Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Theater of Gytheio

Although Gythio or Gytheio wasn't on my wish list, today it was nevertheless more than worthwhile the visit. Gythium was the seaport of ancient Sparta, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) north. The city used to be an important port until it was destroyed in 4th century AD, possibly by an earthquake.

Also in Roman times Gythium remained a major port and it prospered as a member of the Union. As purple dye was popular in Rome, Gythium exported that as well as porphyry and rose antique marble.

Evidence of the ancient Gythium prosperity can be found by the fact that the Romans built this small theatre against a hillside. Although only 8 rows in 4 cunei survived.

This is also where the thymelic performances used to take place. The thymelic was a song contest dedicated to god Dionisos, which included a parade and a sacrifice to the Roman emperors. Today, although the site is abandoned, there are some cultural events taking place in this theatre every summer, as part of the Festival of Gythio. They include ancient drama performances, public speeches and music concerts. (Source:

The theatre, as well as the city's Acropolis (west to the location of the theatre) was discovered by the archeologist Dimitris Skias in 1891.

The theater is located next to a Greek military base and is easily reachable. Curious (or bored) soldiers, stationed at the base will follow your moves while walking around at the premises making pictures. Not many people are attracted to this outskirt of the modern settlement.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Faience mask

In February, I visited the Metropolitan in New York and saw this magnificent Faience masks, discovered in Medinet-el-Fayum at Antinoopolis, Middle Egypt. It dates from the 2nd century AD. With reference to the The Metropolitan, the masks are too small and brittle to have served as actual theater masks. They refer to the god Dionysus, patron of the theater and god of rebirth: in Egypt equated with Osiris.

Terracotta masks are found in burials and sanctuaries in Greece, in sanctuaries and as garden decorations in Italy. In Egypt they are known only from burials, as offerings to Osiris, Dionysus.

More of my pictures of the Metropolitan can be seen here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gladiators and charioteers in Noviomagus

This morning I visited museum Het Valkhof in Nijmegen, at Oppidum Batavorum or Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum. Het Valkhof is a remarkable museum with an extraordinary fine collection of Roman finds, both from the vicus and the military settlements. Among these finds are two beautiful objects, a green glazed bowl and a terra sigillata jar. One shows fighting gladiators and the other one a racing chariot.

This well preserved bowl shows fighting gladiators in an amphitheater. A heavy armoured gladiator attacks his opponent, armed with trident and dagger.

At the opposite side you can see a referee, carrying a stick,  intervening. The bowl was made in Cologne (Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium) and capital city of Germania Inferior, probably at the end of the 2nd century AD. It was found at the cemetry of Noviomagus.

The second object is this terra sigillata jar, decorated by three medailions. One with a deer, one with a dog, and the one shown here, with a quadriga. The driver shows his victory branch and a coronet of beads. It says CALOS VENETE or "Bravo Blues!", referring to the blue party (factio veneta). It dates from the 2nd century AD, was found in Noviomagus, but the exact location is unknown. Originally, it was part of the collection of the famous Dutch collector G.M. Kam. Years ago I already visited this collection, at that time on display, stuffed and pilled in a small museum at the outskirts of Nijmegen. Currentely, it is permanently on display in Het Valkhof.

If you like to see more of my pictures of this excellent collection on display, please click here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Scolacium, hidden and exclusive

Departing from Rome, a six hours journey by train brought me to Calabria. Here, I visited the ruins of the Greek city of Schilletion, or Roman Scolacium. An insiders tip away from the more crowded Tyrrhenian Sea and Vibo Valentia. Although the city is the birthplace of Cassiodorus (480-575), I was primarily interested in the small and intimate and very well preserved Roman theater, shown below. Originally built during the Greek era, the present building is Hadrianic. Due to its late Hellenistic origin, a small temple (or Frova) was built behind. A similar find was recorded at Teanum Sidicinum.

The theater is built against the hillside on concentric and radial support walls. The outer cavea wall is remarkably (still) decorated in opus reticulatum. Although it is forbidden to enter the structure, my curiosity and ambition to get some good pictures for this blog made me to become a trespasser, again.
I couldn't find a clue on its capacity, but I guess - with an orchestra of approximately 19,5 meters - it could hold about 3500 spectators.

The stage area is not fully cleared and only the north part of the scaenae frons survives above the ground. All three doorways in semicircular niches and the back walls are made of opus quadratum.

