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Ancient Greek Theater of Kassope Reopens After 21 Centuries

Ancient Theater Kassope
The theater of Cassope was built in the 3rd century BC. Credit: Theater of Epirus

The little-known ancient theater of Kassope in Epirus, Greece was renovated and reopened to the public recently adding to the rich cultural landscape of the country.

The theater of Cassope built in the 3rd century BC is located in the southern foothills of Zaloggo and overlooks the peninsula of Preveza, the Ambracian Gulf, the Ionian Sea, the island of Lefkada and the Acarnanian mountains.

The city of Kassope was founded in the middle of the 4th century BC as the capital of the Kassopaeans, a sub-tribe of the Thesprotians.

It belonged to the Aetolian League. Cassope or Cassopia is mentioned in the war carried on by Cassander against Alcetas II of Epirus, in 312 BC. The city flourished in the 3rd century BC when large public buildings were built. Kassope also minted its coins.

Massively damaged by Roman forces in 168-167 BC, Kassope was abandoned in 31 B.C. when the remaining inhabitants resettled to Nikopolis, the region’s new capital.

The visible remains include Cyclopean walls, an agora, a theatre, civic buildings, and private houses.

The ancient theater of Kassope had a capacity of 6,000 spectators

Ancient theater before restoration
The ancient theater before its restoration. Credit:

The ancient theater has two polygonal retaining walls, reinforced with buttresses.

They support the two ends of the koilon (the seating area or auditorium), which is separated by an intervening diazoma (horizontal walkway) into two main seating zones, the lower one consisting of twenty-four rows of stone seats and the upper one of twelve rows, archaeologist George Riginou says.

At the top of the auditorium, a wider walkway is protected by an outer wall with an opening, possibly facilitating the exit of spectators from the upper part of the theater. Eleven stairways divide the theater into ten vertical seating zones, the ones at the two edges having half the width of the others.

The orchestra of the theatre is unique since it does not form a full circle, but an arc greater than a semicircle. The skene (backstage building) is rectangular, flanked by two paraskenia (wings) which extend on either side of the orchestra and contain the proskenion (stage), which has six columns on its facade.

The theater would have had a seating capacity of approximately 5.000 – 6.000 people, Riginou adds.

A crowdfunding campaign for the restoration of the ancient theater was launched by the non-profit organization Diazoma and the National Bank of Greece (NBG) in 2016 raising funds that contributed to returning the site to its former glory.

Related: Ancient City of Messene to Get Museum Worthy of Its Illustrious Past

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