The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Nysa (modern Sultanhisar, Turkey)


Modern Sultanhisar, Turkey

Theatre Type

Roman Theatre

Earliest Date

Early Roman Imperial Period (27 BCE)

Renovations / Excavations

Nysa Theatre existed in Augustan period (44 BCE. In 27 BCE)  – (Strabo); present structure 2nd quarter 1st cent., scene rebuilt ca. 200 CE.

GPS Coordinates

Seating Capacity

12,000 - 12,000


Cavea Width: 115 meters
Orchestra Width: 25 meters


Nysa (modern Sultanhisar, Turkey). Roman Theatre. Cavea width: 115 m, orchestra width 25m; ca.?27 BCE. Theatre existed in Augustan period (Strabo); the present structure 2nd quarter 1st century, scene was rebuilt ca. 200 CE. (F.S.)

Nysa Theatre (modern Sultanhisar, Turkey

The Roman theatre of Nysa was probably built in the 1st century BC. It leans on a steep mountain slope. The sides of the cavea were made of masonry. In the second century C.E. the stage was extended. A third reconstruction phase can be determined for the period around 180 – 200 AD. Inscriptions found in the theatre prove that the building was in use until the fifth/sixth century C.E. 

 Frank Sear describes the Nysa Theatre as follows:

Location: theatre centrally located; bouleuterion in north-west corner of agora.
D 115 m, facing south; exceeds semicircle; ima cavea: 11 rows of profiled seats (0.425 × 0.71 m) in 9 cunei; at top single narrow step which acts as foot-rest for lowest row of seats of media cavea and allows foot-well behind top row of ima cavea, slightly wider than rest (0.83 m instead of 0.71 m), to be used as narrow praecinctio; media: 12 rows in 9 cunei; separated by praecinctio (W 1.76 m) with podium wall (H 1.05 m); 9 double staircases up to seats of summa; staircases unusual in that, instead of being in thickness of podium wall and diverging, they are built against wall and converge; summa: 26 rows in 18 cunei; porticus around top of cavea; only one column drum survives.
Substructures: built against slope; 2 vaulted passageways led up to lower praecinctio from parodoi.
Parodoi: analemmata in alternately high and low courses.Orchestra: D c.25 m.
Kolymbethra: orchestra later remodeled as kolymbethra; parodoi closed by heavy walls to take thrust of water.
Scaenae frons: most marble of scene building robbed; 5 door ways in scaenae frons visible.
Date: theatre existed in Augustan period (Strabo); present structure second quarter 1st cent. ad; scene rebuilt c. ad 200.
Literature: Strabo (14. 1. 43) mentions theatre; present structure later.
Bibliography: Pococke, A Description of the East, 67. Chandler, Tr. Asia Minor (1775), 213. Laborde, Voy. Asie, 88–9. W. von Diest, Nysa ad Maeandrum (JdI-EH 10; Berlin, 1913). R. Vallois REG 38 (1925), 241. Ferrero, Teatri, 3. 115–21. V. Sezer et al., TTAED 27 (1988), 85–100; 28 (1989), 307–22.
Frank Sear (p. 346)

The history of Nysa:        

The name of the town allegedly goes back to Nysa, an otherwise unknown wife of Antiochos I, or can rather be traced back to Nysa, the nurse of Dionysos. In ancient times, Nysa was regarded as one of the places where Dionysus was brought up. It is unclear whether the city was created by synoikismos (merging several villages into one city) of the place Athymbra with the two neighboring places Athymbrada and Hydrela. Since the 3rd century B.C.E. it was selective. The name Nysa has been used since the 2nd century BC.

In the imperial period Nysa was known as a center of scholarship, the historian Strabon was educated here around 50 BC. The Stoic Apollonius and the homer philologist Menekrates came from Nysa. In late antiquity, Nysa was a bishop’s seat in Eparchia Asia.

Nysa owes its prosperity in the imperial period to the sanctuary of Pluton and Kore in Acharaka, 4 km to the west, with its famous sulfur springs.

The urban area is divided into two by a stream gorge. The bridge of Nysa, a 100-meter-long superstructure of the deep stream gorge, which served as a substructure for the theatre forecourt and is regarded as the second longest of its kind in antiquity, is particularly worth mentioning in terms of archaeological remains.

In front of the late Hellenistic-Roman theatre, on the left side of the gorge, there are the still unexcavated remains of an amphitheatre. Only a few rows of seats, mostly overgrown with grass, have survived. According to the latest findings, however, the oval ground plan is a stadium.

In the 1960s, excavations of the theatre and the Bouleuterion were carried out by the museum of İzmir. From 1982-1988 the museum of Aydın extended the excavations in the theatre. A team from Ankara University has been digging and reconstructing various sites since 1990. The library has been excavated since 2002 by archaeologists from the University of Freiburg (Germany).           

Bibliography / Resources:

Aydın Nysa Archeological Site. Turkish Museums. (accessed 10/23/2023)

Nysa, Ancient Theatre in Turkey. On the Traces of Ancient Cultures. Tuerkei-Antik. (accessed 9/30/2023)

Nysa Roman Theatre Remains. (accessed 9/25/2023)

Sear, Frank. Roman Theatres: An Architectural Study. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006 (p. 346)


Last Update: 09-30-2023