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An international alliance breathes new life into the Ancient Theatre of Sparta

Lying on the south slope of the acropolis hill, the Ancient Theatre of Sparta is the foremost landmark of the city’s monumental topography, one of its most important visible and definitively identified ancient monuments.

On 18 June 2021, work commenced on restoring and enhancing the ancient theatre. The funding of 1.6 million euros is provided by the Operational Programme of the Region of the Peloponnese and co-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund).  The implementing body is the Ephorate of Antiquities of Lakonia. The first phase of works will address the inclination of the koilon (seating area) by smoothing the steep slopes and see the restoration of the orchestra, the euripos (drainage trench around the orchestra), the proedria (front row seats of honor), and the lower rows of seats, as well as the retaining wall of the eastern parodos (side entrance).

The works were preceded by the January 2021 decision of the General Directorate of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture, which approved the execution of the works falling under “Subproject 1: Restoration of the Ancient Theatre of Sparta” of the Project “Restoration of the Ancient Theatre of Sparta.” The decision provided for the works to be carried out on the koilon, orchestra, retaining walls, and euripos and recruiting the necessary scientific and technical staff. More specifically:

– Field work: Archaeological exploratory works, land clearing and cleaning, excavation and backfill work, and other modifications

-Research, documentation, information: Archaeological documentation for the duration of the project. General topographic works (surveying, photogrammetry, and aerial photography). Publicity, commemorative, and construction site signage for the project.  Information signage, publication of information material (including Braille). Photography.

-Organization of a conference.

-Protection-enhancement works: conservation measures and maintenance, fixing and restoration works (jointing and pointing, small scale securing and fixing, restoration, removal, recovery, shoring works, and so on). Stone carving, maintenance, and fitting. Construction of a drainage network. Commissioning specialized complementary studies (structural engineering, geotechnical, drainage, laboratory testing, and analysis of mortars, stones, and metals).

It should be noted that two great allies of the DIAZOMA Association played a significant part in bringing forth this development: the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the J.M. Kaplan Fund, which funded the necessary studies for the monument’s restoration and gave it a new lease of life.

The 110,000 euros donated by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to the DIAZOMA Association were used to commission architect-engineer Mr. Goulielmos Orestidis and his team to prepare the monument’s restoration study. This included architectural drawings of the monument, documenting the monument’s pathology, archival research, collecting photographic material and other documents for excavations, investigating and documenting scattered architectural members, and finally making proposals for the restoration, enhancement, and promotion of the theatre. The initiative taken by former Minister Ioannis Varvitsiotis, who had sought ways to restore the crumbling monument during his tenure at the Ministry of Defense, was instrumental. Mr. Varvitsiotis approached the Niarchos Foundation, which accepted his proposal to financially support this study.

Following a corresponding initiative taken by the DIAZOMA Association, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, which operates from New York, donated the amount of 100,000 dollars (81,070.13 euros) to DIAZOMA in 2018 to sponsor the execution of the first phase of the restoration and promotion works to be carried out at the ancient theatre of Sparta, which was submitted to and approved by the Central Archaeological Council of the Ministry of Culture after its completion.

In other words, thanks to this international alliance embracing the Ancient Theatre of Sparta, this monument will soon be able to reveal the secrets of its original structure and form and once again take pride of place as a vibrant member of the city’s cultural community!

  • A 3D reconstruction of the ancient theatre of Sparta after the planned restoration works.
  • The ancient theatre of Sparta
  • The ancient theatre of Sparta - 3D reconstruction

Further information about the Ancient Theatre of Sparta and the DIAZOMA Association’s contribution to its restoration and promotion is available here.