The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Laodicea ad Lycum, West Theatre (near modern Denizli, Turkey)


Modern Goncali, Turkey

Theatre Type

Roman Theatre

Earliest Date

261-253 BCE.

Renovations / Excavations

1746 to 1765: Richard Chandler and N. Revett visited Laodicea and took preliminary measurements during their archeology tour of Asia Minor.

1833 and in 1843: G. Weber carried out minor excavations but was primarily focused on water supply in Laodicea. Created the first plan of the ancient city.

1061-1963: first round of systematic archaeological excavations conducted by the expedition from the University of Laval, from the Canadian city of Quebec headed by Professor Jean de Gagniers.

1992: Hasim Yildiz from the Denizli Museum, conducted rescue excavations in the main street of the site, known as the Syrian Street.

1995-2002: the survey work by researchers from the University Ca ‘Foscari in Venice managed by Professor Gustavo Traversari.

2002: systematic archaeological work was initiated by the Denizli Museum under the leadership of Ali Ceylan, in cooperation with the Department of Archaeology of Pamukkale University in Denizli.

2003: Excavation and restoration work under Professor Celal Simsek of the University of Pamukkale.

2017: Professor Simek began reconstruction work in the area of the Sacred Agora and the West Theater. 

GPS Coordinates

Seating Capacity

8,000 - 10,000


Cavea Width: 100 meters
Orchestra Width: 24 meters


Laodicea-ad-Lycum (modern Goncali, Turkey). Hellenistic theatre. Also known as the West Theatre. Smaller and older of 2 theatres at the site; Cavea width: 98 m, orchestra width: 24 m; facing north-west; ima cavea: 23 rows in 9 cunei; summa, 19 rows in 9 cunei; capacity: 9,000; 261-253 BCE.

Laodicea ad Lycum (Laodicea on the Lycus River) History

The city of Laodicea-ad Lycum was one of many Hellenistic towns that were created following Alexander the Great’s conquests in Asia Minor. Although excavations of the five square kilometer site indicate continuous settlements without interruption from 5500 BCE to the 7th century CE, the ruins we see today are Hellenistic and Imperial Roman. The Hellenistic city was founded in the mid-3rd century BCE, but the city’s golden age was from the 1st to 5th centuries CE. Most of the structures and the city itself were developed during this period.

The city was founded by Antiochus II Theos, king of the Seleucid Empire, in 261-253 BC in honor of his wife Laodice. It served as a commercial center on newly opened or reconditioned trade routes, and as a stronghold for securing the Seleucid empire. Laodicea-ad-Lycum is located 200 kilometers inland from the harbor city of Ephesus within the borders of the villages of Eskihisar, Goncalı, Korucuk, and Bozburun, six kilometers north of the modern city of Denizli. The site is on the road to Pamukkale (Hierapolis), which is approximately ten kilometers to the north.

Throughout its history, Laodikeia suffered many earthquakes and was rebuilt numerous times. It was finally abandoned after a severe earthquake in the reign of Emperor Focas (r. 602-610 CE). Its citizens settled in Denizli – Kaleiçi and Hisarköy on the north slopes of Mt. Salbakos (modern Babadağ), after the city’s abandonment. Laodikeia was one of the Seven Churches named in the Book of Revelation and later became a metropolitan city in the Early Byzantine period. (UNESCO Archaeological site of Laodikeia).

Two Theatres

Besides having the biggest stadium of any neighboring city, Laodicea has the unique distinction of having two theatres, one constructed during the 2nd century BCE (the West Theatre), and one of Roman construction *the North Theatre) built during the 2nd century CE. The Hellenistic West Theatre has been undergoing intensive excavations and reconstructions since 2003.

The West Theatre:

Cavea: Hellenistic in design and shape, the cavea extends well beyond a semi-circle. Built into the western side of a hill, the steep cavea faces northwest and is divided into two horizontal tiers of seating with a diazoma (curved walkway) separating the seating sections. The lower tier (ima cavea) is organized into 23 rows of marble seats whereas the upper tier (summa cavea) has 19 rows of travertine seats. The entire cavea has a diameter of 85 meters; including the analemma (retaining) wall, the diameter extends to 98.5 meters (Şimşek).

The seating is divided horizontally into 9 wedge-shaped seating sections (cunei), separated from one another by eight staircases. The ima cavea seating is constructed using marble and the upper suma cavea is of local limestone. Şimşek speculates that this difference in construction materials suggests that the Hellenistic cavea was confined to one tier of seating and the upper, suma cavea is of Roman construction.

The upper tier of the cavea features Greek letters such as A, Δ, Γ, H, Λ, M, N and Σ on the rows of seats, most likely for numbering of seats to designate the seating areas for the tribes. The first row of the ima cavea was composed of prohedria seating (seats of honor with backs an arms), and a bisellia (large semi-circular lodge for seating dignitaries) was located in the center of the ima cavea in the 5th cunei.

Orchestra: Recent excavations by Şimşek estimate the orchestra to measure 24 meters in width. He suggests that the original, Hellenistic orchestra was lowered during the Imperial Roman age. He further speculates that prohedria seating (seats of honor with backs an arms) once surrounded the orchestra front as at Priene. With the Roma orchestra modification, the prohedria were relocated to the first row of the ima cavea.

Stage and Proscenium: Recent excavations discovered blocks inside the orchestra (architrave, geison-sima, ceilings, column shafts, and bases) indicating that the front of the proscenium had a hypostyle decoration with niches, statues, and sculptural reliefs. Corinthian capitals, dated to the 5th and 6th centuries CE, indicate that the theatre was used from the Hellenistic epoch until the late Roman period, undergoing rebuilding and repair on numerous occasions. Both the northern and western theatres were incorporated into defensive fortification walls in the 5th century CE. The theatres were destroyed in the 7th century CE following a massive earthquake and their materials were used as a source for other constructions. (Şimşek)

Thomas G. Hines. 10/28/2023

Bibliography / Resources:

Agency, Anadolu, Revelation: Experts revive 2,200-year-old theater in SW Turkey. July 11, 2021.

Ancient Theater in Turkey: Laodicea (or Laodikeia) North-Theatre. 2020. (accessed Oct 25, 2023)

Archaeologists Completed the Restoration of Ancient Laodiceia’s Theatre. The Archaeologist: Civilizations of the World. August 25, 2021.

Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World (EHW). Foundation of the Hellenic World.

Laodicea ad Lycum: Two Theaters.

“Laodikeia Archaeological Site.” T.C. Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Laodicea on the Lycus. Turkish Archaeological News. Submitted by Iza on 03/09/2017. Last modification: Sun, 10/20/2019 – 10:01. (accessed 10,23,2023)

Laodicea on the Lycus. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Oct. 2023,

Pleiades, Ancient World Mapping Center and Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

Şimşek, C.-Sezgin, M.A., “The West and North Theatres in Laodicea”, Restoration and Management of Ancient Theatres in Turkey, Methods, Research, Results (Ed. F. Masino, P. Mighetto, G. Sobra), Lecce, 2012, 103-128. (accessed Oct. 25, 2023)

UNESCO Archaeological site of Laodikeia.’s%20excavations%20and%20restorations%20have,Celal%20%C5%9Eim%C5%9Fek. (accessed Oct 12, 2023)

Last Update: 10-30-2023