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My Favourite Planet > English > People > Herodes Atticus

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Herodes Atticus

Lucius Vibullius Hipparchus Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes (Λεύκιος Βιβούλλιος Ἵππαρχος Τιβέριος Κλαύδιος Ἀττικὸς Ἡρῴδης, circa 101-177 AD), usually referred to as Herodes Atticus (Ἡρῴδης ὁ Ἀττικός), 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).

Most of what is known about his life was recorded in a biography by the Greek sophist Philostratus "the Athenian" in his The lives of the Sophists (Βίοι Σοφιστών), written some time between 230 and 250 AD. [1] Since the 17th century a large number of inscriptions mentioning him, his family and their activities have been discovered [2], as well as a wealth of other archaeological evidence from around Greece, Anatolia (Asia Minor) and Italy.

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 (see below), 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 [note 1]). He also built monumental works, including theatres, temples and fountains, at Athens, Marathon, Olympia, Delphi, Patras, Thermopylae, Corinth, Rome 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 [note 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 (ancient Eua, Εύα), Arcadia, Peloponnese, where over 100 sculptures, several inscriptions, mosaics and other artworks have been discovered. Most of the artefacts are now in the nearby 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, Achilleus), Memnon (Mέμνων), an African ("an Ethiopian", see photo, right), and Polydeukes (Πολυδεύκης; also referred to as Polydeukion, Πολυδευκίων and Polydeuces), and he set up portraits of them in his villas.

Polydeukes is said to have been Atticus' lover (ἐρώμενος, 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 [3]. 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 in Athens, and the remains of his tomb still stand on the hill on the east side of the Panathenaic Stadium.

"He died at the age of about seventy six, of a wasting sickness. And though he expired at Marathon and had left directions to his freedmen to bury him there, the Athenians carried him off by the hands of the youths [ephebes] and bore him into the city, and every age went out to meet the bier with tears and pious ejaculations, as would sons who were bereft of a good father. They buried him in the Panathenaic stadium, and inscribed over him this brief and noble epitaph:

Here lies all that remains of Herodes, son of Atticus, of Marathon, but his glory is world-wide."

(Αττικού Ηρώδης Μαραθώνιος, ου τάδε πάντα κείται τώδε τάφω, πάντοθεν ευδόκιμος)

Philostratus, page 183 [note 1]

Herodou Attikou Street (Οδός Ηρώδου Αττικού) in central Athens is named after Herodes Atticus, 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,
found in February 1961 at 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.

Probably made in Attica 177-180 AD.
Said to be from Alexandria, Egypt.

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. Around 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. [4]

Astros Archaeological Museum,
Portrait herm of Herodes Atticus in Corinth at My Favourite Planet   Detail of the herm of Herodes Atticus in Corinth at My Favourite Planet
Portrait herm of Herodes Atticus with the inscription:

Ηρώδης ἐνθάδε περιεπάτει

"Herodes used to walk here"

Inscription SEG 2.52 (Corinth 8,1 85).

According to museum labelling "around 175 AD",
but perhaps around 178 AD, after his death.

Corinth Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. S-1219.

A chance find from near New Corinth, it was literally flushed out of the earth in 1919 when a heavy storm caused the collapse of a railway bridge and a landslide. The herm's original location is unknown, it may have come from nearby Isthmia (see below). It has also been suggested that the herm may have been set up at Kraneion (Κράνειον) at Corinth, a cypress grove with a temple of Aphrodite Melainis (Αφροδίτη Μελαίνις), a chthonic divinity worshipped in cemeteries, and a gymnasium that became a meeting place for philosophers. Herodes Atticus may have had a villa there.

The find was significant for researchers, since the inscription put a name to the other nameless heads of Herodes Atticus discovered before and since.
Aspasia Annia Regilla
Appia Annia Regilla Atilia Caucidia Tertulla (circa 125-158 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 Agathe Tyche (Fortuna) in Athens, probably at the temple of Tyche built by Atticus near the Panathenaic Stadium. A statue of her stood in front of the sanctuary of Tyche in Corinth (see photo, right), and another was dedicated by the traders of Piraeus at the request of the Areopagus. Unfortunately, no statue known to depict her has yet been found.

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. At the trial in Rome, around 160 AD, 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 [note 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 at My Favourite Planet

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.
A base of a statue of Annia Regilla in Corinth at My Favourite Planet

A base of a statue of Annia Regilla, found
in 1935 in the Forum of Ancient Corinth.
The inscription on the base refers to a
statue, perhaps made during her lifetime,
dedicated by Herodes Atticus and set up
in front of the sanctuary of Tyche by the
boule (βουλή, city council) of Corinth.

