21.12.16

Theatre of Sparta


The ancient theatre of Sparta at the south side of the acropolis, is dated to the Early Imperial period. It preserves the orchestra, the retaining walls of the cavea with inscriptions of the rulers of Sparta during Roman times and part of the cavea of the large theatre. The scene was used to be wheeled in metal bars fixed to the ground. 



The ancient theater in acropolis of Sparta was always visible. It was imprinted in plans for the first time by the French Mission in Moria, who visited Sparta in 1825. It is located on the south side of the western part of the acropolis, below the sanctuary of Athena Chalkioikos, the patron goddess of Sparta. It is one of the biggest ancient theaters in Greece, with a 140-meter width.The original stone theater, whose remains is still visible, was built at the end of the Hellenistic era, in the 1st century A.D.
The present form of the theater dates back to the era of emperor Theodosius in the 4th century A.D. Its walls are made of white marble. It is estimated that the theater could seat 16000 spectators. The main theater had 9 bleachers. The koilon(auditorium) has been constructed with a mixed technique and local materials from the mountain Taygetos such as limestone and marble.

Originally, the theater had no permanent stage but a movable, wooden one, which was carried on wheels. Mostly, it was used for political, social and festive events. Later, a permanent, stony stage was constructed, which dates back to the second half of the 1st century A.D.
Τα ερείπια του Ρωμαϊκού Θεάτρου της Σπάρτης,1770


The last phase of the stage was the Corinthian and its height was 10-12meters. Because of its height the stage strengthens the acoustic of the theater. The orchestra of the theater has a horseshoe shape with a 25.52-meter diameter. In Sparta, the theater was used only for public meetings and celebrations. Original theatrical performances were not taken under consideration. The ancient theater of Sparta was used for 500 years from the end of the 1st century to the 4th century A.D.




Excavation began in 1906-10, continued in 1924-8 under A. M. Woodward and recommenced in 1992 with G. B. Waywell and J. J. Wilkes directing a University of London team.
With a Cavea width of 114 meters and an Orchestra diameter of 29,55 meters the theatre has been described as the largest in Greece, after Megalopolis, able to host 10.500 - 13.000 spectators. Below the diazoma were ten radial staircases, above it no fewer than seventeen. 


Pottery found under the upper cavea suggests a construction date around 30-20 BC. The theatre was in use till about the end of the 4th century AD, with early and late Byzantine reoccupation to the 13th century. 


In the latest (1997) excavation season a trench was dug across the west parodos at the end of the late
Roman nymphaeum excavated in 1927. Evidence was found for the channelled blocks which may have served as a runway for a moveable stage in the earlier (1st century BC) phase of the theatre. Further work was carried out in 1998.

Present status :

The whole situation is very disappointing :
* The works have stopped indefinitely.
* Many ruins have come up to plain air after the excavations.
* Kions lie around the theatre in the acropolis of Sparta.





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