During the exavations three late Republica heads, two headless statues and an above-sized draped figure with nude torso was discovered. The beautiful head shown here is suggested to image Germanicus.
More of my pictures can be seen here!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Theatermask of Eleia

Yesterday, I visited the splendid exhibition 'Mythos Olympia: Kult und Spiele' in Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin. The exhibition gave a thorough inside in the Olympic games, which were held in de Greek region of Elis, Eleia (Ἦλις) or modern Ilida, in southern Greece on the Peloponneso peninsula, bounded on the north by Achaea, east by Arcadia, south by Messenia, and west by the Ionian Sea.

The first Olympic festival was organized in Elean land, by the authorities of Elis in the 8th century BC, with tradition dating the first games at 776 BC. The Hellanodikai, the judges of the Games, were of Elean origin. Elis held authority over the site of Olympia and the Olympic games.

The spirit of the games had influenced the formation of the market: apart from the bouleuterion, which was housed in one of the gymnasia, most of the other buildings were related to the games, including two gymnasia, a palaestrum, and the House of the Hellanodikai.

This clay theatermask was found in a depot near the propylons or entrance of the Agora of Elis. It depicts Demeter, the goddess of harvest, or Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. It dates from the 4th century BC and is on display in the Archeological Museum of Ancient Elis.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The theater of Segobriga

Segobriga was the chief town of Celtiberia, near modern Sealices. I visited this beautiful excavation at August 8, just hours before flying back to Schiphol Airport.

The theater of the city is beautifully situated near the walls of the ancient city, only 50 metres east of the amphitheater. This Roman building is using the slope of the mountain, and is cut into the limestone hillside. Most of the ima and media cavea and parts of the scene building are preserved. It had a capacity of about 1,650/ 2,050 spectators.

It was built about 40-60 AD. It scanea frons was remodelled late 1st century, early 2nd century AD.

This airial view shows the ancient city at it is today, and decorates the entrance hall of the small museum near the entrance of the archeological area.

More pictures of Segobriga can be seen here!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Theater of Colonia Augusta Merita (1)

August 1, I visited this breathtaking theater in Merida. Colonia Merita Augusta was founded in 25 BC and capital of Lusitania, one of the most important towns in Spain.

A beautiful small booklet with the above picture goes with the entrance ticket. The excavations started in 1910 and marks "a milestone" in the history of archeological activity at Merida. The booklet states: "Such buildings, built for political motives, did not reflect the tastes of the public, which tended to prefer circus and amphitheater entertainments. From the theater, the ruling authority achieved effective propaganda, for itself and for the Roman way of life, both through the actual building - its physical grandeur, epigraphs and iconography - and through the messages that could be transmitted from the stage. In Augusta Merita, it was the consul Marcus Agrippa who promoted the building of the theater, which was inaugurated between 16 and 15 BC., on the evidence of the inscriptions over the two doorways to the orchestra."

During my visit the orchestra was covered by blue plastic, protecting the technical equipment for a performance of the Odyssey by Homer. As you can see the theater has a capacity of about 5,000 to 6,250 spectators. The cavea consists of 23 rows, while the rows in the ima cavea are split by 6 cunei.

Mainly due to Christianity, which considered theatrical performances immoral, becoming established as the official religion, the building fell into disuse, in the end being totally abondoned. As time went by, some of its structures collapsed and filled up with earth. The picture above, dates from the start of the exavations, and as you can see the lowest parts of the theater were covered by a thick earthlar.

The facade was erected in 105 AD, undergoing alterations between 333 and 335, and the most spectaculair part of the building. There are two tiers of Corinthian-order columns, in which the blue-tinged marble of the column shafts is combined with the white of bases and capitals. Over each tier of columns these is an entablature with richly decorated architrave, frieze and cornice. A huge marble-clad wall closes off the back of the stage.

In between the columns a series of sculptures, now in the National Museum of Roman Art: you can see my pictures of some of the statues at Flickr (see the link below).

The aditus maximus, or central entrance is still well preserved.

At the National Museum of Archeology at Merida this model of the Roman city is at display.
More pictures of the Colonia Merita Augusta can be found here. My pictures of the theater and amphitheater can be seen here!

Theater of Gytheio

Although Gythio or Gytheio wasn't on my wish list, today it was nevertheless more than worthwhile the visit. Gythium was the seaport of ...