Corinth Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. I 1658.
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 Triopius (Triopius Farm), in the Valle della Caffarella, between the Via Appia and the Almone river, outside the Aurelian Wall. Since Annia Regilla is thought to have been buried in Athens, this may have been a cenotaph (symbolic empty grave) or shrine to her, unless her remains had been returned to Rome.

The area around the tomb is open to the public
on Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am - 4 pm (6 pm in summer).

It is thought that the estate, on the left side of the Via Appia between second and third milestones, originally belonged to Annia Regilla. As part of his efforts to proclaim his grief over her death, Herodes Atticus renamed the estate Triopion (perhaps after the mythical hero Triopas [5]), dedicated to the gods of the underworld and the funeral cult of Regilla. The area included a temple dedicated to Demeter and Persephone and the "new Demeter", the deified Faustina Major (Annia Galeria Faustina, circa 100-140 AD), the wife of Emperor Antoninus Pius. A statue of Annia Regilla, "neither god nor mortal", stood in the temple.

Much of the area of the Triopion was later taken over by the palace of Emperor Maxentius (reigned 306-312 AD). It is thought that the temple of Demeter was coverted in the 10th century into the church of Sant' Urbano alla Caffarella, dedicated to Saint Urban who was Pope 222-230 AD.
An inscribed marble column from the temple of Demeter and Persephone in the Triopion, Rome at My Favourite Planet   The inscription on the Triopion column at My Favourite Planet
One of two inscribed marble columns from the temple of Demeter and Persephone in the Triopion.

Circa 138-161 AD. Found on the Via Appia in the 16th century.

National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Inv. Nos. 2400 and 2401. From the Farnese Collection.

The inscriptions in Greek and Latin threaten thieves with the wrath of the underworld gods:

"And these columns are an offering to Demeter, Kore, and the chthonic deity.
No one is permitted to remove anything from the Triopion which is at the third
[milestone] of the Appian Way in the land of Herodes. No good will come
to him who moves it: Euhodia the [underworld] daimon is witness."

Inscription IG XIV 1390 (IGUR II 339a and IGUR II 339b) [6].
The Townley Caryatid in the British Museum at My Favourite Planet   Detail of the Townley Caryatid at My Favourite Planet
The "Townley Caryatid" from the Triopion.

Circa 140-170 AD. Classicist Neo-Attic style. Found 1585-1590 near the Via Appia.

Pentelic marble. Over lifesize, height 220 cm (237 cm with restored plinth).

British Museum. Inv. No. GR 1805.7-3.44 (Sculpture 1746).
Acquired in 1805 from the Townley Collection.

The restored frontal figure wears a tall, tapering kalathos, decorated with a row of palmettes and lotus buds, a row of rosettes and a bead-and-reel rim; rosette earrings, a bead necklace above a strap necklace with seed-shaped pendants; a peplos and a himation, fastened at the shoulders by large round buttons; and platform sandals. She has a melon hairstyle, with corkscrew locks falling over her back. The head faces forward, the fnely-carved face is expressionless, the lips slightly parted. Her raised right forearm is extended forwards with her open hand palm upwards. Her left arm is at her side. Her bent left leg is visible through the thin peplos, the left foot advanced. The right leg is obscured by the vertical folds of the peplos, beneath which the front of the foot can be seen.

The figure is one of six caryatids, differing in several details, found at the Triopion site. They formed a colonnade in a religious sanctuary, probably of the temple of Demeter and Persephone built by Herodus Atticus. This is one of two caryatids found 1585-1590 at the Triopion site, the other is in the Vatican Museums, Inv. No. 2270. Another three were discovered in 1765 and are now in the Villa Albani-Torlonia, Rome (see Antinous), including a fragmentary caryatid, the head of which is attached to part of a pilaster signed by two unknown Athenian sculptors, Kriton and Nikolaos:


A sixth fragmentary caryatid was discovered during excavations in 2003-2005.

The "Townley Caryatid" was acquired by Pope Sixtus V (Felice Peretti di Montalto, 1521-1590) and kept at the Villa Peretti Montalto, which was sold in 1696 to Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Negroni and became known as Villa Negroni. The antiquities in the collection of the villa were sold in 1785 to the art dealer Thomas Jenkins. The caryatid was among a number of artworks from the collection purchased from him in 1786 by the British collector Charles Townley, who believed it to be a statue of Isis.

