Ephesus Theatre

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Daily Ephesus tours – Ephesus Theatre

Daily Ephesus tours – Although the region was settled as early as 5000 BC, the city whose ruins we see today dates from the 3rd BC and are the product of Hellenistic city planning and Roman renovations. Lysimachus, the Thessalian general of Alexander the Great, relocated Ephesus to its present site and constructed the city using the then modern principles of urban development envisioned by Hippodamus of Miletus. Although Lysimachus is often credited with building the “Great Theatre” at this time, there is no evidence of a theatre in the initial construction phase of the city. Stefan Karwiese of the Österreichisches Archaologisches Insitut questions the existence of a theatre at Ephesus prior to 100 BC but acknowledges the possibility that Lysimachus may have chosen the building site prior to his death in 281 BC.

The magnificent theatre is set into the side of a steep hill at the center of the ancient city. Its design, location and conception may have benefited from Hellenistic influences but its size and ornamentations are the products of Empirical Rome. The theatre was built at the end of the Hellenistic period, but it was significantly altered and enlarged by the Romans during the following five centuries. The theatre remained in use until the 5th century AD.

Stage house

A major Hellenistic construction phase in Ephesus at the end of the 3rd century BC most likely produced the initial theatre that featured a cavea with a single tier of seats, an orchestra with a drainage channel, and a simple one-story scaenae (stage house). Under the Romans, beginning about 40 AD, the theatre was expanded and renovated to become the massive structure that we see today.

The city of Ephesus grew considerably during the reign of Augustus and the Theatre expanded accordingly. During the reign of Nero in 54 BC, the scaenae was enlarged to eight rooms opening off of a central hallway. This phase of renovation was finished in 66 AD customized daily Ephesus tours.

Emperor Domitian

Daily Ephesus tours – Between 87 and 92 AD, a renovation of the theatre, dedicated to the Emperor Domitian, enlarged the stage (pulpitum) and included a richly decorated two-story façade (scaenae frons). The open pardoi of the Hellenistic theatre were enclosed to produce covered side entrances (aditus maximus) to the cavea. At this time, the size of the cavea was increased by adding an additional tier of seating supported by vaulted substructures and reinforced by external retaining walls (analemmata). Sometime prior to 262 AD, a third story was added to the scaena and a third tier of seats was added to the cavea.

Earthquakes between 359 and 366 destroyed the upper cavea, and although repairs to the northern retaining walls were completed Under Arkadios (395-408 AD), the upper cavea was abandoned. An epigram celebrates the proconsul Messalinus, who was responsible for the completion of the repairs. By the 8th century AD the theatre had been incorporated into the defensive fortifications for the city.

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