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The Small Theatre

The small theatre of Amvrakia was discovered in 1976, during an excavation at a private property in the center of Arta. It is the smallest theatre discovered in Greece until today. The identification of the theatre of Amvrakia is based on a Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s testimony.

The Small Theatre was located in an area that used to be the religious and political center of the ancient city. It is not built on a hill, as it was common in ancient Greek theaters, but on the remains of a bath, that dates at the 4th c. B.C., as well as on the foundations of other buildings of the classical era.

The First Excavation

The first excavation in 1976 brought to light the entire orchestra (the scene) of the theatre, a large part of the koilon (the viewers’ seats), the proskenion (part of the stage), along which is located a large paved rainwater drain and bath facilities that are partially covered by the koilon. Finally a stone-built well from the classical times, which was in use until the 20th c., was discovered close to the eastern wall of the koilon.

The first excavation in 1976

The orchestra was in the shape of a complete circle 6,70m in diameter and its floor is not preserved.

The koilon is facing southwards and develops on a sloping embankment. It is divided into three blocks of seats by two stairways and it has five rows of seats. The whole structure is flanked by two sturdy retaining walls, made of large limestone and sandstone blocks. The rows of seats were constructed of limestone blocks, while the proedria (the honorary seats in the front row) is absent.

The proskenion

The mainstay of the proskenion has been revealed at a length of 7,5m and its facade was embellished probably with six ionic semi-columns, one of which is preserved intact and two more were found in fragmentary condition.

The most remarkable discovery of the excavation in 1976

The most important find of the first excavation was a golden stater of Philip II, the first ancient gold coin that was discovered Epirus.

Gold stater of Philip II

The bath infrastructures

During the research, an ancient bath was revealed underneath the koilon of the theatre. These remains belong to a relatively small infrastructure that had two rooms, which were connected with each other through openings. They retained mosaic and pebble floors made by small white and black river pebbles, depicting winged Eros figures, swans, and dolphins, all related to water. Some of these mosaics have been detached and transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Arta.

Winged boy and swan, mosaic floor detail.


The continuation of the archaeological research from 2011 until today

Some buildings of ancient Amvrakia came to light during the recent excavation period (from 2011 to date) on the periphery of the small theatre, which were used from the Archaic until the Hellenistic era. In addition, the rest of the koilon was revealed as well as three rooms southeast of the proskenion, which were probably parts of the stage and the auxiliary infrastructures behind the scene.

View of the Small Theatre

To the southwest of the theatre, the preserved building dates in classical times. Part of an ancient street was also discovered, paved with large limestone slabs, which was transformed into a rainwater drain channel during the construction of the theater. Also, the mainstay along the proskenion, which has now been discovered, has a visible to a length of 21.70m.

To the northeast of the theatre, the ruins of a large rectangular building were discovered, which, based on the finds of the excavation, can be considered that it had a public character, functioning probably as a public building or a sanctuary. The building is based on architectural remains of an older construction phase of the ancient city.

The bath infrastructures

North of the Theatre is located the pebbled floor that came to light during the recent excavation. It was part of the bath, it is circular and in the centre it is decorated with various depictions. The decoration includes a spiral that includes the representation, which depicts scenes of Eros figures playing various games with swans, an Eros figure which is riding a dolphin, a flying swan, fishes, waterfowls, and an octopus.

View of the pebbled floor.
Eros figure shape, pebbled floor detail.
Octopus, pebbled floor detail.

The illustration similarity of this pebbled floor with a corresponding one that was found during the excavation of 1976 in the theater, beneath the eastern part of the koilon, is more than obvious. Winged eros figures, swans, and dolphins compose the picture of this older pebble, which was detached and transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Arta.

Nevertheless, there are some differences between the two pebbled floors, which are primarily identified in the performance of shapes and individual details. Therefore, it is not excluded that floors were crafted by two different artists.

Additional finds

Two ceramic kilns and several waste pits, along with four walls at the southwest edge of the archeological site, which were dismantled for the continuation of the archaeological research, constitute the ruins of the later Byzantine habitation in the area of the small theatre.

The most remarkable discovery of the digging works during the years 2011 to date

During the latest excavations, remarkable remains of metal objects and other multi-worthy objects have been found throughout the archaeological site. Some of the finds are clay and bronze toys, a silver coin, a bronze figure representing a warrior, and a part of a bronze fitment of a spear with its surviving wooden stem.

Part of a bronze spear with its surviving wooden stem

Ceramics

During the excavation, various types of pottery dating from the classical and Hellenistic period (4th-2nd century BC) were discovered that are of particular interest. The whole of ceramics are classified in a wide chronological spectrum, from the Archaic to the post-Byzantine period, while remarkable pottery remains of modern times (17th-18th century AD) have been found in ceramic kilns and waste pits, which were excavated at the archaeological site.

Fragment of pot colored in red with the representation of a male figure.
Ceramics from the post-Byzantine period of the Theater.
Ceramic from the post-Byzantine period of the Theater.

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