Construction on the Theatre of Delos began shortly after 314 BC and was completed 70 years later. The koilon (cavea), the audience area, was supported by a sturdy marble retaining wall. It is divided into two sections, upper and lower, of 26 and 17 tiers, respectively, with a seating capacity of approximately 6,500 spectators. Access to the koilon was either by the parodoi, i.e. two large gates on either side of the semi-circular orchestra, by another two entrances at the level of the passageway separating the two sections, or by a final one in the middle of the highest point of the koilon. The seats in the first row (the proedria) have been best preserved and are the only seats with back support, as they were reserved for honoured persons. The semicircular orchestra, which was the main part of the theatre, was closed on its straight side by the skene, the stage-building and dressing rooms, a rectangular structure with the external dimensions of 15.26 x 6.64 m. with three entrances on the east side and another on the west. In front of the skene was the proskenion, a colonnade 2.67 m. high with Doric semi-columns between which were movable painted panels. The metopes on the proskenion entablature were decorated with relief tripods and bulls’ heads. Later a portico was added to the other three sides of the skene, the same height as the proskenion, with Doric piers the bases of which have been preserved. The chorus moved in the semi-circular orchestra, while the actors played on top of the proskenion.
Southwest of the theatre are preserved the remains of altars and sanctuaries dedicated to Artemis-Hecate, Apollo, Dionysus, Hermes and Pan. An impressive structure is the great cistern of the Theatre, which collected rainwater from the cavea via a duct running round the orchestra. In its roof, which was supported on eight elegant granite arches, were well-mouths from which the water was drawn.
The excavation of the Theatre was undertaken by the École Française d’Athènes in 1882 and published in 2007, in Exploration Archéologique de Délos XLII, Ph. Fraisse – J.-Ch. Moretti, Le Théâtre. During the course of the excavations, any marble architectural members obstructing the work were moved to the orchestra or into the nearby fields without being recorded or documented, with the result that hundreds of unidentified building stones from the monument are now scattered around the surrounding area.
The cavea, stage building and cistern of the Theatre are all preserved in very poor condition. The monuments must be consolidated and conserved, and the site modified to allow it to be visited while ensuring the safety of both monuments and public.
The basic preconditions for any attempt at consolidating or reconstructing the monuments are:
1. the study and identification of the scattered building material.
2. the drafting of separate studies with full documentation regarding the possibility of restoring the surviving building material to its original position, and of consolidating/restoring the retaining wall of the cavea, the entrances, the seats, the stage building and the cistern.
An event organised by Diazoma Association (30 May, 2011).
Ancient Theatre of Delos
The theatre has the characteristic tripartite form of Hellenistic theatres: cavea, orchestra and stage building.
Photographic documentation is held in the archives of the 21st Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and the École Française d’Athènes. Drawings of the monuments and architectural members are found in the archives of the French School and the book Exploration Archéologique de Délos XLII, Ph. Fraisse – J.-Ch. Moretti, Le Théâtre.
Exploration Archéologique de Délos XLII, Ph. Fraisse – J.-Ch. Moretti, Le Théâtre
The Theatre of Delos was begun in the late 4th c. BC and completed circa 250 BC. The theatre was abandoned following the destruction of Delos in 69 BC.
The theatre has the characteristic tripartite form of Hellenistic theatres: cavea, orchestra and stage building. On the west is a large cistern to collect the rainwater from the cavea.
The theatre is in a very poor state of preservation. Most of the seats are missing, only small sections of the entrances and the stage building survive, and a large part of the retaining wall has been destroyed. Hundreds of marble architectural members are scattered across the surrounding area.
The excavation of the theatre began in 1882 and was completed in 1912. There has been some minor restoration to the seats, and the orchestra has been paved with cement.
Only the orchestra and the area around the theatre are open to the public. The cavea cannot be visited, as this would be dangerous for both the monument and visitors.
The monument cannot be used as there is a danger that the seats might fall and injure spectators.
The monument belongs to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture/ 21st Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, while issues concerning its reconstruction and conservation are handled by the Committee for the Conservation of Monuments of Delos.
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The research assigned by Diazoma to the civil engineer Konstantinos Zampas was approved by the Greek Central Archaeological Council.