Professor Olga Palagia has recently reported suggestions that the head of one of three caryatids found in 1882 in central Athens (now in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, not on display) is a duplicate of that of the Townley Caryatid, and that the three figures may have originally decorated a now lost propylon of the City Eleusinion near the Athenian Agora [7]. These suggestions may strengthen the association of the Triopius caryatids with the temple of Demeter there.

See also:

The caryatids of the Erechtheion on the Athens Acropolis.

A caryatid from Tralles, Ionia
Dedicatory inscriptions for Herodes Atticus and his daughter Claudia Athenais at My Favourite Planet

An 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. 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. Purchased in
Athens in 1844. Height 54.5 cm.

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
in February 1961, together with the bust
of Herodus Atticus at the top of the page.

National Archaeological Museum,
Athens. Inv. No. 4811.
Two other portrait heads of Polydeukion were found on the South Slope of the Athens Acropolis:

Acropolis Museum. Inv. No. 2377.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 3468.

They are not in such a good condition as those above, and are not usually on display.

Marble head of Polydeukes from Isthmia at My Favourite Planet

Lifesize marble portrait head of Polydeukes
from the Roman baths at Isthmia.

Around 150 AD.

Isthmia Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. IS 78-12.

One of two heads of Polydeukes (the other
Inv. No. IS 437, not on display) found in
the area of the 2nd century AD bath
complex at Isthmia (Ισθμία), 16 km east
of Ancient Corinth. It has been suggested
that the baths, which included a large
mosaic floor with depictions of Poseidon
(the patron deity of Isthmia) and Amphitrite,
may have been built by Herodes Atticus as
a dedication to Polydeukes.

Pausanias mentions that Herodes donated
statues to the Temple of Poseidon. [8]
Marble head of Polydeukes from Corinth at My Favourite Planet

Marble portrait head of Polydeukes.

140-150 AD. Found to the east of
the ampitheatre in Ancient Corinth.

Corinth Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. S 2734.

Herodes Atticus financed monumental
building projects at Corinth, including
the renovation of the Peirene Fountain
and probably the Odeion (see below).
Polydeukes hero relief from Arcadia at My Favourite Planet

Marble hero 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).

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

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

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.

Herodes Atticus' villa at Loukou (ancient Eua, Εύα) 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 Polydeukion at My Favourite Planet   Inscription on the herm of Polydeukion at My Favourite Planet
Headless herm with an inscription dedicated to the
"hero Polydeukion", probably by Herodes Atticus.

Mid 2nd century AD. Found in the ruins of a chapel in Kifissia,
northeast of Athens, where Herodes Atticus had a villa.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Inv. No. ANMichaelis 177.
Donated by R. M. Dawkins.

The Greek inscription on the chest of the herm stele:

Ἥρως Πολυδευκίων
ταῖσδέ ποτ’ ἐν τριό-
δοις σύν σοι ἐπε-

"Hero Polydeukion, once I walked here with you at this crossroads."

Inscription IG II² 13194.

For the longer inscription at the bottom of the herm stele, see:
IG II² 13194 at The Packard Humanities Institute.
The Odeion of Herodes Atticus, Athens at My Favourite Planet

The restored interior of the Odeion of Herodes Atticus (Ωδείο Ηρώδου του Αττικού), also known
as the Herodeion (Ἡρώδειον), at the foot of the southwest slope of the Athenian Acropolis.
The theatre is named after Herodes Atticus, who financed its construction around 160-174 AD.
It was one of the last major public buildings to be constructed in Athens in antiquity.

For further details see Odeion of Herodes Atticus in the Athens Acropolis gallery.
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) were 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, Beautiful Marble), is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble. The U-shaped, 50,000-seat racecourse 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 four of the nine 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).

Entrance to the stadium used to be free, but the Athens municipality now charges for admission. There is a small museum beneath the east side of the stadium, accessed through the tunnel whose entrance can be seen on the right of the photo, just above the curved turning of the track. The permanent exhibition includes a collection of Olympic torches (see Come on, baby, light my fire at The Cheshire Cat Blog).
The remains of the Peirene Fountain in the Forum of Ancient Corinth at My Favourite Planet

The remains of the Peirene Fountain in the Forum of Ancient Corinth.

