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Ancient Theater of Delphi

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The ancient theatre of Delphi is situated within the Temple of the Pythian Apollo. It is the largest structure in the Temple of Apollo and forms an integral part of it, directly connected to the myths and cult of the god. It hosted the singing and instrumental music contests of the Pythian Games.

The first stone theatre was built of local limestone in the 4th c. BC. In 160/159 BC, Eumenes II of Pergamon funded repairs to the theatre, which acquired a more monumental form. The modern form of the theatre dates to the early Roman period (1st c. AD).

The deep, amphitheatral cavea, circular in plan and with a total capacity of 5,000 spectators, is divided laterally into two zones of uneven size by a horizontal passageway, the diazoma, which facilitates the spectators’ movement within the cavea. The lower cavea, or theatron (theatre) has 27 rows of seats and is divided by radiating symmetrical staircases into 7 wedge-shaped cunei, while the upper cavea, or epitheatron (epitheatre), has 8 rows of seats and is divided into 6 cunei.

Many seats bear incised letters, a form of seat numbering in Roman times. There are also official titles in the genitive case, such as amphictyonon (“belonging to the members of the amphictyonian council”) and symboulon (“belonging to the counsellors”), as well as proper names of distinguished individuals.

The orchestra, 18.50 m in diameter, is encircled by a 2.20-metre-wide passageway allowing the spectators to move around, below which runs a rainwater drainage duct, the euripos. The horseshoe shape and paving of the orchestra floor with unevenly-sized slabs are modifications of the Roman period. Many inscriptions commemorating the emancipation of slaves were carved on the retaining walls of the parodoi between the 2nd c. BC and the 1st c. AD.

Opposite the cavea and orchestra rose the stage of the theatre. Of this rectangular stage building only the foundations remain, at a level lower than that of the orchestra. To the north of the main stage rose the proscenium, a small stoa with columns or half-columns, facing the orchestra. In the 1st c. AD the proscenium façade was decorated with a marble frieze carved in relief.
The removal of earth and the first excavations in the area of the theatre were originally undertaken in 1895, by the French School of Archaeology at Athens under the directorship of T. Homolle. During the interwar period, as part of the First Delphic Festival in May 1927, an ancient tragedy was performed in an ancient theatre, its natural setting, for the first time in 2,000 years. The instigator of the revival of the ancient theatre was the poet Angelos Sikelianos, together with his American wife, Eva Palmer.

Sponsorships for the ancient theatre of Delphi

Alpha TV News, 20 September 2011.

Monument Name

Ancient theatre of Delfi

Category Theatre

Brief Description The ancient theatre of Delphi is situated within the Temple of the Pythian Apollo, in the northwest corner against the temenos wall. It is the largest structure in the Temple of Apollo and forms an integral part of it, directly connected to the myths and cult of the god. It is one the ancient Greek theatres preserved in good condition.

Images - Plans

Ι΄ ΕΠΚΑ / Γαλλική Σχολή Αθηνών

Documentation - Bibliography

10th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities / École Française d’Athènes

Documentation – Bibliography

1. Bommelaer, J.-F. «Das Theater», in Maas, M. (ed.), Delphi. Orakel am Nabel der Welt, Karlsruhe 1996: 95-105.

2. Bommelaer J.-F., Laroche D., Guide de Delphes – Le Site, Paris 1991: 207-212

3. Κολώνια, Ρ., Το Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο των Δελφών, Αθήνα 2009

4. Κολώνια, Ρ., «Αρχαίο θέατρο Δελφών» at http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/2/gh251.jsp?obj_id=4932
5. Πεντάζος, Ε., «Οι Δελφοί και ο Σικελιανός», Αρχαιολογία και Τέχνες 44 (September 1992): 72-75 Weir, R., “Nero and the Herakles Frieze at Delphi”, BCH 123 (1999): 396-404

Location

Delphi, Municipality of Delphi, Phocis Prefecture.

