Council House (Bouleuterion)

The Council House or Bouleuterion was completely rebuilt in the second century AD as a small, marble-lined covered theatre. This marked the Council as a prized political institution. It was the chief body of democratic city government but was controlled by a relatively few wealthy families who were close to Rome and the imperial government and made the domination of civic politics their business. Control of the Council was marked by the family that paid for it: their members received prominent statue honours set up inside and outside of the building. This is the period of the densest statue production and the use of portrait statues as active political symbols. The Council House preserves one of the best examples of the dynamic statue life of a major civic complex.

The Council House/Bouleuterion was the centre of political power in the city. It was here that the boule (city council) met, composed of the wealthiest citizens and dominated by a few of the most powerful families. The present Council House was an elaborate new structure built in the later second century by the family of Tiberius Claudius Attalos, a Roman senator, and his brother Diogenes. Its rich marble architecture marked the importance of the Council as an institution and the position of this family within it: their statues dominated both the interior and the exterior.

The building was connected directly with the North Agora in an urban ensemble common in Asia Minor (found also, for example, at Ephesos). It was a covered, theatre-like structure, lined with marble seating for a maximum of about 1,700 persons, with a two-storey columnar marble stage-façade. This façade faced the auditorium and carried statues of important civic benefactors between its columns.

The seating was supported by a series of radial barrel vaults. The lower part of the seating (nine rows) survives in excellent condition; of the upper part (a further twelve rows) only the walls for the supporting vaults remain. The Council House was large enough to serve, as a modern town hall does, for a variety of other purposes and entertainments (music and performance oratory, for example), as well as for meetings of the Council. The building remained in use into late antiquity when its interior was lightly re-modelled by the removal of two rows of seats and the creation of sunken orchestra. The form of this re-modelling is referred to as a palaistra in a prominent fifth-century inscription on the upper moulding of the stage.

The statues of the two brothers stood on the ends of the walls that support the seating and thus framed and dominated the stage. Statues of their father, Dometeinos, and his niece Tatiana stood outside, looking towards the North Agora and framing the entrances to the Council House. The statues of Dometeinos and Tatiana survive virtually complete with their bases. Eight of the statues from the stage façade inside the building also survive.

Bouleuterion stage façade

The statues of Dometeinos and Tatiana

A Collaboration:

Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism New York University University of Oxford


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Sevgi Gönül Hall, 2008