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My Favourite Planet > English > People > Herodes Atticus

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Herodes Atticus

Lucius Vibullius Hipparchus Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes (Ἡρῴδης ὁ Ἀττικός, circa 101-177 AD), usually referred to as Herodes Atticus, was a rich and cultured Greek aristocrat, born in Marathon, whose family claimed ancient and distinguished Athenian lineage.

Herodes Atticus was one of many wealthy, well-connected Greeks who thrived under the Roman emperors, held public offices and were considered among the intelligentsia of their time (see also Aulus Claudius Charax of Pergamon).

He was appointed prefect of the free cities of Asia Minor in 125 AD by Emperor Hadrian, was elected Archon of Athens in 140 AD, served as a Roman senator and as Consul in 143 AD; he served as agonothete, a presiding officer, at the Panhellenic and Panathenean games and was a priest of the Roman imperial cult.

He was also a Sophist philosopher, orator and teacher; he taught the adopted sons of Emperor Antoninus Pius, who were later to become emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus.

Atticus was married twice. His first wife Alkia (Αλκία) and son died during premature childbirth. Around 140 AD he married Aspasia Annia Regilla (see below), a member of an influential Roman aristocratic family. The couple had six children, only three of whom survived into adulthood. (See inscriptions dedicated to Herodes Atticus and Claudia Athenais, his second daughter, below.)

He returned to Athens towards the end of his life, and as well as writing and teaching philosophy and rhetoric, he also financed public games and building works, including the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, the renovation of the Classical Odeion of Pericles (which was next to the Theatre of Dionysos) and the Panathenaic Stadium (see photo below), in which his funeral was held.

While prefect in Asia he also financed or part-financed many public works, at Nicomedia, Nicea, Prusa, Claudiopolis and Sinope, as well as an extensive aqueduct in Alexandria Troas, said to have cost seven million drachmas (Philostratus, page 143 [1]). He also built monumental works, including theatres and temples, at Olympia, Delphi, Corinth, Thermopylae and Canusium (Italy).

According to Philostratus, his greatest unfulfilled ambition was to complete the canal across the Isthmus of Corinth:

"And yet, though he had achieved such great works, he held that he had done nothing important because he had not cut through the Isthmus. For he regarded it as a really brilliant achievement to cut away the mainland to join two seas, and to contract lengths of sea into a voyage of twenty-six stades. This then he longed to do, but he never had the courage to ask the Emperor to grant him permission, lest he should be accused of grasping at an ambitious plan to which not even Nero had proved himself equal."

Philostratus, page 151 [1]

In his final years he spent much of his time at the richly-appointed villas of his estates at Kifissia (now a wealthy suburb northeast of Athens) and Marathon, where he held dinner parties (symposia) with rich, influential friends and intellectuals, particularly fellow Sophists. He also had a villa in in Loukou, Arcadia, Peloponnese, where over 100 sculptures, several inscriptions, mosaics and other artworks have been discovered. Most of the artefacts are now in the Archaeological Museum of Astros, which has unfortunately been closed for many years.

After the death of Annia Regilla, Atticus adopted three of his young male pupils, Achilles (Ἀχιλλεύς), Memnon (Mέμνων), an Ethiopian (see photo, right), and Polydeukes (Πολυδευκης), and he set up portraits of them in his villas.

Polydeukes is said to have been Atticus' lover (eromenos), and his death while still a youth (around 173-174 AD), caused Atticus to fall into a state of deep despair from which he also died a few years later. But not before he had established and financed a cult to Polydeukes, commissioned games, sculptures and inscriptions. The cult imitated that created by Emperor Hadrian for his eromenos Antinous, who had drowned while swimming in the Nile in 130 AD [2]. Several portraits of Polydeukes have been found at Atticus' villas, and the relief found at the Villa of Herodes Atticus at Loukou may be his tombstone (see photo below).