Dating

The first stone theatre was built of local limestone in the 4th c. BC. In 160/159 BC, Eumenes II of Pergamon funded repairs to the theatre, which acquired a more monumental form. The modern form of the theatre dates to the early Roman period (1st c. AD).

General Description of Monument

 

The monument is higher than it is wide. This was dictated by the particular nature of the terrain, with its steep slope and, above all, the limited space available on the spot where the theatre was erected, in the northwest corner of the temple, between the temenos wall to the west and an earlier structure to the east.

The deep, amphitheatral cavea, circular in plan and with a total capacity of 5,000 spectators, is seated partly on the natural slope (on the north and west) and partly on artificial infill, i.e. raised mounds of earth (on the south and east), buttressed by strong retaining walls. The outer diameter of the cavea measures 36 m and the inner 9.25 m. It is divided laterally into two zones of uneven size by a horizontal passageway, the diazoma, which facilitates the spectators’ movement within the cavea. The lower cavea or theatron (theatre) has 27 rows of seats and is divided by radiating symmetrical staircases into 7 wedge-shaped cunei, while the upper cavea or epitheatron (epitheatre) has 8 rows of seats and is divided into 6 cunei.

Around the uppermost row of seats runs a rainwater drainage gutter, above which rose the north retaining wall of the cavea. The height difference between the floor of the orchestra and the last row of seats is 15.11 m, with a 54-degree inclination, ensuring that all the spectators were afforded an uninterrupted view. At each end of the diazoma was a door for the spectators.

Most of the stone seats are 0.69 m wide and 0.37 m high. Many seats bear incised letters 11-15 cm high, a form of seat numbering in Roman times. There are also official titles in the genitive case, such as amphictyonon (“belonging to the members of the amphictyonian council”) and symboulon (“belonging to the counsellors”), as well as proper names of distinguished individuals.

The orchestra, 18.50 m in diameter, is encircled by a 2.20-metre-wide passageway allowing the spectators to move around, below which runs a rainwater drainage duct, the euripos. The horseshoe shape and paving of the orchestra floor with unevenly-sized slabs are modifications of the Roman period. The orchestra was originally circular, with a 7-metre radius. The low encircling balustrade on the side of the cavea was added in the Roman period.

Many inscriptions commemorating the emancipation of slaves were carved on the retaining walls of the parodoi between the 2nd c. BC and the 1st c. AD. Unfortunately their text has been lost due to surface wear of the stonework.

A large base set in front of the west parodos supported the statue of Dionysus, tutelary deity of the theatre, dedicated, according to Pausanias, by the Knidians.
Opposite the cavea and orchestra rose the stage of the theatre. Of this rectangular stage building only the foundations remain, at a level lower than that of the orchestra. From the south is visible a platform measuring 9 x 4 m, with central arched niches in the outer wall and two lateral projecting wings, which bore columns and functioned as parascenia. To the north of the main stage rose the proscenium, a small stoa with columns or half-columns, facing the orchestra. In the 1st c. AD the proscenium façade was decorated with a marble frieze carved in relief, approximately 10 m long and 0.85 m high, depicting the Labours and other deeds of Hercules. These were probably added during the repairs to the theatre on the occasion of Nero’s visit to Delphi in 67 AD.

Current Situation

Conservation work has been carried out on the monument in the past. However, most of the damage has not been repaired, while many architectural members (seats and parodos wall tiles) are scattered around the whole area of the Delphic Temple. The cavea presents some subsidence, while the stones are badly eroded and cracked, resulting in the loss of large pieces of limestone.

Excavations - Interventions

The removal of earth and the first excavations in the area of the theatre were originally undertaken in 1895, by the French School of Archaeology at Athens under the directorship of T. Homolle.

 

Permitted Uses

The theatre is a monument open to the public in the Delphi archaeological site.

