Ancient Theater in Turkey




Other names: Priene ad Maeandrum
Roman province: Ionia
Location: Güllübahçe, Söke county, Province Aydın
Capacity: ca. 6.000 spectators
Dimensions: ĝ cavea: 56,5 m
ĝ orchestra: 19 m

The (Hellenistic) theatre of Priene was built around the middle of the 3rd century BC and rebuilt in the 2nd century BC under Roman rule. Following Greek tradition, the cavea leans against a mountain slope. The view from the upper tiers was directed towards the bay, which is now landed by sediment deposits from the great meander. This view was obstructed in Byzantine times by the construction of a basilica directly opposite the stage house. Directly in front of the orchestra there is a Dionysus altar, flanked by honorary chairs for high dignitaries. The former two-storey stage house with its intact stage porch (proskenion) is very well preserved down to the ground floor.

The history of Priene:  

The origins of Priene lie in the darkness of history. The city was rebuilt elsewhere in the middle of the 4th century BC. This measure could have been initiated by the Carian ruler Maussollos or the Athenians. The exact location of the first settlement of the Priens is not known. However, the eventful history of this settlement is known.

The Agora, the public market and meeting place, was located about in the middle of the city. It occupied the width of two insulae of the city grid in an east-west direction and the length of one and a half insulae in a north-south direction; it thus measured 82 × 88 m. The southern part of the square was surrounded on three sides by a circumferential columned hall of Doric order; the northern edge on the other side of the main street initially formed a similar columned hall.
It was replaced in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. by a two-aisled new building called Heilige Halle (Holy Hall), which continued an insula width to the east and was more than 116 metres long. Remarkably, individual features of the ionic order are recorded on the Doric column front. The west wall of this hall was described inside in the course of time with public documents. In the middle of the square there is a foundation on which perhaps an altar of Hermes used to stand.

Of the more than twenty theatres in Western Asia Minor, some of which are very well preserved, this alone has retained its Hellenistic form. All others were rebuilt in Roman times. A special feature are the five marble chairs around the orchestra, which were intended for dignitaries and guests of honour.
In the main axis between the stage house (Skene) and the auditorium there is an altar for the god Dionysus, whose cult gave rise to the theatre play of antiquity.
Well preserved are the proscenium (proskenion) with semi-columns and a Doric truss as well as the stage house. Between the pillars panels with painted backgrounds were hung - the forerunners of the later stage set. The theatre had excellent acoustics and, with 6500 people, could accommodate all the inhabitants of the town.
It was used for theatre performances as well as for citizens' meetings. This is indicated by a stone with a holder for an hourglass, which limited the speaking time.

Priene came with the victory of the Romans under Gnaeus Manlius Vulso over the Seleucids in 190 BC first as a free independent ally in the sphere of power of Rome. Around 140 / 130 B.C. a fire catastrophe destroyed the districts located in the west.
The alluvial deposits of the Great Meander pushed the coastline out more and more, as a result of which Priene and its port lost increasing importance. In modern times, the ruins of Priene aroused the interest of English business travellers for the first time again in 1673. Because of the famous temple of Athens, Priene was a destination on the research trips of the Society of Dilettanti to Ionia in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1868/69 Richard Popplewell Pullan laid open the Athena sanctuary to a large extent. The systematic excavation of large parts of the city began in 1895 by the archaeologist Carl Humann. After his death in 1896, the company was continued by Theodor Wiegand and Hans Schrader. A few years later, the results were presented in a detailed publication. In 1998 the excavations were resumed under the direction of Prof. Dr. Wulf Raeck. In regular campaigns, the late classical and Hellenistic urban planning and residential architecture of Priene are investigated.



Photos: @chim    
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Source: Wikipedia and others