Atticus himself was given an extravagant funeral at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, and his tomb, which still stands on the hill on the northeast side of the stadium, bears the inscription:


Herodou Attikou Street (Οδός Ηρώδου Αττικού) in central Athens is named after him, and Regilles Street and Square (Οδός Ρηγίλλης, often written Rigillis; the square is also known as Platea P. Mela) are named after his wife Aspasia Annia Regilla. The streets run parallel to each other, just east of Syntagma Square and the National Garden, an affluent area in which are located the residences of the president and prime minister of Greece, the barracks of the Evzone guards and the Athens Conservatory, as well as the archaeological site of Aristotle's Lyceum (see Digging Aristotle at The Cheshire Cat Blog).
References to Herodes Atticus
on My Favourite Planet
The Odeion of Herodes Atticus, Athens

Athens Acropolis gallery pages 32-33

Portrait bust of Herodes Atticus at My Favourite Planet

Portrait bust of Herodes Atticus from his
villa in Kifissia, northeast of Athens.
Pentelic marble, mid 2nd century AD.

National Archaeological Museum,
Athens. Inv. No. 4810.

Marble head of Herodes Atticus, British Museum at My Favourite Planet

Marble head of Herodes Atticus.

Circa 177-180 AD.
Said to be from Alexandria.

British Museum. Gr 1990.L-1.1.
Lent by Winchester City Museum.

Portrait head of Memnon at My Favourite Planet

Marble portrait head of Memnon,
an Ethiopian, one of Herodes
Atticus' pupils and adopted sons.

Marble. 160-165 AD.
From the Villa of Herodes Atticus
in Loukou, Arkadia, Greece.

Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 1503.
Donated in 1899.

Portrait bust of Polydeukes at My Favourite Planet

Bust of Polydeukes, another of
Herodes Atticus' adopted sons.

(see also photos below).

Marble. Around 165 AD.
Acquired in Athens in 1844.

Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 413.

Statuette of Artemis Ephesia from the Villa of Herodes Atticus in Loukou, Arkadia at My Favourite Planet

Statuette of Artemis Ephesia,
patron goddess of Ephesus.
Part of the large art collection
found at the Villa of Herodes
Atticus in Loukou, Arkadia in
the Peloponnese. [3]

Astros Archaeological Museum,
Aspasia Annia Regilla
Appia Annia Regilla Atilia Caucidia Tertulla (125-160 AD; known in Greek as Ἀσπασία Ἄννια Ῥήγιλλα, Aspasia Annia Regilla) was Herodes Atticus' second wife. A member of an influential Roman aristocratic family and distantly related to the imperial line, she was married to Atticus when she was 14 (he was about 40). Of the six children they are known to have had, only three survived into adulthood.

She was the priestess of Demeter at Olympia, the only woman allowed to attend the Olympic Games, and built the Nymphaeum, a monumental fountain (also known as the Fountain or Exedra of Herodes Atticus, built 150 AD), decorated with statues of Zeus, members of her and Atticus' families and the imperial family. The fountain also featured a marble statue of a bull, now in the Olympia Museum, on the side of which a Greek inscription proclaims: "Regilla, priestess of Demeter, dedicated the water and the fixtures to Zeus."

Among her other distinctions, she was also the first priestess of Fortuna in Athens, probably at the temple of Fortuna built by Atticus near the Panathenaic Stadium. A statue of her was dedicated by the traders of Piraeus at the request of the Areopagus.

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, Atticus was accused of murdering Regilla by her brother Appius Annius Atilius Bradua, who was at the time Consul. During the trial in Rome it was alleged that she died in premature childbirth after being kicked in the stomach by a freedman of Atticus while she was eight months pregnant with her sixth child (Philostratus, pages 159-163 [1]). It is thought that the child also died, either at the same time or shortly after. Atticus was acquitted, and went on to erect monuments to her, including the Odeion of Herodes Atticus in Athens. The question of whether he was motivated by genuine grief or a sense of guilt continues to be debated by modern scholars.

She was buried in a temple-like tomb, built by Herodes Atticus on his estate, the Pagus Tropius, just outside Rome (see photo below).


Sarah B. Pomeroy, The Murder of Regilla: A Case of Domestic Violence in Antiquity. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2007.

Maud W. Gleason, Making Space for Bicultural Identity: Herodes Atticus Commemorates Regilla, Version 1.0, July 2008. Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics, Stanford University.

