Unforgettable Ancient Sparta – The history of Ancient Sparta is very famous but we may wonder: are still there ruins of Ancient Sparta?
Yes, there are. To find the answer we have visited the ruins of Sparta. What can you visit and what is still visible of Ancient Sparta? In this post, we are going to examine what you can see if you visit the Sparta Ruins.
Video of Ancient Sparta Ruins, Leonidas’ Tomb and the museum
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Ruins of Sparta
Ancient Sparta was very important in its times but this greatness was lost in the past. When you visit the ruins of Sparta, you don’t feel it. The area is nice because it’s on a hill and you can enjoy walking through a lot of trees and the view around you.
Anyway, the ruins of Ancient Sparta are not well preserved. The best ruins you can visit in Ancient Sparta are the ones of the Ancient Theatre. That’s why we start our tour at the Theatre.
The Theatre of Ancient Sparta
The ancient theatre of Sparta is situated at the southern slope of Acropolis Hill. Ancient authors confirm the existence of a theatre in the city of Ancient Sparta since the 5th century BC. It’s closely connected with the celebration of religious ceremonies. It is not confirmed that it was founded in the same position as the one visible to modern visitors.
The main theatre had ten staircases and nine bleachers, whereas the upper part of the theatre (epitheatron) had seventeen staircases with sixteen bleachers.
The theatre had a cavea of 141 m in diameter and was one of the biggest theatres in Peloponnese. It had a large scene building (skene), an acting area (proskenion) and also a U-shaped orchestra.
By the end of the 1st century AD, the theatre was furnished with a monumental marble building of the Corinthian order, the erection of which was founded by Emperor Vespasian.
The theatre was in use by the end of the 3rd to the beginning of the 4th century AD. By that time, the Late Roman Fortification had been erected, which incorporated the skene’s west wall. However, after a period of abandonment, a Byzantine settlement was established at the theatre area (10th to 14th century AD).
The Agora of Ancient Sparta
The monument known as the “Agora” was excavated during the 1960s by the Greek archaeologist Chrysanthos Christou. He revealed the southwest inner corner of a large stoa. The walls were constructed from large porous stone blocks in the polygonal style. The upper part of the walls as well as the inner walls forming small rooms within the portico. Which differ as they are made of limestone in a pseudo-isodomic way.
The stoa is located to the north of the “Round Building” in the Agora area. Due to the adjacent west hill’s slope, it probably had two floors on the southeast side and a single floor at the northwest. The building also served as a retaining wall.
There were foundations of houses and construction from the Byzantine period to the east and north of the building. During this time, additional construction and repairs were conducted at the stoa.
According to Christou, the stoa was built in the 4th or 3rd century BC and underwent alterations in the 2nd century BC. There is evidence confirming the operation and use of the building up to the 3rd century AD. Inside the building, a large bronze statue of Julia Aquilia Severn (3rd century AD) was found.
The monument has been associated with the Persian Stoa, the building that impressed Pausanias during his visit to the Agora of Sparta.
In the Persian Stoa, statues of captive Persians supported the roof instead of columns. According to some scholars, this monumental stoa was part of a larger complex of two-storey porticos. That complex defined the Agora area at the southwest.
The “round” Building
The “round” Building was essentially configured around a natural low hill. It’s a construction of a heavy retaining wall that followed the contour of the mound. The wall consisted of a three-stepped base upon which rested tiers of a large conglomerate stone. Bands of marble plaques were placed between the tiers. The inner part of the imposing curved wall consisted of large unworked stones.
This retaining wall, along with the natural mound of earth, created a large platform on the hill’s upper surface, which also hosted several practices and structures throughout antiquity.
The structures on the top of the hill are partly preserved. Their surface was artificially leveled and contained holes carved into natural bedrock, part of a marble statue base of the Roman period and twenty-two rectangular blocks of porous stone.
At the northwest and higher part of the summit, a wall was revealed carved into the natural bedrock. This enabled access to the plateau with the colonnade. A group of early Christian graves and a sacrificial deposit were uncovered at the south side of this summit.
The identification of the monument is problematic. Among those proposed, the most favored identification has been that of the “circular building” of Epimenides containing statues of Zeus and Aphrodite Olympia (ca. 600 BC).
