For more than 600 years the ancient theater of Messene had hosted cultural and political events attended by major historical figures of the time, such as King Philip V of Macedonia and the Achean skilled general Philopoemen of Megalopolis. After a long period of silence and abandonment that lasted some 1,700 years, the theater will reopen its gates to the public this summer.
The inauguration of the restored theater will be held on August 3 with an opera gala within the Greek Festival events. The Athens State Orchestra under the direction of George Konstantinidis will open the event with the participation of the performers Dimitris Platanias and Tselia Kostea. The event is organized in collaboration with the association Diazoma.
The ancient theater will open its doors to the public for the first time since 300 AD when it stopped functioning. Its uninterrupted operation for six centuries as estimated (from 300 BC) gave way to abandonment and decay. During the Byzantine era, the residents removed many of the seats of the monument to use them as construction material in their own temples and houses.
“When we started with the excavations, we were disappointed. The theater was actually nonexistent. There were only a few benches and surrounding olive groves, which were eventually purchased. The works in the orchestra and the auditorium were huge, “ Emeritus Professor of Archaeology and head of the excavations in ancient Messene, Petros Themelis, told ANA-MPA.
The restoration of the ancient theater lasted for more than 20 years, and the project was funded by the Second and Third Community Support Framework and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. “Bit by bit we managed to restore and put in place more than 2,000 seats altogether,” Themelis pointed out.
The restoration works are planned to continue after the inauguration event. It is estimated that by August 3 the theater will have been fully restored up to its 15th line of seats. The premises will accommodate 2,500 theater fans, and after the completion of the restoration works it is expected to accommodate about 5,000 spectators, which equals only to half of its original capacity.