Helen McClees, A Study of Women in Attic Inscriptions.
Columbia University Press, New York, 1920. At
Rigillis Street sign, Athens, Greece

Rigillis Street (Οδός Ρηγίλλης),
Athens, named after
Aspasia Annia Regilla.

Rigillis Street is the location
of Aristotle's Lyceum.
See Digging Aristotle
at The Cheshire Cat Blog.
The tomb of Annia Regilla in Rome at My Favourite Planet

The tomb of Annia Regilla in Caffarella Park, near the Via Appia, southeast of Rome city centre.
The tomb was built by Herodes Atticus for his deceased wife on his estate, known as
the Pagus Tropius, in the Valle della Caffarella, between the Via Appia and the Almone river,
outside the Aurelian Wall.

The area around the tomb is open to the public
on Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am - 4 pm (6 pm in summer).
Dedicatory inscriptions for Herodes Atticus and his daughter Claudia Athenais at My Favourite Planet

Epistle with two dedicatory inscriptions for Herodes Atticus and his daughter
Claudia Athenais by the Council of the Areopagus, Council of the 600
and Assembly of the People. Epistyle from a building. Before 150 AD.
ἡ είου πάλὴ καὶ ἡ βουλὴ τῶν ἑξακοσίων καὶ ὁ δῆμος Κλαυδίαν Ἀθηναΐδα εὐεργεσίας ἕνεκεν.
ἡ ἐξ Ἀρείου πάγουλὴ καὶ ἡ βουλὴ τῶν ἑξακοσίων καὶ ὁ δῆμος τὸν ἀρχιερέα τῶν Σεβαστῶν διὰ
βίου Τιβ Κλαύδιον Ἀττικὸν Ἡρώδην Μαραθώνιον εὐεργεσίας ἕνεκεν.

Athens Epigraphical Museum, Athens. Inv. No. EM 10313. Inscription IG ii (2) 3594 / 5.

Marcia Annia Claudia Alcia Athenais Gavidia Latiaria, commonly known as Athenais (143-161 AD),
was Herodes Atticus' third child and second daughter.

Marble bust of Polydeukes, Altes Museum, Berlin at My Favourite Planet

Marble bust of Polydeukes.

Around 165 AD. Acquired in Athens in 1844.

Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 413.
Bust of Polydeukes from Kifissia, Attica at My Favourite Planet

Bust of Polydeukes from Herodes Atticus'
villa in Kifissia, Attica.

Parian marble. Mid 2nd century AD.
Found together with the bust of
Herodus Atticus at the top of the page.

National Archaeological Museum,
Athens. Inv. No. 4811.
Polydeukes hero relief from Arcadia at My Favourite Planet

Marble relief in the form of a naiskos (small temple), depicting a naked youth, identified
as the heroized Polydeukes, adopted son of Herodes Atticus (see above). Typical of such
hero reliefs, he is shown with a horse.

To the left is a tree, around which is entwined a snake, armour and a sword. On the right is a
slave holding his helmet and a loutrophos (a tall vase used as a grave marker) on a pedestal.

Pentelic marble, after the middle of the 2nd century AD. Found near the Monastery of Loukou, Arkadia.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 1450.

Herodes Atticus' villa at Loukou contained a large art collection. Over 100 sculptures, several
inscriptions, mosaics and other works from the villa are now in the nearby Archaeological Museum
of Astros. Unfortunately, the museum has been closed for many years.

Read more about hero reliefs on Pergamon gallery 2, page 10 and Pella gallery page 17.
Headless herm of Polydeukes at My Favourite Planet   Inscription on the herm of Polydeukes at My Favourite Planet
Headless herm with an inscription dedicated to the "hero Polydeukes".

From Athens. Mid 2nd century AD.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Inv. No. ANMichaelis 177.
Donated by R. M. Dawkins.
The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Greece at My Favourite Planet

The restored Panathenaic Stadium, originally built by Herodes Atticus before 143 AD,
south of the National Gardens in the centre of Athens.

