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Theater of ancient Corinth

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The theater of ancient Corinth was rebuilt on top of an older one, whose first building phase dates back to the end of the 5th century. This first theater was built on a natural slope with stone seats in the cavea but with a wooden stage. In the Early Hellenistic period, its hollow was extended and its capacity was estimated to have reached around 18,000 spectators. It was divided into fourteen tiers, it had sixty-six rows of seats, and its shape was more than a semicircle, as it served as a recreation venue and green space, with the stage being joined by stairways framed by pillars and columns.  It was rebuilt in the 1st century A.D. when it acquired an imposing stage. The second quarter of the 2nd cent. A.D. it was entirely reconstructed and acquired a three-floored columned proscenium with three arched entrances. The proscenium was decorated with painted sculptures. A rectangular peristyle courtyard with a fountain on the southern side was constructed north of the proscenium. On the northern wall of the atrium in the courtyard of the archaeological museum there is a series of 15 relief tablets, which come from the decoration on the façade of the theater’s stage building. These relief tablets date back to 125-150 AD. and depict scenes from three themes, which were particularly popular in ancient Greek art. One frieze has scenes from the struggle between gods and giants. (Gigantomachy), the other from the struggle of the Greeks against the Amazons (Amazonomachy) and the third of Heracles’ labors.

In the 3rd century, the theater was turned into a arena for beast fights and duels. The first ten rows of seats were removed, the rock was carved at the level of the orchestra, while three underground spaces were opened for the gladiators. A tall wall with frescoes depicting animal hunting surrounded the arena. Shortly afterwards, the orchestra and the first rows of seats were restored and special watering systems were built to fill the arena with water in order to recreate fictional naval battles for the gladiators. After the devastating invasion of Alaricus to Corinth in 396 AD, the theater was never used again.

Name of monument

Theater of ancient Corinth

Category

Theater

Brief description

The theater of ancient Corinth was rebuilt on top of an older one, whose first building phase dates back to the end of the 5th century. In the Early Hellenistic period, its cavea was extended and its capacity was estimated to have reached around 18,000 spectators. The theater waas built in a total of eight construction phases.

Images - plans

There is partial photographic and planning documentation in Volume II, “The theater”, 1952 of the Corinth series.

Documentation - Bibliography
  1. Corinth, Volume II, “The theater”,1952
  2.  Corinth “The reliefs from the theater”, Mary C. Sturgeon, A.S.C.S.A 1977
Location

Position: NW of the agora of ancient Corinth and north of the Roman odeion within the municipal district of ancient Corinth, City of Corinth, Prefecture of Corinthia.

Dating

The theater was built in eight construction phases:

  1. Late 5th – Early 4th cent. B.C. (limited traces found)
  2. Late 4th – Early 3rd cent. B.C.
  3. Late 1st cent. B.C.

(After the foundation of Colonia Laus Julia Corinthiensis in 44 BC – repopulation of Corinth – the theater was reconstructed.)

  1. Late Early 1st cent. A.D.
  2. Late 1st – Early 2nd cent. A.D.
  3. Period of Hadrian’s reign,

Second quarter of the 2nd cent. A.D.

  1. Early 3rd cent. BC (211-217 BC).

The theater was transformed into an arena for beast fights and duels.

8. Period of the Roman Tetrarchy, late 3rd cent. A.D. The theater was redesigned in the third quarter of the 4th cent. A.D.

General description of Monument

The theater of ancient Corinth was rebuilt on top of an older one, whose first building phase dates back to the end of the 5th century. This first theater was built on a natural slope with stone seats in the cavea but with a wooden stage. In the Early Hellenistic period, its hollow was extended and its capacity was estimated to have reached around 18,000 spectators. It was divided into fourteen tiers, it had sixty-six rows of seats, and its shape was more than a semicircle, as it served as a recreation venue and green space, with the stage being joined by stairways framed by pillars and columns.  It was rebuilt in the 1st century A.D. when it acquired an imposing stage. The second quarter of the 2nd cent. A.D. it was entirely reconstructed and acquired a three-floored columned proscenium with three arched entrances. The proscenium was decorated with painted sculptures. A rectangular peristyle courtyard with a fountain on the southern side was constructed north of the proscenium. On the northern wall of the atrium in the courtyard of the archaeological museum there is a series of 15 relief tablets, which come from the decoration on the façade of the theater’s stage building. These relief tablets date back to 125-150 AD. and depict scenes from three themes, which were particularly popular in ancient Greek art. One frieze has scenes from the struggle between gods and giants. (Gigantomachy), the other from the struggle of the Greeks against the Amazons (Amazonomachy) and the third of Heracles’ labors.

In the 3rd century, the theater was turned into a arena for beast fights and duels. The first ten rows of seats were removed, the rock was carved at the level of the orchestra, while three underground spaces were opened for the gladiators. A tall wall with frescoes depicting animal hunting surrounded the arena. Shortly afterwards, the orchestra and the first rows of seats were restored and special watering systems were built to fill the arena with water in order to recreate fictional naval battles for the gladiators. After the devastating invasion of Alaricus to Corinth in 396 AD, the theater was never used again.

Current situation

The theater is preserved in a moderate to poor condition. Some parts of it still remain unclenched: the largest part of the west half of the peristyle court, the room north of the western passage, sections of the cavea, the floor of the orchestra below the Roman levels, and the western area corresponding to the eastern square of the Theater.

Excavations - Interventions

The theater was discovered during the excavations of the American School of Classical Studies in 1896, while systematic excavations were conducted by T. Leslie Shear in 1925, 1926, 1928 and 1929.

Permitted uses

In its current state, it is not suitable for contemporary performances or other events.

History of modern uses

The theater has never been used to host performances.

Additional Information

The monument belongs to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture and the branch of the  Archaeological Service of the Prefecture of Corinthia (37th EPCA).

Copyrights

Ministry of Culture and Tourism / 37th EPCA

Jurisdiction

Ministry of Culture and Tourism / 37th EPCA

Latitude

37.90688°

Longitude

22.876979°