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Theatre at Delphi

Theatre at Delphi by Joy of Museums

Theatre at Delphi

The ancient theatre at Delphi was built up the hill from the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, giving spectators a view of the entire sanctuary and the valley below. It was initially built in the 4th century BC but was remodelled on several occasions, particularly in 160 B.C. and again in 67 A.D. on the occasion of Emperor Nero’s visit.

In antiquity, the theatre was used for the vocal and musical contests which formed part of the Pythian Games in the late Hellenistic and Roman period. The theatre was abandoned when the sanctuary declined in Late Antiquity. It was excavated and restored in the early 1900’s and hosted modern theatrical performance during the Delphic Festivals in 1927.

Theatre in Greek Culture

Western theatre originated in Athens as part of a broader culture of theatricality and performance in classical Greece that included festivals, religious rituals, politics, music, poetry and symposia. The origins of theatre in ancient Greece are to be found in the celebrations that honoured Dionysus. The theatre of ancient Greece consisted of three types: tragedy, comedy and the satyr play.

Participation in the city-state’s many festivals as an audience member or as a participant in the theatrical productions was an essential part of citizenship. Actors were either amateur or a semi-professional. The actors wore masks appropriate to the characters they represented, and each might play several roles.

The Greeks developed theatre architecture to accommodate performances in semi-circular auditoria cut into hillsides, where there were superior acoustics, and it was capable of seating 10,000–20,000 people with optimal viewing. The stage consisted of a dancing floor called the ‘orchestra’ and a scene-building area called the ‘skene’.

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Reflections

  • For the Greeks, civic participation was important for citizens. What is our civic contribution to the modern world?
  • Where would we be today without everything that evolved from Greek Theatre?
  • Is theatre the most important Greek legacy?

Theatre at Delphi

  • Title:          Theatre at Delphi
  • Date:          4th century BC
  • Material:   Marble and Limestone
  • Town:        Delphi
  • Country:   Greece
  • Site:           Archaeological Site of Delphi

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“Love of money and nothing else will ruin Sparta.”
– Oracle of Delphi

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Photo Credit: JOM

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