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White stone, well worth seeing”

The Ancient Theater of Sparta is located at the southwest side of the Acropolis hill, under the Sanctuary of Athena, and is the most impressive monument of the archaeological site of Sparta. The first phase of its construction dates back to the late Hellenistic Period (5th century B.C.) but it was reconstructed during the Roman period (1st-4th century A.D.) Despite the numerous transformations it preserves the form taken under the reign of the Emperor Augustus (1st century A.D.). Like many ancient theaters, it has northern orientation to keep the sun off the spectators. It is one of the largest theatres of Ancient Greece, its external diameter is 140 meters long and its total width reaches 114 meters. It had 48 rows of seats providing a total capacity of 16.000. The theater initially hosted public events, ceremonies and games. During the Roman Period it was used for theatrical plays and religious and sport events. Since the late 4th century the theater was abandoned and the site was gradually reconstructed losing its past glory.

The Roman theater of Sparta, one of the largest theaters in Greece, is the most impressive monument of the Acropolis. It is located at the southwest side of the hill under the sanctuary of Athena and it had a capacity of 16.000 spectators.

The theater that was reconstructed during the Roman period, replaced an older stone theater dating back to 200 B.C. which superseded an ancient wooden theater dating back to the 5th century B.C. The first theater was used to host public and athletic events, and ceremonies. As many ancient theaters it is oriented north to keep the sun off the spectators. It extends over 14.000 m², its total width being 114 meters and its external diameter 140 meters.

The concave, retained to the south by two tall walls (analemmata), was built from white marble and it was divided in two parts, the main theater (theatron) and the upper part (epitheatron). A roofed colonnade was situated at the upper perimeter. Initially there was a wooden portable stage transferrable on wheels and stored in the “skenotheke”, a storeroom located at the west side entrance (parodos). The permanent stage (skene) was built later and it underwent numerous transformations during the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. The permanent stone stage was a donation of Emperor Vespasian according to an architrave bearing his name. A stage architrave mentioning the emperor Theodosius attests that the last intervention was made in the late 4th century A.D. The Nymphaeum on the front wall of the stage (proskenion) was constructed during the late roman period. In the 2nd century A.D. the names of the local rulers of Sparta were carved every year on the eastern wall of the concave, thus functioning as a “marble archive”. According to recent research, there was a roofed colonnade (stoa) above the upper part in order to protect the spectators in case of rain.

Despite the numerous transformations the theater preserves the form it took in the period of Emperor Augustus (1st century A.D.). Apart from the theatrical performances of the roman period, the theater hosted religious and athletic events. Following barbarian invasions in the 4th century A.D., the theater stopped functioning as a place of celebration and it was abandoned. During the Byzantine era, the site was rebuilt and the concave was covered by houses. The constructions of that period as well as the use of stones for construction purposes caused the dismantling of the theater. The excavations have not been completed because of the large extent of the theater.

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