There are two natural springs named Peirene at Corinth, the upper Peirene spring is at the top of Acrocorinth (its lower slope can be seen in the background). The lower Peirene, in what during the Roman period became the Forum, was in use from at least the Neolithic period, and the first attempts at water management were made during the Geometric period. It was surrounded by a succession of constructions from the Archaic period. Following the destruction of Corinth by the Roman consul Lucius Mummius in 146 BC, the fountain house was rebuilt with successive further embellishments, including a renovation by Herodes Atticus.

According to one myth, the Peirene spring was formed when Artemis accidentally killed Kenchrias, and his mother Peirene, a lover of Poseidon, literally dissolved into tears there. This myth has similarites to that of Niobe. In another tale, the spring was the hoofprint of Pegasus (Πηγασος, Of the Spring, a child of Medusa), formed when the winged horse stamped its foot in irritation as the hero Bellerophon bridled him. As Pausanias pointed out, this legend was also attached to springs in Troezen and Boeotia (Description of Greece, Book 2, chapter 31, section 9).
Silver stater of Corinth showing Pegasus at My Favourite Planet

Silver stater of Corinth showing
Pegasus. 550-520 BC.

Altes Museum, Berlin.
The remains of the Roman Odeion of Ancient Corinth at My Favourite Planet

The remains of the Roman Odeion of Ancient Corinth, with Acrocorinth in the backgound.

Built in the first century AD, the Odeion was remodelled in the second century, probably by Herodes Atticus. The roofed semicircular theatre, used for musical events and rhetorical competitions, could seat around 3000 spectators. Following a third building phase around 225 AD, part of the Odeion was destroyed by fire. It was later converted into a gladitorial arena, but fell into disuse and was destroyed at the end of the fourth century.  
Notes, references and links

1. Philostratus on Herodes Atticus

Lucius Flavius Philostratus (Λούκιος Φλάβιος Φιλόστρατος) is often referred to as Philostratus "the Athenian" to distinguish him from other ancient authors named Philostratus. The dates of his life are unknown, but he is thought to have lived between 160/170 and 244/249 AD. It has been suggested that he may have attended a rhetorical performance by Herodes Atticus or even been at his funeral. The lives of the Sophists (Βίοι Σοφιστών), known in Latin as Vitae Sophistarum, is thought to have been written in the 230s or 240s AD, according to other opinions between 231 and 237 AD. The biography of Herodes Atticus appears in the first section of Book II, referred to as Section a or Section 1, depending on the modern edition.

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

Philostratus and Eunapius; The lives of the Sophists, Philostratus, Book II, section 1, pages 138-183 (see also the introduction). In ancient Greek and English, translated by William Cave Wright. Loeb Classical Library. Heinemann, London and Putnam, New York, 1922. At the Internet Archive.

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 Volume 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. Inscriptions mentioning Herodes Atticus discovered in the 17th century

Jacob Spon and George Wheler, who travelled travelled through Italy to Greece, Constantinople (Istanbul) and the Levant in 1675–1676, recorded discoveries of inscriptions mentioning Herodes Atticus and Annia Regilla, including two found at Rome at the beginning of the 17th century. Wheler provided drawings and translations of two inscriptions from Athens, one dedicated by the tribe of Antiochis (Ἀντιοχίς) and the other by the demos, for his "munificence and good will" respectively "to his country" and "to the city".

See: George Wheler, A Journey into Greece in the company of Dr Spon of Lyons, Book V, pages 375-377. Cademan, Kettlewell and Churchill, London, 1682. At googlebooks.

The dedication by the Antiochis tribe was also mentioned in a note to the second edition of Stuart and Revett's The antiquities of Athens.

"The following inscription, seen at Athens, on a pedestal, which probably bore a statue of him.

The tribe of Antiochis have
dedicated this to the Priest
of the Caesars, Tiberius Claudius
Atticus Herodes, the Marathonian,
on account of his benevolence
and beneficence to his country."

James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, The antiquities of Athens, measured and delineated, Volume II, Chapter III, page 77. Priestley and Weale, London, 1825. At Heidelberg University Digital Library.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Triopas

As is often the case in Greek mythography, the accounts by ancient authors concerning the mythical Thessalian hero Triopas (Τρίωψ or Τριόπας, Three Faces) and his genealogy vary considerably. According to some he was son of Poseidon and Kanake, and founded Knidos, Caria (Diodorus, 5.57.6 and 5.61.2), where the city's island Triopion (today the Datça peninsula) was named after him, and where there was a famous sanctuary of Demeter (see the "Demeter of Knidos" statue). Either he or his son Erysichthon (Ερυσίχθων, Earth Tearer) desecrated the sanctuary of Demeter and was punished by the goddess with insatiable hunger and by being plagued by a snake. Eventually Demeter transformed him and the snake into the constellation Ophiuchus (Ὀφιοῦχος, Ophiouchos, Serpent Bearer *) as a reminder to others of his crime and punishment. Herodes Atticus may also have chosen the name Triopion as a warning to trespassers and thieves.

