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p944 Porticus

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p944 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

POR′TICUS (στοά), a walk covered with a roof, which is supported by columns, at least on one side. A porticus was either attached to temples and other public buildings, or it was built independent of any other edifice. Such shaded walks and places of resort are almost indispensable in the southern countries of Europe, where people live much in the open air, as a protection from the heat of the sun from rain. This was the case in ancient times to a much greater extent than at present. The porticoes attached to the temples were either constructed only in front of them, or went round the whole building, and temples received different names according to these different porticoes, and according to the arrangement of the columns of the porticoes. [Templum.] They were originally intended as places for those persons to assemble and converse in who visited the temple for various purposes. As such temple-porticoes, however, were found too small or not suited for the various purposes of private and public life, most of the Greek towns had independent porticoes, some of which were very extensive, especially in their places of public assembly [Agora]; and as the Greeks, in all their public works, soon went beyond the limits of mere utility, these public walks were not only built in the most magnificent style, but were adorned with pictures and statues by the best masters. Of this kind were the Poecile (στοὰ ποικίλη) and στοὰ βασίλειος at Athens (Athen. XIII p577; Paus. I.3 §1, &c.), and the στοὰ Περσική at Sparta (Paus. III.11 §3). The Skias at Sparta, where the popular assemblies were held, seems to have been a building of the same kind (Paus. III.12 §8). In most of these stoae, seats [Exedrae] were placed, that those who were tired might sit down. They were frequented not only by idle loungers, but also by philosophers, rhetoricians, and other persons fond of intellectual conversation. The Stoic school of philosophy derived its name from the circumstance, that the founder of it used to converse with his disciple in a stoa. The Romans derived their great fondness for such covered walks from the Greeks; and as luxuries among them were carried in everything to a greater extent than in Greece, wealthy Romans had their private porticoes, sometimes in the city itself, and sometimes in their country-seats. In the public porticoes of Rome, which were exceedingly numerous and very extensive (as that around the Forum and the Campus Martius), a variety of business was occasionally transacted: we find that law-suits were conducted here, meetings of the senate held, goods exhibited for sale, &c. (See Pitiscus, Lexicon, s.v. Porticus, who has given a complete list of all the porticoes of Rome.)a


Thayer's Note:

a Pitiscus was a scholar of the late 17c, whose list has of course been by now many times superseded. The most current such list that it is possible to put online in view of copyright restrictions is that of Samuel Platner, in his Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby (1929). It is onsite.


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