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The Theater

The theater of Delphi is one of the best known theaters in Greece, as we know both the exact date when it had been constructed, its design, the shape of the cavea and all the changes it underwent throughout its history. The theater is situated at the northwest of the temple of Apollo, just after the surrounding wall of it. The theater housed the song and instrumental music contests that took place during the Pythian Games, equally important to the Olympic Games, but also several other religious celebrations and festivals. The shape of the first theater is unknown; probably there were wooden seats or the spectators sat on the ground. Later on, by mid-4th century b.C. a stone theater was constructed which kept undergoing continuous changes and restoration. The stone paved orchestra, the stage and the stone seats surviving today are dated in the Roman period, around 160 b.C., when Eumenes II of Pergamos had sponsored new constructions and a wide restoration of the monument.

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The cavea of the theater was built in the bedrock at the north, while the southern part was constructed on fill. A diazoma divides the theater in two zones: the upper zone has 8 rows of seats and the lower 27. A series of staircases divide the theater vertically in six tiers at the upper part and seven at the lower one. The capacity of the theater reached the 5.000 spectators.

The orchestra is horse-shoe-shaped and it is surrounded by a drain conduit. The tile floor and the parapet at the cavea are dated in the Roman period. Several inscriptions stating cases of slaves’ emancipation are inscribed on the walls of the parodoi; unfortunately the texts survives quite poorly, as the stones of the walls have suffered severe corrosion. Only the foundations of the stage survive today; it seems that the stage was divided in two parts, the front stage and the main one. During the 1st century A.D. the face of the front stage was decorated with a relief frieze presenting the Labors of Hercules.
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The area of the theater was extensively excavated and restored, but all the buildings survive in poor condition. Numerous architectural parts, as seats and material of the parodoi walls are still scattered around. Moreover, the subsidence of the soil, a phenomenon quite common in the area, along with the cracking and flaking of the building material make the maintenance of the monument pretty difficult a task.

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