THREE HELLENISTIC ‘NAISKOI‘ IN THE THEATRE AREA OF AIGEIRA

In the framework of a new building investigation, the building history, typology, usage and function with regard to town planning of the three so-called naiskoi D, E and F in the theatre area of Aigeira were analysed, structures which were brought to light during the excavations of the ÖAI in the 1980s.

Together with the theatre, a peristyle building and additional small structures, the three so-called naiskoi D, E and F, located on both sides of the theatre, constitute an urban planning ensemble erected during the Hellenistic period and in use up until the Roman imperial era. Noteworthy at the site is the building type 'naiskos', appearing several times and in prominent positions; its function is not unambiguously determined, since this building type was used equally for small temples, treasuries and banqueting structures. The chronology of the three buildings, primarily excavated by the ÖAI in the 1970s and 1980s, had not yet been clarified. The dissertation project therefore deals with the building history, the architectonic design and the function of these small structures in the context of the total site.

Methods


Within the framework of the dissertation project, in the course of a reappraisal study by the ÖAI during the annual excavation campaign, the three structures were cleaned section by section, newly surveyed and drawn. This newly produced stone-by-stone building documentation in the form of ground plans, sections and elevations served, together with the excavation documentation, as the foundation for the analysis of the method of construction, the building phases and the features. Photos and photogrammetric recordings supplement the new documentation. In addition, entablature blocks and roof terracottas found during the excavations were recorded and investigated, allowing reconstruction proposals for the architecture.

Results regarding the Building History


The structural-historical and typological investigation of the three buildings led to new results with regard to their chronology, architecture and usage. The three prostyle structures exhibit individual building histories: 'naiskos' E was the first to be built, probably together with the theatre, for which the same unit of measurement was employed, in the early Hellenistic period. A precursor of building F ought to belong to the original lay-out as well. The construction of 'naiskos' D followed in the second half of the 3rd century BC, and finally in the late Hellenistic period, 'naiskos' F appeared in its form as a prostyle building and as the last of the three naiskoi. 

Typology and Function of the Naiskoi


'Naiskos' E is differentiated both in terms of building typology and in its features from the two younger structures D and F, which represent a common group. Whereas the first can clearly be interpreted as a cult building, the two others display a multiple usage, including amongst others for banqueting. The 'naiskoi' in Aigeira were accordingly particularly prestigious buildings that could have served on the one hand for cult practices and on the other hand for gatherings and as banqueting spaces for small, elite groups. Based on the investigation of the three 'naiskoi', the roles of this building type, appearing frequently in Hellenistic sanctuaries, could be explored in an exemplary fashion in the context of the entire site.

Consequences for the Entire Site


The ensemble which can be understood as a sanctuary did not, as previously assumed, originate on the ground plan of an overriding urban design, but instead experienced an expansion during the Hellenistic period which was probably associated with a change in meaning. Although the site retained the early Hellenistic character of loosely scattered buildings, in the course of the expansion the intent to create symmetry and to compose a central square can be observed. Probably following prototypes of large sanctuaries such as Dodona, Delphi, Knidos and others, and exploiting the situation on the ridge of the hill visible from far away across the gulf of Corinth, a sanctuary of supralocal importance should have been constructed, one which could also serve for political gatherings.