Cultural and Environmental Route of Central Greece: ‘The Paths of History’ - 08/03/2018
The ancient theater of Heronia was partly embedded into the natural rock of the Petrahos Hill, while the rest of the theater was manmade.
Today, only the part of the hollow embedded in the rock has been preserved, which is separated by two aisles in three parts. The bottom has three rows of seats, the middle ten, while the top four. Typical is the absence of the radial stairs that separated the theatres into bleachers. The corrosion that has come with time has obliterated the seats of the presidency, the stage and the backstage.
The theater was dedicated to Apollo Daphniforos and Artemida Sodina, as it transpires from a votive inscription found on the site.
The first construction dates back to the end of the 5th century BC, while its modifications date back to the 1st century A.D.
Ancient Theater of Heronia
The ancient theater of Heronia was partly embedded into the natural rock of the Petrahos Hill, while the rest of the theatre was manmade. Today, only the part of the hollow embedded in the rock has been preserved, which is separated by two aisles in three parts. The bottom has three rows of seats, the middle ten, while the top four. Typical is the absence of the radial stairs that separated the theatres into bleachers. The corrosion that has come with time has obliterated the seats of the presidency, the stage and the backstage. The theater was dedicated to Apollo Daphniforos and Artemida Sodina, as it transpires from a votive inscription found on the site.
Ephorate of Antiquities of Viotia
The Theater of Heronia was built within the homonymous ancient city, which expanded at the foot of the twin hills of Petrachou, on the outskirts of Mount Thouriou. The ancient city was delimited from the west of the fertile plains of Heronia, spreading north of the city and flowing through the river Viotikos Kifissos. The location of the ancient city greatly coincides with the modern homonymous settlement, which is approximately 13.5 km from Livadia, the capital of the prefecture of Viotia.
Heronia was located on the natural passageway from the south to northern Greece, on the Viotian frontier, on the border with the country of Fokea, very close to the cities of Panopea (today Agios Vlassios) and Davlidas (Davlia). Thucydides mentions: “This is the Heronia, the last of Viotia, towards Fanotidi of Fokida …” (D.76). The area is characterized having great strategic importance as it was the most important passageway to northern and western Greece through the strait of Parapotamion (Anthohori), as well as to the Delphi Oracle through the Skistis Street, which went from the plain between in Panopaea and Davlida. Due to its geopolitical position, the Heronia valley was a theatre of important battles of antiquity, the outcome of which influenced the socio-political developments in Greece.
The first construction dates back to the end of the 5th century B.C. while its reconstruction, dates back to the 1st century A.D. without excluding that its use may have been until the 3rd – 4th century A.D.
The theatre initially, and during the classical period probably had a straight hollow, as is evident from the asymmetrical semi-circular extant hollow and eight (8) rows of benches that could accommodate about 500 spectators. The theatre may have been used in general for gatherings of citizens and not just for theatrical performances. In the same way, the monument continued to operate almost all in the 4th century B.C. During the Hellenistic period (3rd – 2nd century BC), its hollow became semi-circular and the rows of seats increased to fifteen (15). An inscription (IG 3409), located at the Archaeological Museum of Heronia, informs us that a couple of individuals funded the foreground construction. Since there are no traces till today of the stage being built, we assume that both were mobile, perhaps made of wood, and placed each time according to the needs of the theatrical plays. Today we see everything that has remained from the last, Roman phase of the monument (end of the 1st century BC – early 1st century AD). During this time is when extensive work took place in order to increase the capacity of the theatre and to modify its plan. In this specific period, the city of Heronia is in great prosperity, habitation extends towards the plain and the particular setup certainly influenced the shape and extent of the orchestra as well as the passageway. It is also very likely that only then was a stage (scaena) built according to Roman standards.
Today, preserved from the theatre, is only the part of the hollow embedded in the natural rock of the Petrahou Hill, as the rest consisted of apparently built parts which have not been saved.
The ancient theatre, till today, has not been systematically investigated. At the beginning of the 20th century, (1907), the archaeologist Georgios Sotiriadis conducted a limited excavation research in the area of the theatre. In 2008 the 8th Ephorate of Prehistoric & Classical Antiquities (now EPHA of Viotia) conducted small experimental sections in the same place in order to certify the non existence of a stage structure, its possible form, as well as the dating of the different phases of the theatre. The research revealed a section of a strong wall from the Roman period made of bricks and plaster in the southeast side of the setting, which is believed to have been the stage, and perhaps it is the retaining wall of the southern passage of the theater.
The monument is not offered for the holding of events, since there have been no fixation and restoration works done. Nevertheless, the monument is still visited as an attraction.
From the mid-1970s until the early 1990s, ancient drama was performed in the ancient theatre in the framework of the annual events of the “Plutarchion”.
Heronia became particularly well-known from the battle in 338 B.C., between the troops of Philip II of Macedonia and the coalition of the southern cities-states of Greece. After the victory of the Macedonians, and with their dominance, the cities – states were destroyed, the correlation of forces changed, and the great Hellenistic period developed. After the battle, the Thebans who fought on the side of the coalition of the cities of southern Greece set up a marble lion over the burial site of the soldiers of the Sacred Band to honor each and every soldier lost in battle. The lion which is standing today at the entrance of the city was placed in the middle of the northern side of the graveyard. The lion was dismembered and covered with soil until 1818, when it was discovered by the English traveler Crawford, who carried out a small scale excavation for its complete revelation, which he later did not complete. The revelation of all parts of the lion took place the following year by Odysseus Androutsos. Later, the excavation made by the Archaeological Society under Panagiotis Stamatakis during 1879-80 brought to light 254 skeletons, which were adorned with vases and weapons. The process of restoring the monument was time consuming and was completed in 1904 by the Athens Archaeological
Society. At the same time, at the expense of the Archaeological Society of Athens, the construction of the Museum of Heronia began in order to house the findings of the excavations in the area. This was completed in 1907. In 2009, the new exhibition was reopened through the financing of the 3rd Community Support framework and the Regional Operational Program of mainland Greece 2000-2006.
At a distance of 3 km from Heronia, Georgios Sotiriadis investigated an artificial tomb around the years 1902-1903. The tomb had a large funeral pyre as well as guns and vases. The tomb, 7 meters high and 70 meters in diameter, was identified by the excavator as being the burial site of the fallen Macedonians. Sources say that, the tent of Alexander was set up there.
Also, in Heronia during the period of the First Mithridatic War (88-84 BC), the important battle between the troops of the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla and the king of Pontus Mithridates took place in 86 BC, with the dominance of the former. This particular battle established the ruling of the Romans, who became the main regulators of the fate of Greece and ended the competition of the great forces within Greece.
Heronia presents great prosperity and spreads to the lowland area on the eastern side of the citadel of Petrachou during the Roman period. At this time it is known as a place of production of fragrant flower oils for which they believed that they had healing properties or contributed to the maintenance of wooden statues.In Chaeronea, the great historian Plutarchos (about 45-120AD) was born and lived most of his life, who, despite his high acquaintances with Roman officials, chose to live the greater part of his life in a quiet family environment in his hometown, occupying local offices and hosting in these his wide circle of eminent friends. Standing out from his publication, is “The Lives” (οι Βίοι), with 22 couples of well known Greek and Roman politicians, generals, etc., as well as four simple biographies.
During the late antiquity the decline of Heronia gradually begins. In the autumn of 551 AD Heronia is leveled by a strong earthquake, while during the Frankish and Ottoman domination it is an insignificant village.
Ministry of Culture and Sports – Ephorate of Antiquities of Viotia.
Ministry of Culture and Sports – Ephorate of Antiquities of Viotia.