Tag Archives: Greek theatre

Rune Frederiksen, Elizabeth R. Gebhard & Alexander Sokolicek (eds.), The Architecture of the Ancient Greek Theatre, Monographs of the Danish Institute, Volume 17 (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press and The Danish Institute at Athens, 2015)

From early festivals honoring Dionysus staged on a stamped earthen orchestra space surrounded with improvised wooden bleachers, the Greek theatre evolved into one of the most significant architectural forms and civic works in the ancient Greek city.  Often crafted into a sloping site to form a natural auditorium or theatron (“viewing place”) which allowed the audience to connect with the surrounding landscape, the theatre provided a true “stage” for numerous public engagements:  Dramatic performances, festivals and spectacles, political and public assemblies, and more.  No Greek city could be considered a true city without a theatre.

The Architecture of the Ancient Greek Theatre publishes twenty-six research papers presented at a two day international conference held in January 2012, which focused specifically on the architecture of the Greek theatre.  The intent of the conference, and the resulting papers published here, was to present new material and researches about the history of Greek theatre architecture, particularly “. . . its form and function, from the earliest theatral arrangements through the Classical period and the architectural development in Hellenistic times.”  It also includes the impact of Roman theatre traditions and interventions on Greek works during the Imperial period.  The papers included in the volume are specifically focused on the architecture of the Greek theatre and its evolution, and “. . . less on its role within the community or the production of plays.”

The scholarship presented is rigorous, extensive and deep, ranging from overviews of Greek theatre architecture of various periods, to examination of the development and evolution of specific spatial and building elements of the theatre (e.g., cavea, ikria, koilon, orchestra, parodos, proskenion, and skene), to building and construction methods and processes, and to detailed inspection of specific theatres throughout the Greek world.  A number of the theatres under discussion have been recently excavated or undergone a more current re-examination.  The editors “Introduction” outlines the content of the papers while weaving together the current issues and directions in Greek theatre architecture research.  In addition, several essays propose relevant directions and topics for future research.

Beginning with Hans Peter Isler’s “Studies on Greek Theatres:  History and Prospects”, the first part of the volume examines early Greek theatres, including:  Christina Papastamati-von Moock’s “The Wooden Theatre of Dionysos Eleuthereus in Athens:  Old Issues, New Research”; Rune Frederiksen’s “Early Greek Theatre Architecture: Monumentalized Koila Before and After the Invention of the Semicircular Design”; Alexander Sokolicek’s “Form and Function of the Earliest Greek Theatres”; Elizabeth R. Gebhard’s “The Sunken Orchestra:  Its Effects on Greek Theatre Design”; Jean-Charles Moretti and Christine Mauduit’s “The Greek Vocabulary of Theatrical Architecture”; and Fede Berti and Nicolò Masturzo’s (with Manuela Vittori) “New Studies of the Theatre at Iasos:  50 Years since the First Excavation.”

The evolution and developments of theatre architecture and building elements during the Hellenistic period are well examined in:  Martin Hofbauer’s “New Investigations in the Ephesian Theatre:  The Hellenistic Skene”; Chris Hayward and Yannis Lolos’  “Building the Early Hellenistic Theatre at Sikyon”; Georgios P. Antoniou’s “The Theatre at Dodona:  New Observations on the Architecture of the Cavea”; David Scahill’s “The Hellenistic Theatre at Corinth:  New Implications from Recent Excavations”; Petros Themelis’ (with a contribution on the masons marks by Kleanthis Sidiropoulos) “The Theatre at Messene:  Building Phases and Masons’ Marks”; Christine Wilkening-Aumann’s “The Hellenistic Theatre in the Sanctuary of Hemithea at Kastabos (Asia Minor):  New Evidence and Reconstruction”; Chryssa Karadima, Costas Zambas, Nikos Chatzidakis, Gerasimos Thomas, and Eirini Doudoumi’s  “The Ancient Theatre at Maroneia”; Walter Gauss, Rudolfine Smetana, Julia Dorner, Petra Eitzinger, Asuman Lätzer-Lasar, Manuela Leibetseder, and Maria Trapichler’s “Old and New Observations from the Theatre at Aigeira”; Clemente Marconi and David Scahill’s “The ‘South Building’ in the Main Urban Sanctuary of Selinunte:  A Theatral Structure?”; Poul Pedersen and Signe Isager’s “The Theatre at Halikarnassos – and Some Thoughts on the Origin of the Semicircular Greek Theatre” (with an appendix “The Inscriptions from the Theatre at Halikarnassos”); and John Richard Green, Craig Barker, and Geoff Stennett’s “The Hellenistic Phases of the Theatre at Nea Paphos in Cyprus:  The Evidence from the Australian Excavations”.

The impact of Roman architectural intervention on Hellenistic theatres is discussed in Stefan Franz and Valentina Hinz’s “The Architecture of the Greek Theatre of Apollonia in Illyria (Albania) and its Transformation in Roman Times”; Marco Germani’s “Boeotian Theatres:  An Overview of the Regional Architecture”; Valentina di Napoli’s “Architecture and Romanization:  The Transition of Roman Forms in Greek Theatres of the Augustan Age”; Arzu Öztürk’s “Was Dörpfeld Right?  Some Observations on the Development of the Raised Stage in Asia Minor”; Nathalie de Chaisemartin’s “The Carian Theatre in Aphrodisias:  A Hybrid Building”; Katja Piesker’s “’Traditional’ Elements in the Roman Redesign of the Hellenistic Theatre in Patara, Turkey”; Gudrun Styhler-Aydin’s “The Hellenistic Theatre of Ephesus:  Results of a Recent Architectural Investigation of the Koilon”; and Hans Peter Isler’s “Traditional Hellenistic Elements in the Architecture of Ancient Theaters in Roman Asia Minor”.

Each of the essays is soundly written, well-illustrated, thoroughly documented, and includes a bibliography referencing all works cited in the piece.  The volume concludes with an impressive “Thematic Bibliography” that reshuffles all the referenced works into themes that include general and regional studies, specific places and sites, architectural topics and building elements, and specific theatre complexes.

Without question, The Architecture of the Ancient Greek Theatre is an essential, significant and substantial work updating the scholarship and investigations that have recently occurred in the field.  As a volume its assists in our understanding the current state of scholarship and excavation, while informing and clarifying our knowledge of the development and evolution of Greek theatre architecture.  While illuminating issues concerning a number of Greek theatres, yet, as a number of essays allude to, there is still more work to be done.