Scholars have also suggested the monument could be the Skias. The Skias is a place for public and musical performances built by Theodoros of Samos (mid-6th century BC).
The new evidence, which came to light during the current project, suggests an early date of the monument. Probably of the Archaic period (late 7th to early 6th century BC). That includes a reconstruction and an extensive repair having taken place around the 1st century BC.
The Byzantine church at the round Building
The church is located on the south slope of Acropolis Hill. It’s built at the western edge of the retaining wall of the “Round Building”.
It is an almost square building. The entrance of the church was probably located in the middle of the west wall. There is evidence of another door on the north side of the same wall. The building’s exterior sidewalls extended further to the west, but their original length cannot be determined.
The church walls have been revealed and can be attributed with certainty to the time of its construction. They are made of rubble with broken bricks at the joints and mortar covering the stones’ outlines. Traces of mortar in contact with the northern part of the middle apse reveal the church floor’s level. Faded traces of painted decoration are preserved on the inner side of the north wall of the church.
According to the current state of research, the church may be dated to the Middle Byzantine period.
The so called “ST.NIKON S” Basilica
The basilica was demarcated to the north and south by an enclosure wall. Is located some meters to the east of the theatre.
The church is a three-aisled basilica with three-sided apses to the east and a narthex to the west. The aisles were separated by columns resting on high bases. The narthex and the nave were communicating through a large opening (tribelon). Smaller openings provided access to the side aisles.
The tripartite sanctuary is of unique architectural interest. The main sanctuary is separated from the bipartite rooms next to it (parabemata). Walls separate it in the middle of which a semi-circular niche with a passage was formed. At the middle apse, there was a semi-circular area with seats (synthronon). The bishop and the priests used those seats during the ceremonies.
Between the synthronon and the wall of the apse there is an ambulatory. It’s a corridor to facilitate the movement of the priests in the sanctuary during the Divine Liturgy.
There is no secure evidence for the time of the monument’s construction. Its dating ranges from the second half of the 6th century to the 7th century AD.
Sanctuary of Athena CHALKIOIKOS in Ancient Sparta
The remains of the Sanctuary of Athena Chalkioikos. The longest and most important sanctuary in the area of the Acropolis, are located above the Roman theatre.
The earliest archaeological finds date from the Mycenaean period. The cult of Athena on the Acropolis began in the 8th century BC. The sanctuary was abandoned in the 4th century AD and houses were built in its place.
The temple of Athena originally belonged to the kome Pitane. Eventually, the Athena of the Acropolis became a patron goddess (Poliouchos). The name Chalkioikos (of the Bronze or Brazen House) most probably results from the bronze plaques bearing mythological scenes.
A few remains of the Sanctuary of Athena Chalkioikos are still preserved. The south wall consists of roughly dressed conglomerate stones. It forms an angle at its east part with another wall of the same construction. The east wall of the sanctuary is revealed further north.
The marble torso of a hoplite known as “Leonidas” was also found in the sanctuary area. In the Archaeological Museum of Sparta, there is a statue. The sculpture is of the Severe Style. It’s a work of a Laconian workshop, possibly part of a statue group assigned to the sanctuary.
The Archaic Stoa
The remains of a portico (stoa) were uncovered during the British School’s excavation at Athens in 1924-1925.
The south wall of the sanctuary of Athena Chalkioikos and the ancient theater surround them. It consisted of a wall of 11m. long forming the north side, also with a return to the west 3.50m. long.
Five poros blocks are forming the south side of the monument. A shallow sinking is thought to carry a small base for a wooden column on the upper surface. The remains of a Roman building, which intersects the stoa’s north wall, are preserved further south.
The British School’s excavation at the site brought to light a considerable amount of Geometric pottery and potsherds dated until the Roman times, spearheads, iron obeloi, various bronze objects, terracotta figurines, bone artifacts, etc.
The late Roman fortification wall
The late roman fortification wall surrounds Acropolis Hill and the plateau of Palaiokastro. It had towers and gates, is a strong construction made of rubble, bricks, many blocks and architectural members from earlier buildings of the Acropolis and the Agora.
Not very far from Ancient Sparta ruins, but in modern Sparta, you can find what probably is the tomb of the famous king Leonidas.
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