History of Modern Uses

During the interwar period, as part of the First Delphic Festival in May 1927, an ancient tragedy was performed in an ancient theatre, its natural setting, for the first time in 2,000 years. The instigator of the revival of the ancient theatre was the poet Angelos Sikelianos, together with his American wife, Eva Palmer. Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound was played under the artistic direction of Eva Palmer. Three years later, during the Second Delphic Festival in May 1930, the theatre hosted a performance of Euripides’ Suppliants.

Further Information

The theatre hosted the singing and instrumental music contests of the Pythian Games. The importance of this festival makes the Theatre of Delphi the cultural and artistic peer of the sporting ideal symbolised by the ancient stadium at Olympia. The theatre also hosted the festival of the Soteria, in honour of Zeus Soter and Apollo, whose celebration was instigated following the victory of the Aetolians over the Gauls in 279/278 BC.

Intellectual Rights

Ministry of Culture and Tourism (10th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities).

 

 

Jurisdiction

Ministry of Culture and Tourism (10th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities).

Latitude

38.482553°

Longitude

22.500708°

Altitude

584-592 m asl

NameDateAmount (€)
3rd High School of Heraklion26/03/2018100.00
Konstantinos Polyzois5.00
Panagiotis Polychronopoulos5.00
Theoklitia - Sotiria Protopapa5.00
Kostas Koliousis1.00
Adamantia Anastasiou1.00
Ekaterini Antoniou2.00
Ilektra Polytimi Kalogerakou3.00
Anastasia Christofilou3.50
Sokratis Sakellaridis3.50
Eleni Nikolakopoulou5.00
Chrysoula Ragkousi5.00
Vasiliki Pierratou5.00
Nefeli Pavlou - Mousio5.00
Ioanna Pappa5.00
Elpida Papadopoulou - Kravaritou5.00
Kyriaki Raftopoulou5.00
Nikolaos Xenos - Gavrielis5.00
Stavriana Neokleous5.00
Christos Bitsanis5.00
Dimitra Begeti5.00
Ioulia Bamicha5.00
Athanasia Panopoulou5.00
Panagiotis Tasikas5.00
Alexandros Chatzis5.00
Stella Chatziantoniou5.00
Filippa Foka5.00
Anna Fytila5.00
Spyridon Filippoupolitis5.00
Asimina Tsokana5.00
Panagiotis Tsiloglou5.00
Christina Reppa5.00
Ioannis Tzouliadakis5.00
Dionysia - Maria Moschovakou5.00
Anastasios Tarantilis5.00
Dimitra Sofroniou5.00
Ifigeneia Spyropoulou5.00
Christodoulos Skourletos5.00
Veronika Skouriali5.00
Ekaterini Bika5.00
Georgios Roumeliotis5.00
Panagiotis - Grigorios Tsingalidis5.00
Ilias Kapatsoris5.00
Giorgos Kefalas5.00
Nikandros Kepesis5.00
Haris Katsoudas5.00
Despina Katsouda5.00
Konstantinos Panagioti Michopoulos5.00
Giannis Karmanidis5.00
Maria Boufi5.00
Charalampos Karapapas5.00
Giorgos Kilakos5.00
Marianina Karaiskou5.00
Maria Kassem5.00
Giorgos Kamenitsas5.00
Angeliki Kairi5.00
Elpida Stratopoulou5.00
Athanasia Kalfakakou5.00
Evangelia Ioannou Paizi5.00
Elli Haritini Gkioni5.00
Nikoletta Georgakopoulou5.00
Konstantina Karameri5.00
Aris Manousogiannakis5.00
Konstantinos Vasiliou Michopoulos5.00
Georgianna Karthakou5.00
Panagiotis Marselos5.00
Fiona Kontostergio5.00
Irini Makrygianni5.00
Valia Lymperi5.00
Maria Lygatsika Ioanni5.00
Persefoni - Varvara Lamprokostopoulou5.00
Despina Lamprinou5.00
Giannis Lazaratos5.00
Stelios Kotsovilis5.00
Dimitra Konstantaki5.00
Iakovos Kyriakos5.00
Evangelos Kravvaris5.00
Panos Kourkounis5.00
Alexandra Kardali5.00
Apostolos Lampos5.00
Unknown Unknown30.00
Lela Bakolouka50.00
Afroditi Orologa in memory of Dora Andriopoulou, March 18, 201496.25
Loizos Avramidis137.77
Georgia Melenikiotou413.31
Marguerite Champeaux-Rousselot & Association Pytho-Delphes, France Marguerite Champeaux-Rousselot & Association Pytho-Delphes, France700.00
Mediterranean Film Institute Mediterranean Film Institute1.000.00
Usances of Certificates of Deposit Usances of Certificates of Deposit1.216.44
Students Community of the Gymnasium of I.M. Panagiotopoulos School Students Community of the Gymnasium of I.M. Panagiotopoulos School1.500.00
Fani Anerousi4.000.00
Polytimi Andriopoulou47.488.12
Theodora Andriopoulou - Athanasoula47.488.13
M2M MEDIA SERVICES INC1.395.77
Efstathios Athanasopoulos5.00
Sophia Pempou5.00
Total
€106.004.79

