Bouleuterion: Architecture

Restored Plan | State Plan bouleuterion bouleuterion


The Bouleuterion (Council House) is centered on the north side of the North Agora. As it stands today, it consists of a semicircular auditorium fronted by a shallow stage structure about 46 m wide. The lower part of the auditorium survives intact, with nine rows of marble seats divided into five wedges by radial stairways. The seating of the upper part, amounting to an additional twelve rows, has collapsed together with its supporting vaults. The plan is an extremely open one, with numerous entrances at ground level and several stairways giving access to the upper rows of seats. A system of massive parallel buttresses shows that the building was originally roofed. The auditorium would have been lighted by a series of tall, arched windows in the curved outer wall. Seating capacity can be estimated at about 1750.

The availiable evidence indicates a construction date in the Antonine or early Severan period (late second or early third century A.D.). The scaenae frons (stage front) was certainly put up at this time, as the style of both sculpture and architectural ornament suggest. Statue bases terminating the retaining walls of the auditorium bore the names of two brothers, senators in the early Severan period, and two inscribed bases placed symmetrically against the exterior facade held statues of Aphrodisian benefactors, Claudia Antonia Tatiana and her uncle Lucius Antonius Dometinus, who were active at the end of the second century (Sculptures of the Bouleuterion). Tatiana is known to have had close ties with Ephesos and it is possible that the striking similarities between this building and the Bouleuterion on the Civic Agora there, dated by inscription to the mid-second century, are due to some initiative on her part. We do not know what stood here before the second century A.D., but it is likely that the present building replaced a smaller one contemporary with the laying out of the Agora in the late first century B.C.

The Bouleuterion at Aphrodisias remained in this form until the early fifth century, when a municipal official had it adapted as a palaestra, recording his achievement on the upper molding of the pulpitum (stage). This term usually refers to a wrestling ground, but in the fifth century it could be used to describe a hall for lectures, performances, and various kinds of competitive displays, as suggested by a number of factional inscriptions carved on the seats. Numerous additional cuttings in the surviving seats, probably for poles supporting awnings, suggest that by this time the building had lost its roof. The orchestra was lowered and provided with an marble pavement, reused, perhaps, from the earlier phase.

The architecture of the Bouleuterion is being studied by Lionel Bier, Professor, Art Department, Brooklyn College.