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Philippi:The impressive ancient theater from Hellenistic Times up to now

This impressive monument is one of the oldest and most important buildings of the city. Its present form is the result of successive building changes that represent various phases of the city’s history.

It is located on the hillside of the acropolis hill, in contact with the eastern wall of the city, on which it rests. Its initial phase, which is modern with the city walls, dates back to the years of King Philip II of Macedonia (in the 4th century BC) and its dimensions prove that it is one of the largest theaters of antiquity.


From this phase the retaining walls (vertical walls supporting the theater’s cavity) of the hollow, that is to say the place where the spectators sit and the lanes, the corridors leading to the orchestra of the theater, are preserved. At this time, the orchestra, the open-air central area where the actors play, was shaped like a petal.

theatro fil

In the 2nd century AD, the theater acquires a typical Roman form, with a magnificent three-story stage building, an orchestra paved with marble slabs and a hollow that extends over the lanes, covered with vaulted structures. An icon of this form of theater is given by the south portico of the building of the scene, which was recently restored and carved embossed plaques on the fronts of the pillars, with performances related to the god Dionysus (mainades, etc.). In the 3rd century AD, the theater turns into a behemoth arena. The foreground is demolished and the first rows of seats are removed. On the periphery of the orchestra rises a wall, 1,20 m high, with a railing to protect the spectators from the beasts. In fact, for the stay and the easiest transfer of beasts to the arena, a large orthogonal underground space was created at the southern end of the orchestra. At this stage, the pavement should be constructed, a vaulted structure in the upper part of the hollow, supporting new rows of seats and increasing the capacity of the theater. In late Roman times (late 3rd-early 4th century AD) the two arches had to be built to hold the theater in the neighboring wall.


In the Early Christian years (5th-6th century AD) the theater ceases to function as a space of performances. Its abandonment must be related to the prevalence of Christianity and the new manners that were no longer in accordance with the beasts or theatrical performances. With the destruction of the scene by a fire, which is probably related to the great earthquake that destroyed the city of Philippi in the early 7th century AD., the systematic demolition of the theater began in order to use its particles as building material for the construction of new buildings.


During the early Byzantine years, the building of the scene and the area in the SE of the theater hosts workshops. Finally, during the Ottoman domination, the cobblestone road, which until the beginning of the 20th century connected Kavala with Drama, crossing the archaeological site of Philippi, passes in front of the theater.

The first information we have about the theater in modern times comes from European travelers who have visited the area since the middle of the 16th century. The systematic excavation of the theater begins in 1921-1927 by the French Archaeological School and continues at the end of the 1950s by the Greek Archaeological Department. During this time the theater received quick and rough interventions to serve the needs of the Filippi festival. When the theater of Filippi was restored in 1950, cement was widely used. Nevertheless, the monument has been restored for the most part and the result is impressive. Every summer the municipality of Kavala organizes the Philippi Festival, the second oldest festival in the country after that of Epidaurus. Excavations and restoration began again in 1974 and in 1993, which are still in progress.

theater now