Theater of Dionysos – The Stage Building (Acropolis of Athens)

Of the three sections of the ancient theater (orchestra, cavea and stage building), the stage building is most closely connected with the evolution of theatrical creation.
During the approximately thousand years that the theater of Dionysos in the Acropolis of Athens functioned, it has therefore been altered to the greatest extent.

In the age of the great dramatic poets, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes (5th century B.C.), the stage was a simple, rectangular, timber construction south of the spectators’ space. At that time the cavea had wooden benches and special stone seats for priests and other officials. In this phase the action of the play took place mainly in the orchestra. The construction of the first stage separeted architecturally the area of the Theatre from that of the Sanctuary of Dionysos, located to the south.

When the theatre was rebuilt entirely of stone during the 2nd half of the 4th century B.C. (Lycurgean phase), the stage building was likewise constructed of stone. It was flanked by two projecting wings with Doric columns (paraskenia). This first stone stage building underwent alterations relatively late (2nd or 1st century B.C.). A second floor was added, the paraskenia were shortened and the facade of the ground floor received a Doric colonnade. These alterations were dictated by the development of dramatic performance (New Comedy, etc.), in which the role of the actor was emphasized more than the chorus and the theatrical action was transferred to the level of a raised stage.

The social-political changes of the Roman period led to substantial changes in the stage building, which became higher, had an extensive proscenium (pulpitum) and a facade with elaborate architectural decoration and statues of Satyrs, who are connected with the mythological cycle of the god Dionysos.

A final period of prosperity for the theater, after its destruction by the Herulians (A.C.), which replaced the Roman pulpitum and was decorated with marble slabs taken from older buildings and showing scenes in relief of the life of Dionysos.

With the prevailing of Christianity, the nothern part of the stage building was incorporated in the building complex of an early Christian Basilica, erected on the site of the east parodos during the 6th century A.C.

From 2003 to 2005, a project has benn carried out to assemble and arrange the scattered architectural materials. The work has focused on collecting, grouping and exhibiting the surviving architectural members from the Hellenistic and Roman phases of the monument. The outlines of the remains of the building have been emphasized using a layer of clean soil as fill. These are the first steps in connection with further study and display of the stage building, which will comprise its partial reconstruction with reintegration of surviving architectural material.

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