The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Delos (Modern Delos Island, Greece)

Location

Modern The island of Delos (Greek: Δήλος: Attic Greek: Δῆλος, Doric Greek: Δᾶλος), Greece

Theatre Type

Greek Theatre

Earliest Date

305-269 BCE

Renovations / Excavations

Delos Excavations

1. The French School of Athens (FSA) in 1873 sent archaeologist A. Lebègue to begin work on excavations on Delos.

2. Until the First World War, on the instigation of T. Homolle and then M. Holleaux, the emphasis was on the clearing of large areas in the Sanctuary zone and on the northern slopes of Cynthus; however, the rest of the island was not neglected.

3. Several years apart (1894 and 1907), two archaeological maps of the island were drawn up while a study of its physical geography was successfully completed by the geologist L. Cayeux (EAD IV).

4. From 1903 onwards, the excavations enjoyed annual financial support from Joseph Florimont, Duke of Loubat (1831-1927), a rich American philanthropist and foreign corresponding member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres.

This major contribution to work in the field was complemented in 1920 by the creation of a Greek epigraphy fund to support the institute from which the income was used for the publication of the Choix d’inscriptions de Délos by F. Durrbach (1921) and the Corpus des inscriptions de Délos.

5. From the 1920s onwards, the efforts of the school’s members focused on the study of monuments, batches of equipment and inscriptions discovered in the previous decades, and exploratory research concentrated more on buildings than groups of monuments. (https://greekreporter.com/2022/05/13/excavations-greek-island-delos/. Accessed 12/17/22)

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. From: The Diazoma Association: https://diazoma.gr/en/theaters/theatre-of-delos/. Accessed: 12/16/22

GPS Coordinates

Seating Capacity

6,500

Dimensions

Cavea Width: 65 meters
Orchestra Width: 21 meters

Summary

Delos (Modern Delos Island, Greece). Cavea width: 65 m. with two seating sections: 26 lower rows, 17 upper rows; orchestra width: 21.20 m;. surrounded by proedria benches; scene building 15.6 x 6.64 m.; capacity: 6,500; ca. 305-269 BCE.

 

 

The island of Delos (/ˈdlɒs/GreekΔήλος [ˈðilos]AtticΔῆλοςDoricΔᾶλος), near Mykonos, near the centre of the Cyclades archipelago, is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece. The excavations in the island are among the most extensive in the Mediterranean; ongoing work takes place under the direction of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades, and many of the artifacts found are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Delos and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Delos had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Olympian Greek mythology made it the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. From its Sacred Harbour, the horizon shows the three conical mounds that have identified landscapes sacred to a goddess (it is predicted that the deity’s name is Athena) – in other sites: one, retaining its Pre-Greek name Mount Cynthus,[1] is crowned with a sanctuary of Zeus.

In 1990, UNESCO inscribed Delos on the World Heritage List, citing its exceptional archaeological site which “conveys the image of a great cosmopolitan Mediterranean port”, its influence on the development of Greek architecture, and its sacred importance throughout Ancient Greece.[2]

The Ancient Theatre of Delos:

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 materials.

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.

From: The Diazoma Association: https://diazoma.gr/en/theaters/theatre-of-delos/. Accessed: 12/16/22

 

 

Last Update: 11-02-2023