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Our journey: The Ancient Theatre of Delos

The island of Delos is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Greece and one of the most charming ruins in the Mediterranean. In 1990, UNESCO inscribed Delos on the World Heritage list.

The construction of the Ancient Theatre of Delos began shortly after 314 BC and was completed around 250 BC. It had a capacity of 5000-6000 spectators! The chosen location for the theatre lay within the urban fabric and outside the Sanctuary of Apollo, in the area south of the port known as the “theatre district”. The district includes streets, a cistern (aqueduct), a hotel, sanctuaries, residences, workshops, and shops that serviced Delos’ trade. The theatre was abandoned after the destruction of Delos in 69 BC.

DIAZOMA’s contributions to the enhancement and promotion of the Ancient Theatre of Delos began with the scientific partnership developed with the French School at Athens. The archaeology school was the first to excavate the island as early as 1882. The partnership was validated by the signature of a licensing agreement providing for the reciprocal exchange of scientific material produced for the ancient theatre of Delos.

In May 2011, DIAZOMA opened a bank account (“piggy bank”) for the ancient theater of Delos. The major sponsors of the theatre include OPAP S.A., Emporiki Bank, Sklavenitis S.A., but also many citizens. A particularly memorable and moving contribution was that of Dimitris Chasapidis, a boy and youngest member of DIAZOMA at the time, who donated 40 euro from his own piggy bank to the theatre’s piggy bank.

In June 2011, DIAZOMA held an event to promote the ancient theatre of Delos at the Megaron Hypatia. During the event, the opening of the theatre’s “piggy bank” was formally announced. Ten thousand euros (derived from the annual subscriptions of the Association’s regular members) was allocated from the piggy bank to launch the drive to raise funds needed for the theatre’s restoration. The event was addressed by the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr. Pavlos Geroulanos.  Professor Emeritus of Classical Archaeology and DIAZOMA Secretary General Mr. Vasilis Lambrinoudakis, Director of Research at the Research Institute for Ancient Architecture Mr. Jean-Charles Moretti, and Ephor Emeritus Fotini Zafiropoulou also spoke at the event. An address was also delivered by Dr. Dominique Mulliez, Director of the French School at Athens, Mr. Athanasios Kousathanas-Megas, former mayor of Mykonos, and DIAZOMA President Mr. Stavros Benos.

In the framework of this cooperation, in June 2011, DIAZOMA, in consultation with the then competent authority 21st Ephorate of Prehistoric & Classical Antiquities and the French School at Athens,  and utilizing the existing scientific work, commissioned the restoration study of the ancient theatre of Delos to researcher and civil-engineer Mr. Konstantinos Zambas. The cost of the commission was covered by funds raised by the theatre’s piggy bank and the kind sponsorship of OPAP SA in particular, amounting to 100,000 euros. The study included the general planning, prioritizing, and sequencing of the interventions in the wider area of the theatre, as well as the comprehensive, definitive study for the restoration of the koilon and the crumbling parts of the retaining wall. The study was approved in 2012 with the unanimous endorsement of the Central Archaeological Council (KAS).

In 2019, DIAZOMA decided to hold its 12th General Assembly on Naxos and Delos. The location was chosen in response to the vivid interest expressed in the implementation of the Cultural Route of Naxos, which focuses on the island’s great cultural and environmental monuments, by all relevant bodies and the Municipality of Naxos and Small Cyclades in particular. Moreover, it ties in with the efforts made by DIAZOMA and the relevant bodies to revive the dialogue on the restoration of the ancient theatre of Delos.

On 20 September 2019, the members of DIAZOMA visited the sacred island of Delos. During the visit, DIAZOMA Secretary General and Professor Emeritus of Classical Archaeology Mr. Vassilis Lambrinoudakis introduced members to the history of Delos. Mr. Konstantinos Zambas presented the theatre restoration study. Diazoma members had the opportunity to tour the archeological site and visit the itinerant contemporary sculpture exhibition of British artist Antony Gormley, the fruit of the collaboration of the Cyclades Ephorate of Antiquities and the NEON organization.

This unique experience culminated in an exceptional cultural event for DIAZOMA members at the ancient theatre of Delos. There, the Homeric Hymn to Apollo was performed by actress Ms. Lydia Koniordou accompanied by Mr. Dionysis Grammenos, founder and musical director of the Greek Youth Symphony Orchestra, on the clarinet.

The Ancient Theatre of Delos falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture and Sports / The Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades. Restoration and maintenance matters are managed by the Committee for the Conservation of the Monuments of Delos.

You can find out more about the progress of works at the Ancient Theatre of Delos from 2008 until today, HERE.