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The Theater of Dionysus:
N. Foundation of the Old Temple of Dionysus and W. End of Stoa

N.B. The viewer will find it useful to consult the state plan of the site.


Old temple of Dionysus and west end of stoa, viewed from northeast

Photograph by John Porter

This image shows the foundations for the archaic age Old Temple of Dionysus (to the left) and, encroaching on them from the north, the west end of the fifth-century stoa [colonnaded hall].

Old Temple of Dionysus: distyle in antis. Visible here are the euthynteria (the upper-most course of the foundation, visible above ground: in the image, the lower, bluish course of stone) and one course of the crepis (temple platform: reddish Kara limestone) at the northwest end of the temple. (The return at the far end represents the back wall of the temple. There is also a return — not visible in this photo — representing the front wall of the cella [central chamber].) The euthynteria strives for an ashlar [carefully finished, regular, rectangular] appearance but consists of blocks of various sizes; the crepis is ashlar. There is a z-clamp on the crepis (not visible in this image); Dörpfeld saw a pi-clamp as well.

The design, eastward orientation, and relation to the theater support the identification of this structure with the Old Temple to Dionysus described at Pausanias 1.20.3. (Cf., e.g., the similar temples in the theaters at Thorikos and Pergamon.) The clear attempt to preserve this building during later reconstructions of the theater complex (see below) demonstrates that it was a structure of some importance. The combination of materials, masonry style, and clamps is consistent with a pre-Persian date [i.e., a date before the 480s BC].

Stoa [colonnaded hall]: This structure is identified by its general design, its size, and the common association of such structures with theaters (cf. Vitruvius 5.9.1). Note how closely it impinges on the foundations of the temple: the euthynteria of the temple has been cut away to accommodate the conglomerate [rough composite rock made up of particles of various size] foundations and poros [soft limestone] euthynteria of the stoa. The impression running along the top of the north edge of the temple's crepis at its west end (top right corner in the photo) shows the course of what would have been the stoa's front steps. (For further images, see the page on the stoa of the Theater of Dionysus.)

The presence of the Old Temple of Dionysus clearly presented challenges to the architects of the fifth-century theater complex. They constructed the new complex as far south as they possibly could, crowding the Old Temple but leaving it intact. The west end of the stoa must have had a blank wall in front rather than a colonnade: many have suggested that this area served as a combination green room and prop room.

The next logical stop on your tour of the archaeological remains of the Theater of Dionysus should be The Archaic (curved?) retaining wall (SM1)


Vitruvius 5.9.1: Post scaenam porticus sunt constituendae, uti, cum imbres repentini ludos interpellaverint, habeat populus, quo se recipiat ex theatro, choragiaque laxamentum habeant ad comparandum. Uti sunt porticus Pompeianae, itemque Athenis porticus Eumenicae Patrisque Liberi fanum et exeuntibus e theatro sinistra parte odeum .... (A portico should be constructed behind the skenê so that people might have a place to gather outside of the theater whenever sudden showers interrupt the shows, and so that [the producers] might have room to prepare the stage equipment. Just as there is the portico of Pompey, and likewise, at Athens, the portico of Eumenes and the temple of Father Liber and, on the left as you exit the theater, the Odeum....) [Return to text]

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Last Modified: Thursday, 12-Nov-2009 08:01:11 CST
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