In the climate of Gehennum, which is marked by hot sun and heavy rain, shelter is often wanted in open places. This the Gehennese provide by building many stoas: long low buildings with an open colonnade on one side (or, less commonly, both). Some stoas have their roof supported only at the two sides, by a colonnade on one side and a wall (or colonnade) on the other. Others have extra columns within: one or even two extra, parallel, colonnades.

In the Archaic Period most stoas are made of bamboo, with raised timber floors and thatch roofs. Only in the richest and most advanced cities are there stone stoas. In the Classical Period fine stoas of marble and limestone with tiled or slate roofs are the norm in large cities and on wealthy estates, and bamboo-and-thatch specimens are found in villages, small cities, and on estates of only moderate prosperity. By the Decadent Period stone stoas have accumulated everywhere, and few bamboo-and-thatch specimens are seen except in tiny villages and on poor estates.

Stoas are put to a bewildering variety of uses. Some are attached to the fronts of buildings to form porches, or carried right around them to form peristyles. Arcades are commonly built around the inside of a compound wall to form a cloister, as in many gymnasiums. Stoas are built between buildings to provide covered walkways. Free-standing stoas are very common in agorai, where they allow merchants to display their wares without risking rain-damage, and where they afford shelter to the people who are prone to gather in the agora. In the Decadent Period many agorai are surrounded and enclosed by stoas.

Very commonly a stoa will have doorways in its back wall affording access to shops, offices, schoolrooms, shrines, public buildings such as baths or fountains, to guest rooms in a mansion, or to other places, either built as part of the arcade or pre-existing on the site. Such a arcade is much more than an entry-porch. It will be a reception-area and waiting room, a corridor, a promenade, perhaps a market, a sitting-room, a verandah, a street-side café, a meeting-place, and much more.

Although treated more as temporary awnings in the Archaic Period, arcades are in the later periods used for the display of fine architecture, expensive materials, and rich decoration than the less-public and semi-concealed buildings behind them.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.