Plovdiv Roman Amphitheatre, also known as the ancient theater of Philippopolis, provides a chance to look into the past—long ago when the Roman Empire spread east. Like any respectable town in the empire, Philippopolis, as it was called then, had a theater where soldiers, citizens, and others would gather for their entertainment, including gladiatorial contests. Boasting the traditional design of Roman amphitheaters, this theater near the city center of modern Plovdiv is oriented to the south, nestled between the slopes of two hills. The 7,000-seat theater was built during the reign of Emperor Trajan, who ruled from 98 to 117 C.E. Now, 2,000 years later, the stadium still serves as a gathering place, where people come for tours, concerts, and special events. It’s one of the most visited sites on Old Town Plovdiv, the second-largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia.
Considered the best-preserved ruins in Bulgaria, the Plovdiv Roman Amphitheatre underwent decades of conservation, beginning in the 1960s. This was no small feat, because of its size and the scale of its history. The seats, arranged in a semi-circle, face the old city called Philippopolis and the mountains. The upper 28 rows of seats, called the cavea, were crafted of marble. The seats near the stage, which the Romans called the orchestra seats, are arranged in the shape of a horseshoe. Just to the south, there’s a stage building, the skene, at three stories high. The proskenion, the stage itself, is flanked by marble columns and looks every inch a Roman theater. On tours, a guide can point out the inscriptions and artwork that make the theater even more special. Architecture tours are one of the most popular things to do in Plovdiv, which take you to see a stadium modeled after the one at Delphi, a Roman forum, and many churches and mosques dating from the 19th century.
Top image: e-skene (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0