The Ancient Theatre and Walls

Hidden among pine-woods at the top of the hill of Aghia Kyriaki (2km due west of the castle) in a panoramic position overlooking the city and the coast of Asia Minor, are the scant remains of the city’s large theatre, brought to light in 1958. (Open daily 8.30–3 except Mon. The climb up to it through residential streets is signposted.) The more notable finds from here, such as the throne now in the Archaeological Museum, suggest that this is a mid-Hellenistic structure, probably of the 3rd century bc, modified in Roman times with a high retaining wall around the orchestra, added to enable more dangerous gladiatorial spectacles to take place. Most of the marble cladding which made the steep natural cavity in the hill into a perfectly formed hemicycle (24.2m in diameter) of theatre seats, was taken away to form the foundations and the keep of the mediaeval castle. The foundations of the skene are clearly visible, with large perforated blocks for fixing wooden superstructures; elements of both the drainage and the water provision systems are in evidence. It is estimated that the cavea could possibly have held as many as 10,000 spectators.
   In 66 bc the victory of Pompey over Mithridates was celebrated in the theatre. Plutarch (Life of Pompey, 42.) suggests that Pompey’s admiration for this setting of his triumph inspired him, 11 years later, to construct Rome’s first stone-built theatre. The two buildings are radically different, however—Pompey’s is a freestanding structure; Mytilene’s, as was the custom with Greek theatres, is fashioned out of the supporting hillside.
   Beyond the cemetery of Aghia Kyriaki, to the south of the theatre are some remains of the 5th century city walls, constructed in a type of polygonal masonry characteristic of the island. These encompassed a large area for any town of the period—running from the northern mole of the north harbour, round the summit of this hill and down to the southern end of the south port (see plan p. 20).

Lesvos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.
Mytilene, the Ancient theatre and Walls.


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