The Acropolis of Sparta

Sights of Interest / Antiquity & Byzantium

Details

Findings at this archaeological site were unearthed by the pioneer excavations of the British School of Archaeology starting in 1910.  Excavations resumed in the early 1990’s, primarily in the areas of the ancient theatre and the merchant stalls.

The most significant monuments of this archeological site include:

The Temple of Athena Chalkioikos whose position has been defined by few surviving relics found at the northwest end of the Acropolis. The temple, designed by the architect Vathyklis from Magnesia, had an interior design adorned with copper sheets (dated 6th century BC onwards) to which it owes its name (chalkioikos = copper). From the inscription by Damononos (dated before 430 BC), it seems it was called Temple of Athena Poliouchos (Guardian of the City).  Pausanias adds that the temple was left unfinished until Gitiada, a local craftsman, built both the statue of the goddess and completed the temple. The temple also served as a place of refuge for Lycurgus, Pausanias and Agis IV.

The ancient theater of Sparta on the south side of the Acropolis is a product of the early Imperial Period. The orchestra, the retaining wall with engraved inscriptions of the rulers of Sparta in Roman times and the concave portion of the large theater has been preserved. The concave of the theatre was dug into the southwest end of the Acropolis. The retaining wall of the concave is marble and its east side was engraved in the 2nd century AD with various inscriptions. The theatre was used primarily for public gatherings and celebrations. It had no permanent stage. For theater  performances, a wooden, mobile stage equipped with wheels was easily moved into position. Nearly all the findings of the ancient theater that were discovered by the British School of Archaeology date back to the Roman Era.

The so-called Circular Building of Unknown Destination is a circular structure built of hewn blocks and smaller stones. The section that has been preserved, perhaps due to Roman repairs, seems to have been an important building in ancient Spartan life (the Skias).

The remains of merchant stalls adjacent to the ancient theater discovered in recent excavations by the British School seem to be products of the Roman Imperial period. Mainly built with brick and decorated on the interior with plaster or mortar, they served the audiences of performances and other events held at the ancient theatre.

The relics of a grand Basilica of the mid Byzantine Era have been linked to the Basilica of Saint Nikon (10th century AD).

Source: ‘Idiomorfi’ Publications