Situated on the
E coast about 10 km N of Sounion, it was one of the
12 independent cities of this area said to have been unified by Theseus under Athenian hegemony (Strab. 9.1.20
). In the later years of the Peloponnesian War it was fortified (Xen. Hell. 1.2.1
) in order to protect the
sea route to Athens and to help protect the silver mines
at Laurion. Under the Romans it fell into decay, but
its earliest habitation remains, dating from the Neolithic period, and numerous tomb groups indicate that it had a long and continuous history up to this time.
The site consists of three areas: the plain of Thorikos
where the Society of the Dilettanti in 1812 uncovered
part of an ancient building, now no longer visible, the
hill of Velatouri where the majority of ancient remains
have been found, and the peninsula of Haghios Nikalaos,
now the site of a modern chemical plant.
The ancient theater, located on the S slope of Velatouri
and excavated in 1886, is notable for the irregular shape
of its orchestra. It was originally thought that the roughly
rectangular orchestra reflected the early date of the theater. Further study, however, suggests that the theater was
primarily constructed in the 5th c. B.C., and that its irregular orchestra reflects the gradual enlargement of the theater's seating capacity. It would appear that the original stone seats, made of local bluish stone, consisted of 19
straight rows. These were later expanded by the addition
of curved sections to E and W, and still later in the 4th c.
a curved section of 12 new rows was added to the N.
Scanty remains of a temple can be seen to the W of the
orchestra; an altar lies to the E. Along the S side lies a
terrace wall built to support the orchestra; this wall appears to be the oldest surviving architectural feature of the theater.
On the hill above the theater, excavations have uncovered remains of the city's industrial quarter. Here
traces of houses, stairs, and roads can be seen. A series
of basins connected by channels formed part of a metal-working establishment. Nearby a Mycenaean tholos
tomb, graves from various periods, and parts of a prehistoric settlement, including a Mycenaean metal-working establishment, have been uncovered.
Fortifications consisting of over 600 m of walls can be
traced on the peninsula; at least six towers, four stairways, and seven gateways were included in this fortification system.
O. A. Dilke, “Details and Chronology
of Greek Theatre Caveas,” BSA
45 (1950) 25-28; H. F.
Mussche, “La forteresse maritime de Thorikos
85 (1961) 176-205; H. F. Mussche, J. Servais, J. Beingen,
& T. Hackens, “Thorikos
34 (1965) 5-46;
R. Ginouves, “Comptes Rendus,” AntCl
37 (1968) 777-79; C. A. van Rooy, “Fortifications in South Attica and
the Date of Thorikos
,” Acta Classica
12 (1969) 171-80.
I. M. SHEAR