Progress of Works

Geophysical surveys
Excavations
Restoration Studies
Expropriations
Restoration Works
€885.00IN DONATIONS

Dimosthenis Karatzoglou ( in memory of Sakellarakis Ioannis): €5.00

Unknown depositor: €100.00

5th class of Kalloni's Elementary School: €80.00

Stefanos Tsolakidis: €100.00

Lesvos Women's Club of Voluntary Action: €100.00

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Theatre of Mytilene

Description
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The Theatre of Mytilene stands on the western edge of the ancient city, on the hill of Agia Kyriaki. The earliest surviving architectural members indicate that the theatre was built in Early Hellenistic times. The form in which it is preserved today corresponds to its final building phase, that of the Late Roman period.

The theatre is considered one of the greatest works of architecture of the ancient world. According to Plutarch (Life of Pompey 42.4), Pompey copied its design in the theatre he built in Rome in 55 BC, making it the model for Roman theatres. The cavea of the Theatre of Mytilene is now ruined, while what little remains of its stage and parodoi dates from the final building phase of the monument, that of the Late Roman period.

The theatre is built on particularly friable volcanic rock, which has not preserved any traces of the cavea structure. The horseshoe-shaped cavea, 107 m in diameter at its base and seating approximately 10,000 spectators, had marble seats of which there are some samples on the site, while others remain built into the walls of the medieval Castle of Mytilene. From the proedria of the cavea came a throne, now housed in the Old Museum of Mytilene, which was originally intended for the priest of Apollo and finally for the orator Potamo, son of the philosopher Lesbonax (75 BC – 15 AD).

Around the perimeter of the circular orchestra (approximately 24.20 m in diameter) runs a high stone wall (1.30 m high), which had external marble facing and was crowned with inscribed marble slabs. The floor of the orchestra was of beaten earth laid on the levelled bedrock. On the west side of the orchestra are two rooms carved out of the rock of the cavea. The orchestra wall and the two rooms are probably linked to the conversion of the theatre into an arena during the Roman period, when part of the cavea was also removed. The stage building consists of four structures separated by three corridors, but its excavation is incomplete.

The most serious damage is the erosion of the soil on the slope on which the cavea was built. The surface layer of earth has become looser and thinner, revealing the bedrock, which has begun to crumble due to climate and other erosion factors, as well as its geological composition. The buttresses of the parodoi which supported the fill of the cavea have also largely collapsed.

The monument has been used on occasion for poetry and music events and theatrical performances. Visits to the archaeological site are permitted, as is the organisation of special, small-scale cultural events, with moveable seats being placed on the flat area outside the cavea.

Olga Philaniotou
Archaeologist

Monument Name

Ancient Theatre of Mytilene

Category

Theatre

Brief Description

The ancient Theatre of Mytilene, built on the western edge of the ancient city, on the hill of Agia Kyriaki, is considered one of the greatest works of architecture of the ancient world.

Images - Plans

Full photographic records are held in the archive of the 20th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. A plan of the orchestra and sections of the wall of the orchestra and the rooms on its west side are included in the Archaeologikon Deltion 22 (1967) Chron. Β2, pp. 451-458. Further drawings are held in the archive of the 20th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities.

Documentation - Bibliography

1. Α. CONZE, Reise auf der Insel Lesbos, Hanover 1865, p. 9.

2. R. KOLDEWEY, Die antiken Baureste der Insel Lesbos, Berlin 1890, p. 8-9.

3. Δ. ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΔΗΣ, ΑΔ 11 (1927/28), Annexe, pp. 14-17, figs 1-7.

4. Δ. ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΔΗΣ, ΠΑΕ 1958, pp. 230-232, pl. 172-175.

5. Δ. ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΔΗΣ, Έργον 1958, pp. 169-172, figs 178-179.

6. Β. ΠΕΤΡΑΚΟΣ, ΑΔ 22 (1967) Χρον. Β2, pp. 451-458, figs 3-11, pl. 334-336.

7. Ι.Δ. ΚΟΝΤΗΣ, Λεσβιακό Πολύπτυχο, Athens, 1973, pp. 85-87, 262 n. 84, figs 47.