Expenditures

ExpenditureDateAmount (€)
ΑΡΧΑΙΟ ΘΕΑΤΡΟ ΔΕΛΦΩΝ ΑΠΟΨΙΛΩΣΗ ΠΕΡΙΒΑΛΛΟΝΤΟΣ ΧΩΡΟΥ615.00
ΑΡΧΑΙΟ ΘΕΑΤΡΟ ΔΕΛΦΩΝ ΕΚΤΥΠΩΣΗ ΣΧΕΔΙΩΝ ΜΕΛΕΤΗΣ ΑΠΟΚΑΤΑΣΤΑΣΗΣ312.12
ΑΡΧΑΙΟ ΘΕΑΤΡΟ ΔΕΛΦΩΝ ΜΕΛΕΤΗ ΑΠΟΚΑΤΑΣΤΑΣΗΣ96.224.00
ΑΡΧΑΙΟ ΘΕΑΤΡΟ ΔΕΛΦΩΝ ΝΤΟΚΥΜΑΝΤΕΡ8.184.95
ΑΡΧΑΙΟ ΘΕΑΤΡΟ ΔΕΛΦΩΝ ΦΟΡΟΣ ΤΟΚΩΝ ΠΡΟΘΕΣΜΙΑΚΗΣ149.32
Total
€105.485.39
Balance
€519.40
DescriptionBudgetTargetRemarks
Restoration study100.000.00109.999.00
Diazoma has already assigned the study to the architect Helen Anna Chlepa.
Geological study10.000.00110.000.00
  • Diazoma and the French Archaeological School have developed a scientific collaboration, which was confirmed with the signing of the Concession Rights Agreement. The agreement provides for the mutual exchange of scientific material that is produced and will be produced for the ancient theater of Delphi.
  • After working with the French Archaeological School, Diazoma made use of the scientific work produced so far and commissioned the study for the restoration of the ancient theater of Delphi to researchers Helen-Anne Chlepas and Constantinos Papantonopoulos.
  • The commission cost is covered by the theater’s money box (e-bank account) and the kind donations of Theodora and Polytimi Andriopoulou, as well as by the Varvakeio Experimental High School, which adopted the ancient theater, and other donors.
  • The preliminary study was completed, after having been approved by the Central Archaeological Council (CAC).
  • The final study was completed, after having been approved by the Central Archaeological Council (CAC).
  • Furthermore, Diazoma commissioned the Geotechnical Studies Agreement for the ancient theater of Delphi to Mr. George Dounias and the “Edafos SA” company (April 10, 2012).
  • Preparations are currently underway for the integration of the project in the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).

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