Ancient Theater of Kassope


The Theater

When, where, how

On a platform approximately 550-650 meters above sea level, nestled among the verdant slopes, lies the capital the Kassopaeans founded in the 4th century BC. The location offered cool temperatures and uninterrupted vistas to the sea, but most importantly, a naturally fortified location, providing safety and control of the land route stretching north-south and the route joining the mainland to the coast.

The Kassopaeans desired an advanced capital in every sense of the word, one that would not only provide a living but eu zen, a good life.  The city blocks on which their homes stood were characterized by geometrical order and precision. The agora and all public buildings occupied a prominent position. In the early 3rd century BC, they constructed a grand theater, a space to watch theatrical performances and gather to discuss political matters.

The Theater of Kassope was constructed on the foothills of the city’s highest hill, beneath the NW acropolis. The theater’s orientation was not a random choice. Spectators could not only enjoy the poets’ creations but also panoramic views over the Ambracian Gulf, the Ionian Sea and the island of Lefkada.

Swept by the currents of history, the theater and the city were abandoned at end of the 1st century BC, when the city’s inhabitants were forced to move to the newly founded city of Nikopolis. In the centuries that followed, only inquisitive travelers entered the deserted city. Increasingly damaged, its theater could no longer be distinguished from the surrounding ground. The beginning of the 21st century ushered in a new era for the monument. Enhancement works in progress will restore its former shape and enrich our knowledge of its history and architecture. For the ancient Theater of Kassope, the future looks bright.

“In antiquity, theatre was not just a spectacle. It was an uplifting experience, cathartic, healing, both physical and spiritual.
Ancient Greek theatres were often built where nature offers its best, as if to embrace and enhance the purpose of the art.
With its sprawling horizons over the life-giving sea, the Theatre of Kassope might be the perfect example.”


The building at a glance

  • Rests at an altitude of approximately 597 meters above sea level.
  • Does not a form a full circle but an arc greater than a semi-circle.
  • Its floor was laid with packed earth.
  • A stone rainwater drainage conduit surrounded its perimeter along the cavea, to protect it from flooding.
  • Has a total length of 25.25 meters
  • Is comprised of the central rectangular skene (the building behind the play area), which measures 12 by 8 meters, and two oblong paraskenia (wings) at either end, measuring 7.5 by 2.6 meters.
  • The indentations where six wooden columns once rested are visible on the Proskenion (stage). Painted panels serving as the scenery would be raised between the columns.
  • The two parodoi (entances) stood between the stage building and the cavea, through which spectators would enter and exit the theatre. Two of the city’s longitudinal streets (stenopoi) ended at these entrances.
  • Was constructed on the suitably shaped hollow on the slope of the hill and is rather steeply inclined (24°45΄).
  • Its base has a diameter of 18 meters and its top of approximately 81 meters.
  • Its spatial organization is designed so as not to constrict the spectators’ view but let the eye wander freely over the open horizon.
  • Nine klimakes (stairways) 0.55 meters wide radially divided the cavea into ten kerkides (seating sections). The seating sections at both ends of the cavea are half the width of the other sections.
  • diazoma (gangway) 1.25 meters wide splits the theatre into two unequal sections. The lower section comprises 24 seating rows, the upper section 12.
  • A second diazoma (gangway), 2.5 meters wide, circles the top of the cavea. It is protected on the exterior by a strong polygonal wall. A small gateway was opened in the wall, to facilitate the movement of spectators in the upper part of the cavea.


Ancient Theater of Kassope


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