After centuries of neglect, another important classical Greek monument, the theater of the city of Sparta, will be restored to its ancient splendor thanks to a joint project by the Greek ministry of culture and tourism, the Diazoma citizens’ movement to save ancient theaters, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
The ministry’s Central Archeological Council has approved the restoration of the theater, one of the largest if not the largest in ancient Greece, to be carried out by a team of archeologists, architects, engineers, topographers and restorers led by architect Guglielmo Orestidis. Work is set to begin next year and will probably end in 2015, city authorities said.
Pausanias, the Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century AD, described the Sparta theater built in 30-20 BC entirely in local white marble, as ”made of white stone, and worthy of being seen”. With its 17,000-spectator capacity, Sparta’s theater surpassed the most famous of ancient theaters, that of the city of Epidaurus, which had capacity of 12,000. After first phase restoration, which will cost five million euros, the theater will be able to hold 700 spectators, with capacity of 2,000 once work on the middle and upper portions is completed, Orestidis explained.
”Contemporary Sparta was built literally on the ruins of ancient Sparta, with entire chunks of the theater used to built nearby homes”, said Culture Ministry Secretary General Lina Mendoni. ”The concave side even once held a Byzantine church.
The theater has been mistreated too long”, she concluded.
”We are here to fill in a historic gap, to right a historic injustice”, said Diazoma chief Stavros Benos.
”We all grew up with the values that determined ancient Athens and ancient Sparta. But the latter has never properly shown its historical wealth, which is what we want to rediscover”.