, pp. 649-651; Camp 2015, pp. 476-480. Contra: Di Cesare 2001; Di Cesare 2002 who identified the building as the Stoa of the Herm). The Stoa was oriented North-East to South-West. Furthermore, according to the excavators, it was a long building of 12,50 meterswide by 51 meters long (the inside dimensions were 10 meters wide by 48 meters long). On the South face stood 23 Doric columns, and inside eleven Ionic columns supporting the roof (Shear 1984, pp. 5-19; Camp 2007, pp. 649-650; Camp 2015, p. 480; Roscino 2010, pp. 28-31). The paintings were displayed on the back wall (North face). It seems, that the paintings were on wood panels either hung or inserted into the wall (see text 115 and 116; Shear 1984, pp. 17-19 and fig. 8 for a restored view of the Stoa Poikile).

  4. The word poikilos/poikilē (see LSJ s.v. ποικίλος) as a very large meaning which encompasses the notion of "many-coloured", the shimmering or gleaming of things and also the idea of complexity (Grand-Clément 2015). It applied perfectly to the Stoa, which had which had multi-colored paintings of a large variety with complex themes related to mythology and politics (see also text 148).

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Bibliography

Camp, J.M., 2007. Excavations in the Athenian Agora: 2002-2007. Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 76(4), p.627‑663;

Camp, J.M., 2015. Excavations in the Athenian Agora, 2008–2012. Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 84(3), p.467‑513;

Coulton, J.J., 1976. The architectural development of the Greek stoa, Oxford: Clarendon Press; Di Cesare, R., 2001. Intorno alla Stoa delle Erme. Annuario della Scuola Archeologica di Atene e delle Missioni Italiane in Oriente, Ser. 3a(11), p.17‑36;

Di Cesare, R., 2002. Testimonianze per la Stoa di Peisianax come edificio (tardo- )arcaico dell’Agora di Atene. Annuario della Scuola Archeologica di Atene e delle Missioni Italiane in Oriente, Ser. 3a(2 (1)2 1), p.43‑49;

Diogène Laërce, 2006. Vies et doctrines des stoïciens, Paris: Librairie générale française; Diogenes Laertius. Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Volume II: Books 6-10. Translated by R. D. Hicks. Loeb Classical Library 185. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1925;

Grand-Clément, A., 2015. Poikilia. Dans P. Destrée & P. Murray, éd. A Companion to Ancient Aesthetics. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, p. 406‑421;

Jeffery, L.H., 1965. The Battle of Oinoe in the Stoa Poikile: A Problem in Greek Art and History. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 60, p.41‑57;

Roscino, C., 2010. Polignoto di Taso, Roma: G. Bretschneider;

Shear, T.L., 1984. The Athenian Agora: Excavations of 1980-1982. Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 53(1), p.1‑57.

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Created by Valérie Toillon