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PO´RTICUS (στοὰ) is a building of which the roof is supported at least on one side by columns; it is thus open to the air, but protected from sun and rain. The simplest form of portico has one row of columns on the outside, and a wall at the back; in this form στοαὶ frequently surround temples or enclose an open space, such as an ἀγορά: especially in Ionia these porticoes surrounding the ἀγορὰ were erected with great magnificence. A στοὰ might also have one or two interior rows of columns, dividing it into two or three aisles, and thus an extensive covered space was provided; in this case it was usual for the intervals between the interior columns to be double that between the exterior ones. Another form was divided by a wall instead of a row of columns, and thus two single porticoes were produced, set back to back (Paus. 6.24). Στοαὶ were frequently adorned with paintings, either on the back wall or affixed to it; hence the name ποικίλη is applied to one at Athens, and another at Olympia: this last, as well as one at Hermione, had also the name of the Echo-stoa from its acoustic properties (Paus. 5.21; 2.35). Statues were frequently placed in front of porticoes, and sometimes were placed, to adorn the portico itself, above the columns; so figures of Persians at Sparta (Paus. 3.11). Greek stoae were named from their character, ποικίλη, μακρά, Περσική, or from their purpose, βασίλειος, where the archon basileus held his court, ἀλφιτόπωλις, probably at the Piraeus (Schol. Ar. Ach. 547); later also from those who erected them, as those of Eumenes and Attalus in Athens. Beside their official or commercial uses, στοαὶ in Athens also served as covered resorts for meeting and conversation; thus Zeno frequented the Stoa Poecile, after which his followers were called the Stoics. Porticoes were also attached to gymnasia and to baths.

The numerous porticoes in Rome were erected in imitation of the Greek, and served similar purposes, both public and private. Some were already erected during the later centuries of the Republic (e. g. Octavia, 168 B.C.; Metelli, 146 B.C.). But especially in imperial times they were constructed of extraordinary extent and richness. They were also a favourite addition to the private houses of rich Romans. Porticoes in Rome were usually named after their founder, the temples or other buildings they were near, their use (e.g. argentaria) or their decoration (argonautarum). When they surrounded a forum, Vitruvius observes (5.1) that the intercolumniation should be wider than in Greek examples, for facility in seeing spectacula. [See AGORA; DOMUS.]


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