"A marvel to the eyes, though not so impressive to hear of, is a race-course of white marble, the size of which can best be estimated from the fact that beginning in a crescent on the heights above the Ilisus it descends in two straight lines to the river bank. This was built by Herodes, an Athenian, and the greater part of the Pentelic quarry was exhausted in its construction."

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 1, Chapter 19, Section 6.

It seems that Pausanias (or his sources) may have been slightly exaggerating in claiming that the construction of the stadium almost exhausted the suppply of marble at the quarries on Mount Pendeli. Marble is still quarried there today. Pentelic marble was used to restore the stadium at the end of the 19th century, and more recently other ancient monuments such as the Parthenon.

The Panathenaic Stadium (Παναθηναϊκό Στάδιο, Panathinaiko Stadio), nicknamed the Kallimarmaro (Καλλιμάρμαρο, literally beautiful marble), is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. The U-shaped, 50,000-seat stadium replaced the first stadium here, built by Lycurgus (Λυκούργος) around 330 BC on the site of the old Panathenaic racecourse, between the hills Agra (Άγρα) and Ardettos (Αρδηττού), south of the Ilissos river. It was the location of the games of the Great Panathenaea festival, held every four years in honour of Athena.

After the prohibition of pagan religious festivals and games by Emperor Theodosius I in the late 4th century AD, the stadium was abandoned. During the Middle Ages most of its marble was plundered for use as building material elsewhere, and its remains gradually became covered in earth and forgotten. It was excavated and partially restored in 1869. The Zappas Olympics, financed by the wealthy Greek benefactor Evangelis Zappas (Ευάγγελος Ζάππας), were held here in 1870 and 1875. Following a more complete restoration in 1895 (work continued until 1900) by the architects Ernst Ziller and Anastasios Metaxas (Αναστάσιος Μεταξάς), it was the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and 4 of the 9 sports were contested here.

Two of the four ancient herms found by archaeologists during excavations still stand at the near turn of the racetrack. Another of the herms is displayed in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens (see photos on Pergamon gallery 2, page 15).
Notes, references and links

1. Philostratus on Herodes Atticus

Quotes and references concerning Herodes Atticus and the Odeion by Philostratus are taken from:

Philostratus and Eunapius; The lives of the Sophists, Philostratus, Book II. In ancient Greek and English, translated by William Cave Wright. Heinemann, London and Putnam, New York, 1922. At

See also:

Joseph L. Rife, The burial of Herodes Atticus: Élite identity, urban society, and public memory in Roman Greece. Journal of Hellenic Studies, Volume 128 (2008), pages 92-127. At

Jennifer Tobin, Some New Thoughts on Herodes Atticus's Tomb, His Stadium of 143/4, and Philostratus VS 2.550. American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 97, No. 1 (Jan., 1993), pages 81-89. Archaeological Institute of America. At

Frederick William Faber, A biographical notice of Atticus Herodes, prefect of the free cities of Asia. Davison, Simmons, 1832. E-book at googlebooks. To modern readers this may seem more like an uncritical sermon in praise of Herodes Atticus than a historical appraisal of his life and achievements.

2. Herodes Atticus and the cult of Antinous

A bust of Antinous (Inv. No. 173) was found in 1977 at the Villa of Herodes Atticus, near Loukou, and the torso of a sitting statue of Antinous was discovered there in September 1996. Both are in the Archaeological Museum of Astros (currently not open to the public).

Herodes Atticus built the sanctuary of Isis at Brexiza (Αιγυπτιακό ιερό στην Μπρεξίζα, the Egyptian Temple at Brexiza), near Marathon, Attica, in which was found an Egyptianizing statue of Antinous as the Egyptian god Osiris. The statue is now in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Egyptian Collection. Inv. No. 1.

3. Statuette of Artemis Ephesia from Louka

I have not yet found any information about this statuette, one of many Roman period copies of the cult statue at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. The most famous example, "the Beautiful Artemis Ephesia", now in the Ephesus Museum, Selçuk, was made 125-175 AD, during Herodus Atticus' lifetime, and possibly during his time as prefect in Asia Minor. It is tempting to think that this small statuette found at his villa at Louka was a memento from a stay at Ephesus, where he may have purchased it or received it as a gift.
Photos and articles © David John
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