Agora of the Italians – Gardens of the Roman Empire




Delos ( Pleiades )

Location Description

Delos is a little island in the center of the Cyclades quantify about five kilometers north-south and 1.3 kilometers east-west at the widest. In antiquity, it was celebrated as the birthplace of Apollo. Apollo ’ s sanctuary, founded in the seventh hundred B.C., is situated on a small homely next to the chief port. It became a chief Panhellenic cult center and constantly formed the center of the late settlement and city. The city was under athenian domination in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. and became independent only in 314 B.C. Although across-the-board public build occurred during the period of its condition as an independent city state and the island began to develop as a commercial center, the city remained relatively belittled and was still chiefly engaged in local and regional trade with the surrounding Cycladic islands. This changed importantly when the Romans handed dominance of Delos to Athens in 167 B.C. and declared it a release port. It soon developed into a boom cosmopolitan trade center with merchants coming from all over the Mediterranean earth. As a consequence the city grew well, largely to meet the needs of its fresh purpose. Squares, quays, warehouses, shops, newly residential quarters, and clubhouses of alien associations were constructed, and public buildings and sanctuaries were either renovated and extended or newly built. Although Delos was sacked doubly, in 88 B.C. by the troops of Mithridates and 69 B.C. by the pirates under Athenodoros, its abandonment during the inaugural century B.C. is predominantly due to the competition of increasingly successful Roman ports like Puteoli and Ostia. Life in Delos did not come to an abrupt halt as evidenced by remains of Roman thermae and several Christian basilica, but it continued on a much smaller scale .


Agora of the Italians


Garden Description

The Agora of the Italians, with a size of some 6,000 square meters, is situated prominently in the center of Delos, between the celebrated refuge of Apollo to the south and the Sacred Lake to the north. The design of the Agora centers on a huge court with four double-storied porticoes enclosing 3,450 square meters of an exposed unpaved terrain ( Figs. 1-4 ). The colonnades are surrounded by the follow rooms : ( a ) a series of three large exedrae ( 15, 30, 42 ) and four humble exedrae ( 10, 23, 46, 98 ), which were all accessible by large thresholds on the ground floor level, with the exception of the raised exedra 98 ; ( boron ) 27 orthogonal ( 7, 9, 13, 18, 24, 32, 37, 39, 41, 44, 47, 54, 59, 97, 102, 105 ) and semicircular ( 16, 25, 30b, 34, 35, 68, 73, 90, 93, 95, 100 ) statue niches on all sides, which were not accessible, as their openings were closed by doors or grills and the thresholds of many were raised far above the ground deck level ; ( c ) a bathroom cortege with two polish perspiration baths in the northwest ( 27-31 ) ; ( five hundred ) a group of three rooms in the west ( 20-22 ) ; and ( e ) two latrines to the west ( 5 ) and east ( 64 ). Access to the building is provided by a Doric propylon to the west ( 3 ) and two pin down side entrances to the west ( 2 ) and the east ( 70 ). Two rows of shops bordering the east and south porticoes vitamin a well as a row of shops on the northwestern corner of the construction do not open to the interior of the Agora, but face the surrounding streets .
The build was erected on the erstwhile web site of the alleged Sacred Lake, a huge swamp varying over time in size and water level. On the arid island of Delos, this was one of the most humid and fat places. While the build web site for the Agora was drained and stabilized with huge deposits of debris, the Sacred Lake was canalized with an outside wall, thereby attaining its show form. The Agora itself was neither planned nor constructed in its deliver form, but is the solution of a long build process with about five phases. The original construction ( Fig. 4 ) comprised entirely the large court with double-storied porticoes, the three large lavish Ionic exedrae ( 15, 30, 42 ) in the west and north, the propylon ( 3 ) and the secondary entrance ( 2 ) in the west, and – as a result of the use of earlier walls – some rooms in the west ( 1, 18/20, 21, 28 ). The rows of the southern and eastern shops formed separate of the original design, but were entirely added subsequently in a second phase. In contrast to these, the little exedrae ( 10, 23, 46, 98 ), the statue niches, and the bathe cortege did not belong to the beginning plan, but were added in a third and fourth phase as a kind of improvised placement and as a reaction to changing needs. In a fifth phase the northwestern shops were gained at the expense of public land .
The Agora of the Italians was most credibly constructed between 130-120 B.C., partially destroyed during the raids of 88 B.C., then repaired, and last abandoned after 69 B.C. Its routine is contested, with identifications ranging from a multifunctional commercial meet place for the Romans and Italians, a slave market, a commercial agora or macellum, a combine palaestra-gladiatorial arena-bath complex to, most recently, a garden-porticus, i.e., a deluxe park-like meet seat with a garden, porticoes, and exedrae .
The exploration of the huge court during the early excavations between 1877 and 1905 was considered disappointing because identical few objects were found. large parts of the court seem to have been dug up, but remains of plants, shrubs or trees were not recorded because they were probably not recognized or of sufficient pastime. To this day, the court is much overgrow with plants, flowers, and small trees. Future specialized probe of the court might decidedly prove the being of plants, but for the moment the following evidence for a garden can be cited .
The court contained possibly deoxyadenosine monophosphate many as eight wells, three of which are still visible today and five of which were tentatively identified in late geophysical examinations. The area of the early swamp was still sufficiently humid and could have supplied the necessity water for plants. Although many Hellenistic squares and agorai were not paved, the lack of a sidewalk is noteworthy within the context of Delos. In the concluding third base of the second gear century B.C. all heavily frequented squares, streets, and quays, which were specially used for commerce and barter, were amply paved with large gneiss slab. Since the Italians spared no expenses in constructing their foremost agora or in embellishing it late on, the unpaved deck of the court can not be due to fiscal shortcomings, but must have been chosen intentionally to meet a specific purpose. The court lacks a sewer to dispose of waste and specially rain water. The effluent of the later bathe cortege ( room 27 ) was not emptied into the sewer of the nearby street, as common, but was alternatively drained into the court. Therefore, all available water seems to have been measuredly used to irrigate a garden. Comparisons with other buildings show that the original build of the Agora of the Italians has nothing in common with civic-political agorai, or specific commercial markets, or palaestrae, but resembles much larger ambulant garden-peristyles of Hellenistic palaces ( e.g. Aigai, Pella, Jericho ) and late Republican houses in the vesuvianite area or the lavish garden-porticus in Rome such as the Porticus Pompei and the Porticus Liviae. Like these, the Agora of the Italians was most credibly conceived and used as a public ballpark for all kinds of agreeable meetings and sojourns.