Pausanias reported that the Knidians set up a statue of Triopas, "founder of Knidos", with a horse at Delphi (Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 10, chapter 11, section 1).

* One of many myths to explain the origin of this constellation. Others associated it with Apollo, Asklepios and Laocoon.

6. The Triopion column inscriptions

For the Greek text of the inscriptions, see: and at The Packard Humanities Institute.

Another inscription from the site (IG XIV 1391) is a dedication to Anna Regilla: "To the memory of Annia Regilla, wife of Herodes, the light and soul of the house, to whom these lands once belonged". Yet another includes a poem by Marcellus (IG XIV 1389, lines 5-8) referring to Regilla’s statue.

7. Olga Palagia on "Herodes Atticus' Athenian Caryatids"

See: Olga Palagia, Herodes Atticus' Athenian Caryatids, in ΑΡΧΙΤΕΚΤΩΝ, Honorary volume for Professor Manolis Korres, edited by C. Zambas et al., pages 217-224. Athens 2016. At

8. Pausanias on Herodes' dedications at the Temple of Poseidon, Isthmia

"A legend of the Corinthians about their land is not peculiar to them, for I believe that the Athenians were the first to relate a similar story to glorify Attica. The Corinthians say that Poseidon had a dispute with Helios (Sun) about the land, and that Briareos arbitrated between them, assigning to Poseidon the Isthmus and the parts adjoining, and giving to Helios the height above the city [Acrocorinth].

Ever since, they say, the Isthmus has belonged to Poseidon.

Worth seeing here are a theatre and a white-marble racecourse. Within the sanctuary of the god stand on the one side portrait statues of athletes who have won victories at the Isthmian games, on the other side pine trees growing in a row, the greater number of them rising up straight.

On the temple, which is not very large, stand bronze Tritons. In the fore-temple are images, two of Poseidon, a third of Amphitrite, and a Sea, which also is of bronze. The offerings inside were dedicated in our time by Herodes the Athenian, four horses, gilded except for the hoofs, which are of ivory, and two gold Tritons beside the horses, with the parts below the waist of ivory. On the car stand Amphitrite and Poseidon, and there is the boy Palaemon upright upon a dolphin. These too are made of ivory and gold. On the middle of the base on which the car is has been wrought a Sea holding up the young Aphrodite, and on either side are the nymphs called Nereids.

I know that there are altars to these in other parts of Greece, and that some Greeks have even dedicated to them precincts by shores, where honours are also paid to Achilles. In Gabala is a holy sanctuary of Doto, where there was still remaining the robe by which the Greeks say that Eriphyle was bribed to wrong her son Alcmaeon.

Among the reliefs on the base of the statue of Poseidon are the sons of Tyndareus [the Dioskouroi], because these too are saviours of ships and of seafaring men. The other offerings are images of Calm and of Sea, a horse like a whale from the breast onward, Ino and Bellerophontes, and the horse Pegasus."

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 2, chapter 1, sections 6-9. At Perseus Digital Library.

The chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statues of Poseidon and Amphitrite in a chariot described by Pausanias may have replaced the Pentelic marble statues of these deities, dated to the 2nd century AD, fragments of which have been discovered at the site. The base of this earlier statue group was decorated with marble relief panels depicting the myths of the Kalydonian Boar hunt and the slaughter of the Niobids (see the Niobe page for further details).
Photos on this page were taken during
visits to the following museums:

Berlin, Altes Museum

Athens, Epigraphical Museum
Athens, National Archaeological Museum
Athens, Odeion of Herodes Atticus and Acropolis archaeological site
Athens, Panathenaic Stadium
Corinth, Ancient Corinth archaeological site
Corinth Archaeological Museum
Isthmia Archaeological Museum

Naples, National Archaeological Museum
Rome, Tomb of Annia Regilla, Caffarella Park

United Kingdom
London, British Museum
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum

Many thanks to the staff of these museums.
Photos and articles © David John, except where otherwise specified.
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