Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Greek theaters had moveable stages!

We thought that by now we knew everything about Greek theatres – well, not so!

Recent architectural research has led to believe that there was a moveable wooden stage in ancient Greek theatres. This has been determined in three separate theatres in the Greek Peloponnese: first in Messene, and later also at Megalopolis and Sparta.

Skanotheke plan of the Messene Theatre (scale 1 : 500), Inset: Skanotheke of east parodos. Adapted from R. Yoshitake, The Movable Stage in Hellenistic Greek Theatres. New Documentation form Messene and Comparisons with Sparta and Megalopolis, AA, 2016/2, p. 120, fig. 1 and 2. Credit: Associate Professor Ryuichi Yoshitake

Ancient Greek theatres were bowl shaped with seating around the circular orchestra and at the open end an open stage. After 31 BC, under Roman influence, the stage was elevated and decorated with columns and statues and all sorts of reliefs. Romans often reused and refurbished original Greek theatres but also built the semi-circular model of their own where this back stage was automatically attached to the seating area.

After excavations started in 2007, the research team from Komamoto University discovered three stone rows and a kind of storage room beside the stage of Messenes theatre. When a similar feature was found in Megalopolis and Sparta as well, they started questioning the function of these elements. Their conclusion was that the stone rows would have supported wooden background picture panels that could be wheeled into place and that the storage room would have held them when not in use.

This image shows the reconstruction of the wheeled wooden skene of the Messene Theatre. The wooden stage building (front) is drawn by solid lines, and the hypothetical scene building (back) by gray lines. Adapted from R. Yoshitake, The Movable Stage in Hellenistic Greek Theatres. New Documentation form Messene and Comparisons with Sparta and Megalopolis, AA, 2016/2, p. 123, fig. 6. (drawing by K. Oyama). Credit: Associate Professor Ryuichi Yoshitake & K. Oyama

The Greek theatres had a proskenion, i.e. a one-story building placed on the stage and that functioned as a stage background. Behind this proskenion was a two-story skene that was used as a dressing room for the actors but also as an extra stage background. Now the question arose whether these buildings were made of stone and fixed or made of wood and moveable. They opted for the latest and since moving the massive construction of proskenion and attached skene is highly improbable, they concluded that each building was rolled out separately, each using its own set of two stone rows to move along in and out of the storage room.

Ancient literature indeed mentions rotating devices, but the finds at Messene seem to confirm that they existed as early as the Hellenistic period although we still don’t know what they really looked like.

The research team of Komamoto University in Japan has even come up with two drawings explaining their theory – see above.

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