8. Ι.Δ. ΚΟΝΤΗΣ, Η Λέσβος και η Μικρασιατική της περιοχή, Αρχαίες ελληνικές πόλεις, Athens 1978, pp. 223-224, fig. 41.

Location

Mytilene, hill of Agia Kyriaki.

Dating

The earliest surviving architectural members indicate that the theatre was built in Early Hellenistic times. The form in which it is preserved today corresponds to its final building phase, that of the Late Roman period.

General Description of Monument

The ancient Theatre of Mytilene, built on the western edge of the ancient city, on the hill of Agia Kyriaki, is considered one of the greatest works of architecture of the ancient world. According to Plutarch (Life of Pompey 42.4), Pompey copied its design in the theatre he built in Rome in 55 BC, making it the model for Roman theatres. The cavea of the Theatre of Mytilene is now ruined, while what little remains of its stage and parodoi dates from the final building phase of the monument, that of the Late Roman period. The theatre is built on particularly friable volcanic rock, which has not preserved any traces of the cavea structure. The horseshoe-shaped cavea, 107 m in diameter at its base and seating approximately 10,000 spectators, had marble seats of which there are some samples on the site, while others remain built into the walls of the medieval Castle of Mytilene. From the proedria of the cavea came a throne, now housed in the Old Museum of Mytilene, which was originally intended for the priest of Apollo and finally for the orator Potamo, son of the philosopher Lesbonax (75 BC – 15 AD). Around the perimeter of the circular orchestra (approximately 24.20 m in diameter) runs a high stone wall (1.30 m high), which had external marble facing and was crowned with inscribed marble slabs. The floor of the orchestra was of beaten earth laid on the levelled bedrock. On the west side of the orchestra are two rooms carved out of the rock of the cavea. The orchestra wall and the two rooms are probably linked to the conversion of the theatre into an arena during the Roman period, when part of the cavea was also removed. The stage building consists of four structures separated by three corridors, but its excavation is incomplete.

Current Situation

The most serious damage is the erosion of the soil on the slope on which the cavea was built. The surface layer of earth has become looser and thinner, revealing the bedrock, which has begun to crumble due to climate and other erosion factors, as well as its geological composition. The buttresses of the parodoi which supported the fill of the cavea have also largely collapsed.

Excavations - Interventions

General information on the monument is provided by Conze and Koldewey. The first attempt at a more systematic study was by D. Evangelides, with a small excavation in 1927. The monument, however, had already been badly looted for building materials and lead. In 1958 Evangelides renewed his investigations, aided by Vavritsas. In 1967 the excavated sections were cleaned and studied by V. Petrakos, and the orchestra was drawn by Ch. Bouras. In 1968 the wall and rooms of the orchestra were restored. In the 1990s the parodoi were partially restored. The monument has not yet been systematically excavated and published. Today the 20th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities is preparing a study for the protection and promotion of the ancient theatre.

Permitted Uses

Archaeological site visit – organisation of special, small-scale cultural events, with moveable seats being placed on the flat area outside the cavea.

History of Modern Uses

The monument has been used on occasion for poetry and music events and theatrical performances.

Further Information

Access to the monument is open and safe. There is a water and electricity supply and a telephone line (22510 22741). The monument is floodlit.

Intellectual Rights

Jurisdiction

The monument belongs to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture – 20th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, which is responsible for matters regarding its reconstruction and conservation

Latitude

39.110679°

Longitude

26.546981°

NameDateAmount (€)
Dimosthenis Karatzoglou ( in memory of Sakellarakis Ioannis)5.00
Unknown depositor100.00
5th class of Kalloni's Elementary School80.00
Stefanos Tsolakidis100.00
Lesvos Women's Club of Voluntary Action100.00
PASIPS - Kindergarten 'Mitera' - P. Koufelou G.P.100.00
Ilona Pagida300.00
Kostopoulos Georgios100.00
Total
€885.00
Balance
€885.00
DescriptionBudgetTargetRemarks
Operations for monument's revelation and maintenance100.000.0050.000.00