Altar of the Twelve Gods



Province Description

Roman intervention in Greek political affairs resulted in conflicts that led to the destruction of Corinth in 146 B.C. and the sacking of Athens in 86 B.C. It was not until 27 B.C., however, that Augustus formally organized the Roman province of Achaea. Achaea consisted of the cities and territories of the southern Greek mainland between the Peloponnese and Thessaly, as well as Epirus in the northwest and the Ionian and some of the Aegean islands. The provincial capital was Corinth. Under Nero in the mid-1st century A.D. Epirus became a separate province, and in the mid-2nd century Thessaly was detached and added to the province of Macedonia. Under Roman domination many cities such as Athens, Sparta, Patras, and Corinth grew in size and prominence, the latter two partly owing to their importance as ports. After an initial decline in the number of rural sites in the early Empire, by the late Roman period the countryside was densely settled with farms and villas, due to changing landholding patterns and Roman improvements in agricultural and irrigation technology. The main exports from Achaea were wine, particularly from the northern Peloponnese, as well as olive oil and honey, linen and woolen textiles and marbles.


Athens (Pleiades)


Agora of Athens (Pleiades)


Altar of the Twelve Gods


Garden Description

A grove of olive and laurel trees surrounding the Altar of the Twelve Gods in the Athenian Agora is mentioned in the late 1st century A.D. by the Roman writer Statius in his epic poem Thebaid (12.481-496). Excavations conducted there revealed the remains of the planting pits of trees, although there appears to have been a very limited number, only three or four pits.


late 1st century CE (mentioned)


  • M. Crosby, “The Altar of the Twelve Gods in Athens,” Hesperia Suppl. 8, Commemorative Studies in Honor of Theodore Leslie Shear. Princeton, 1949, pp. 82-103, 447-450, pl. 11-14. (JSTOR).
  • J. McK. Camp, The Athenian Agora. Excavations in the heart of Classical Athens. London, 1986, pp. 40-42, figs. 23-24. (worldcat).
  • M. Carroll, "The sacred places of the immortal ones: ancient Greek and Roman sacred groves," in J. Woudstra and C. Roth (eds.), A History of Groves. London: Routledge, 2018, pp. 7-18. (worldcat).

Pleiades ID





Maureen Carroll (ORCID: 0000-0001-9958-8032)

Publication date

21 Apr 2021