The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Argos Odeum (modern Argos, Greece)


Modern Argos, Greece

Theatre Type


Earliest Date

2nd century CE

Renovations / Excavations

Remodeled in third quarter of 2nd cent. CE, later 3rd / early 4th cent. CE

GPS Coordinates

Seating Capacity

880 - 1,100


Cavea Width: 41 meters
Orchestra Width: 12 meters


Argos odeum (modern Argos, Greece). 2nd c. CE original w/ rectilinear outer walls (25 X 32 m): ima 10 rows in 2 cunei, suma ?8 rows in 4 cunei; roofed without interior supports; capacity: 880/1,100. Earliest date: 2nd cent. CE; Cavea enlarged to 40.9 m in late 2nd c. with 9 row suma cavea in 4 cunei; capacity 1,800 / 1,600. Enlarged/repaired in 3rd and 4th c. CE. (F.S.)

Argos Odeum

The oldest of the two theatres
 was carved into the lower rocky slopes of the Larisa in the fifth century B.C. Smaller than the adjacent, Hellenistic theater, it seated approximately 2,500. This archaic theater at Argos is one of only two surviving theater structures (with Thorikos) that can be dated earlier than the mid-fourth century B.C. and that would have had wooden skene. The wooden skene, “known mainly through vase paintings[,] have left no physical traces beyond some stone sockets into which wooden posts or beams were inserted” (Ashby 17). It is possible that Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, or Aristophanes might have known this theater.
During the reign of Hadrian, the archaic theater was renovated and roofed by the Romans to form an odeum. It is now often conventionally referred to as “odeum” instead of as “theater”. The site is “unusual because approximately three-fifths of the seats nearest the stage were lost (reworked) when this portion of the auditorium and stage” were renovated. The Roman odeum seat bank is a steeper-raked brick (opus incertum) and was faced with mosaic. The upper two-fifths of seats which survived the renovation show no evidence of having been reworked and have been determined to represent the original, archaic construction (Izenour 11). Along with the theater at Chaironeia, this archaic theater at Argos provides “perhaps the most conclusive evidence of rectilinearity in Greek theatre spaces.” The seats from the original theater construction appear to be straight-rowed but “have a slight curvature not apparent to the naked eye, a characteristic shared with the seating at Thorikos” (Ashby 32-33).
Although the real function of the archaic theater has not been determined, Tomlinson speculates that its small size suggests it as a “meeting place of a restricted gathering. This could be an indication of political, or perhaps religious, exclusiveness” (19). It could also have functioned as a music hall. Pausanias makes no mention of this structure in his descriptions of Argos.– Author: Jennifer Lavy, University of Washington. 2003

Bibliography: Ashby, Clifford. Classical Greek Theatre: New Views of an Old Subject. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1999. Catling, H.W. “Archaeology in Greece, 1986-87.” Archaeological Reports 33 (1986-87): 3-61. Gephard, Elizabeth. “The Form of the Orchestra in Early Greek Theater.” Hesperia 43.4 (October-December 1974): 428-40. Hall, Jonathan M. “How Argive Was the ‘Argive’ Heraion? The Political and Cultic Geography of the Argive Plain, 900-400 B.C.” American Journal of Archaeology 99.4 (Oct. 1995): 577-613. Izenour, George C. Theater Design. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale UP, 1996. Moretti, J.-Ch. “Argos: Le theatre.” Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenique 112 (1988): 716-17. Pausanias. The Description of Greece. Trans. J.G. Frazer. London: Faulder, 1898. Tomlinson, R.A. Argos and the Argolid: From the End of the Bronze Age to the Roman Occupation. Ithaca NY: Cornell UP, 1972.  NOTE: According to Ashby, a book published in 1969, titled Nuove ricerche sui teatri greci arcaici, by Anti and Polacco “has some interesting, even startling observations on the theatres at . . . Argos, . . . but is virtually unknown today” (27). 

Online Sources: Metis site has 360-degree interactive images of the theater and surrounding areas. The Leo Masuda Architectonic Research Office Homepage Greek Press Office BBS, Ottawa, release in English of the Athens News Agency Bulletin, dated October 22, 1993. Dateline: Brussels. Author: C. Verros. Hellenic Ministry of Culture The Perseus Project The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites (Eds. Richard Stillwell, William L. MacDonald, Marian Holland McAllister)

Last Update: 12-09-2022