The porticoes, and possibly tied the court, were decorated with statues. Most of the about 240 sculptural fragments found within the confines and in the immediate region of the Agora seem to come from honorary statues, which were largely presented in the orthogonal and semicircular statue niches, but besides outside of them, credibly in the porticoes. however, some fragments belonged to historical-political monuments ( for example, at least two or flush a many as six statues of Celts ) and to decorative sculpt suited for a garden ( for example, Dionysos, Satyr/Apollo/Pothos, herms ). These statues could have been placed either in the porticoes or in the court .
finally, numerous Greek, Latin, and bilingual inscriptions attest that the Agora of the Italians was never referred to as an agora, but probably as a pasta italike ( as restored in Roussel and Launey, Inscriptions de Délos, no. 2612 ). The romance translation of this could have been porticus Italica or porticus Italicorum which would have more allow for a epicurean garden-portico, preferably than the agora or forum .


Plan of the agora

Fig. 1: Agora of the Italians, reconstructed plan of the original building (first phase). Drawing by M. Trümper.

Plan of the agora with surrounding buildings

Fig. 2: Agora of the Italians, reconstructed plan. Drawing by M. Trümper after Ét. Lapalus 1939, Fig. 2.


Photo of Agora of the Italians from the southwest

Fig. 3: Agora of the Italians, overview from southwest. Photo courtesy of M. Trümper.

Photo of Agora of the Italians from the southeast

Fig. 4: Agora of the Italians, overview from southeast. Photo courtesy of M. Trümper.

2nd-1st c. BCE


  • P. Roussel and M. Launey, Inscriptions de Délos. Paris, 1937. (worldcat).
  • Ét. Lapalus, L’Agora des Italiens. Exploration archéologique de Délos XIX. Paris, 1939. (worldcat).
  • J. Marcadé, Au Musée de Délos. Étude de la sculpture hellénistique en ronde bosse découverte dans l’île. BEFAR fasc. 215, 1969. (worldcat).
  • E. M. Steinby, ed., Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae IV, Roma, 1999. (worldcat).
  • A. Sarris, “L’Agora des Italiens,” BCH 125, 2001: 612-615. (worldcat).
  • J. Marcadé and F. Queyrel, “Le Gaulois blessé de Délos reconsidéré,” MonPiot 82, 2003: 5-97. (worldcat).
  • Ph. Bruneau and J. Ducat, Guide de Délos. École française d Athènes. 4th edition, Paris, 2005. (worldcat).
  • M. Trümper, Die ‘Agora des Italiens’ in Delos. Baugeschichte, Architektur, Ausstattung und Funktion einer späthellenistischen Porticus-Anlage. Internationale Archäologie 104. Rahden/Westfalen, 2008. (worldcat).
  • M. Trümper, Graeco-Roman slave markets. Fact or Fiction. Oxford, 2009. (worldcat).
  • S. Montel, “Représentations italiennes à Délos. Les niches de l’agora des Italiens,”” in: M. Simon (ed.), Identités romaines. Conscience de soi et représentations de l’autre dans la Rome antique (IVe siècle av. J.-C. – VIIIe siècle apr. J.-C.). Paris, 2011: 243–254. (worldcat).
  • M. Trümper, “The honorific practice of the ‘Agora of the Italians’ in Delos”, in: J. Griesbach (ed.), Polis und Porträt. Standbilder als Medien der öffentlichen Repräsentation im hellenistischen Osten. Wiesbaden, 2014: 69–85. (worldcat).
  • F. Coarelli, I mercanti nel tempio. Delo. Culto, politica, commercio. Athens, 2016. (worldcat).
  • F. Herbin, “Die Statue des Ofellius,” in: F. Queyrel – R. von den Hoff (eds.), Das Leben griechischer Porträts. Porträtstatuen des 5. bis 1. Jhs. v. Chr. Bildnispraktiken und Neu-Kontextualisierungen. Paris, 2019: 326–335. (worldcat).

Pleiades ID

394168051 ( Agora of the Italians )


7011273 ( Dhílos, island )


Monika Trümper ( ORCID : 0000-0003-4524-6242 )
21 Apr 2021



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