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Hellenistic theatre of Smyrna under excavation

An ancient theatre in what was formerly the Greek city of Smyrna (Turkish İzmir), built during the Hellenistic period, is currently being excavated by a team from Dokuz Eylül University (DEU).

Hellenistic theatre of Smyrna under excavation
Credit: AA
The excavations have reportedly unearthed sections of the cavea (ie. the semi-circular bank of seating) resting on the slopes of Mount Pagos (Kadifekale today).

Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, the head of the excavations, Akın Ersoy, who is also an associate professor of archaeology, said Smyrna had a history of 8,000 years and the latest chain of the history was on the slopes between the Agora and Mount Pagos.

He said the construction of the theatre, perched on a rocky hill with a magnificent view of the city, had started in 3rd century BC and was used for some 700 years, when it was abandoned in the 4th century.

“We started excavations in 2012. Theatre excavations are troublesome because both filling levels are too high and a significant amount of blocks were used in the construction of this monumental structure. We have reached the rows of seats during excavations after 1,500 years. Some of the walls had already been reached during the clearing of houses. Next year we hope that we will reach the orchestra pit, which is one of the most important parts of theatre structures.”

Hellenistic theatre of Smyrna under excavation
Hellenistic theatre of Smyrna under excavation
Hellenistic theatre of Smyrna under excavation

Hellenistic theatre of Smyrna under excavation
Hellenistic theatre of Smyrna under excavation
Hellenistic theatre of Smyrna under excavation
Credit: YeniAsir
Ersoy said they also found ancient sculptures, coins and ceramics during the excavation works.

“In the ancient period, ancient cities competed against each other. We are facing a contestant theatre of a competitive city. Perhaps we will witness many new things with this theatre. The next phase will be to make this place registered as an ancient site,” Ersoy said.

The most comprehensive information about the ancient theatre can be obtained from the plans, drawings and studies of Austrian architects and archaeologists Otto Berg and Otto Walter, who conducted research in the region in 1917 and 1918. According to their reports, the remains of the theatre carry the characteristics of the Roman era.

Editor's Note

Smyrna, founded around the 11th century BC by Aeolian settlers, was one of the principal Greek settlements in western Anatolia, with a continuous Greek presence until September 13, 1922, when the Turkish army of Kemal Atatürk burned the city's Greek and Armenian neighbourhoods in what became known as the Great Fire of Smyrna. The death toll from the ensuing massacre of the indigenous Greek and Armenian populations is believed to have numbered up to 100,000 people.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [December 19, 2018]


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