View of theater and orchestra, Eretria

Scene building from W, Eretria, Theater

Vaulted passage in scene building from S, Eretria, Theater

Vaulted passage under scene, opening onto orchestra, Eretria, Theater

Orchestra and cavea from E, Eretria, Theater

Orchestra and scene building from N, Eretria, Theater

Context: Eretria
Type: Theater
Summary: Theater located inside the West Gate, in the north-west of the city beneath the acropolis and to the north of the Temple of Dionysos
Date: ca. 400 BC - ca. 150 BC

Length of rear wall of oldest stage building: ca. 30 m. Width of central door of the oldest stage: 3.26 m. Diameter of the orchestra, in both of its locations: ca. 20.20 m. Total height of seating above orchestra: ca. 9 m.

Region: Euboea
Period: Late Clas./Hell.

Architectural Order:

Doric and Ionic. Fragments of a Doric frieze come from the facade of the proscenium of the third construction phase, whereas the second proscenium employed the Ionic order.


A theater with central circular orchestra and semi-circular arrangement of seats, divided by stairs into eleven wedges or cunei. In front of the orchestra stood the stage building with proscenium and parascenia. The auditorium is calculated to have been able to accommodate ca. 6300 people. A curious feature of the plan is the presence of a below-ground staircase leading from the rear of the stage building to the center of the orchestra; characters representing underworld figures could emerge via this passageway.

Date Description:

There is no definite archaeological evidence for the dating of the earliest stage building; Fiechter dated it to the fifth century B.C. via analogy with the Theater of Dionysos at Athens (Fiechter 1937, 39). Dinsmoor, however, argues that this early date is incorrect, based on a mistaken dating of the stone parascenia at the Athenian theater (Dinsmoor 1975, 249). The presence of the parascenia, and the absence of an episcenium does seem to suggest a pre-Hellenistic date for the first stage building at Eretria, but whether or not it can be dated to the fifth century B.C. is disputed.

Again, there is no conclusive archaeological evidence for the date of the second phase of construction of the theater, when the orchestra was sunk below ground level and the earlier stage building was supported by a stone structure with vaulted passage. This change probably occurred during the late fourth century B.C., a date which is supported by the evidence of inscriptions from votive bases which were erected on the new parodos walls: IG XII.9.273-275.

The final reconstruction phase of the theater, thought by Fiechter to represent a major reconstruction phase before the destruction of Eretria by the Romans in 198 B.C., is now recognized to have been a hasty renovation employing many reused blocks, and almost certainly dating to post-198 B.C. (Schefold 1966, 111).


Three major construction phases of the stage building have been recognized. The date of the earliest stage building is disputed: some place it in the fifth century B.C. (Fiechter 1937, 39); others dispute this early date and place the earliest stage building, with wooden proscenium, in the late fourth century B.C. (Dinsmoor 1975, 249). The first stage building consisted of a rectangular structure with five rooms and three central doorways, facing a circular orchestra and an auditorium, probably of wooden scaffolding. The parascenia or projecting rooms were linked across the facade by a row of columns, whose stylobate is preserved. The southern wall of the western parodos is preserved from this early period. In keeping with the change in dramatic representation required by the demands of New Comedy, this first stage building was altered. First, a stone substructure elevated the old (wooden) stage building, transforming it into an episcenium. This lower structure then received additional alterations, including a new stone proscenium. The most significant alteration of the second construction phase, however, was the sinking of the level of the orchestra by ca. 3.35 m., and the removal of the orchestra ca. 8 m. to the north. A vaulted passageway was built below the second stage building to connect the new level of the orchestra with the area to the south of the old stage building. At this time, the seats of the auditorium were also constructed out of poros. Again, there is uncertainty over the date of this alteration, which is stated to have taken place either in the mid-fourth or mid-third century B.C. After the destruction of the city by the Romans in 198 B.C., the theater was again restored, although it is unclear whether the marble proscenium was built before or after this destruction. The foundations of the earliest stage building were again employed, and many reused blocks were used, for example in the thresholds between the doors of the proscenium.

Other Bibliography:

Fiechter 1937, 10-41, figs. 1-36, pls. 1-9; Schefold 1966, 110-112; Auberson & Schefold 1972, 46-52, figs. 3-5; Dinsmoor 1975, 249, 298-300, 303-307.