THE ANCIENT FORUM, the civic centre of Philippopolis, covers
an area of 20 000 sq. m in the heart of the ancient city. It developed
in accordance with the history of the city from the 1st to the
5th century AD. Organized around an open-air square, it was surrounded
by porticoes and rows of shops along the eastern, southern and
western sides. Its northern side was occupied by public buildings
connected with the civic administration, and with the cultural
and religious life of the ancient city.
The ODEON of Philippopoiis was found in 1988 during excavations
in the northern part of the Forum by the archaeologists Z. Karov
and M. Martinova. In 1993 archaeological investigations were suspended
due to lack of funds. In 1995 the Forum complex was declared a
cultural monument of national importance. The Odeon, as a major
part of the Forum, has the same status and lies within the boundaries
of an area under strict safeguard and protection. A programme
for the conservation, restoration and exposition of the site was
approved in 1999. In 1997 the Odeon of Philippopolis (today's
town of Plovdiv, Bulgaria), together with the Odeon at Thessalonica
(Greece) and the theatre at Taormina (Italy), were included in
the Raphael European programme funded by the Council of Europe,
and excavations were renewed.
In 2001 -2002, with the financial contribution of the A. G. Leventis
Foundation, the archaeological excavation of the building was
completed with a view to its restoration and future incorporation
in the life and structure of the contemporary city.
The Odeon is situated in the northeastern corner of the ancient
Forum and comprises all elements of an ancient theatre building
enclosed in a square space and covered with a roof. The rectangular
frame integrates it in the orthogonal street system of the ancient
city, and it represents a dominant feature in the forum complex.
The best preserved remains are those of the latest arrangement
of the Odeon, dated to the mid-3rd century and connected with
the reconstruction of the building after it had been burnt down
as a result of the Gothic invasions in 251 AD. The Ï-shaped galleries
along the edges surround a central area including the cavea, the
orchestra and the skene. The cavea encircles the orchestra and
on its western side there was a narrow raised stage (skene). The
cavea and the skene are separated by two aisles (parodoi) leading
from the galleries into the orchestra. From the structure of the
cavea radial walls were found supporting beehive-shaped vaults
upon which the rows of seats were placed. The arrangement of the
stage building (skene) and the architecture of the facade of the
cavea (scaenae frons) have been clarified: it is a two-storey
structure in a Roman-Corinthian order. The facade was built in
opus mixtum. The abundance of metal clamps and joints indicates
that the building was covered with a wooden roof structure, supported
by impressively large trusses.
Four construction periods have been identified in the excavated
remains of the Odeon. They date from t 1st to the 4th century
AD and are connected with substantial changes in the size and
capacity of the structure. As an element of the city square of
the Roman period, the building served as the city council chamber
of Philippopolis. After its reconstruction it was also used as
an auditorium for small theatrical performances, musical and literary
The preliminary project was based on an architectural model of
the ancient building determined by means of graphic reconstruction.
The project comprised two versions in respect to the building
itself, as well as to the treatment of the surrounding urban area.
It elucidated the communicational and functional linkage7 of the
Odeon with the other parts of the Forum and with the modern urban
environment. Models were used to decide the spatial proportions,
the aesthetic and structural composition of the ruins, as well
as the adaptive incorporation of the Odeon into the life of the
modern city, following its original character as a o small theatre
building for concerts, performances and assemblies.
The graphic reconstruction was of major importance in determining
the nature of the reconstruction work to be carried out. It was
based on the data from archaeological investigation and architectural
exploration. The well-preserved substructure of the building allowed
the clarification of the plan of the superstructure of the stage
building (skene) and the auditorium fcavea) which had been significantly
disturbed, thus delaying resolution of the architectural model.
A more precise investigation of the fragmentary remains (parts
of columns, capitals, architraves, etc.), together with the help
of analogies in building practice for ancient buildings and the
rules of the architectural orders, provided evidence for the creation
of a complete architectural reconstruction. The graphic reconstruction
encompasses two construction phases, comprising essential differences
in respect to the orchestra, the cavea and the skene.
The first period, termed intermediate, is characterized by an
elongated horseshpe-shaped orchestra with radial walls flanking
it, bearing the hive-shaped conipal vaults which support masonry
seats. Judging from, the dimensions of the rectangle enclosingithe
cavea, there were twelve rows of seatsJHJDjjLbJab-aod about 0.68m
wide. Remains of the basic first row survived a 0.5m wide stone
plinth and two rows of seating, which were the basis for the reconstruction
adopted. The/seats were probably panelled with marble as .taere
werg'Sbundanf quantities of broken slabs found on the site. The
stage buildings KeffeTcbTfiprises two parallel walls 1.40m apart.
The presence of vertical grooves for the structure of the stage
curtain is an indication of the theatrical nature of the building.
The stage was 1.50m higher than the level of the orchestra. The
beds for the trusses found in situ clarify the construction of
the stage. The scaenae frons (stage building fagade) was shaped
with porticoes which are present in the graphic reconstruction
as a result of the abundance of fragments columns, capitals, etc.
as well as of the presence of risolite fixed in the internal western
wall of the skene. The model which has been accepted for the scaenae
frons as one comprising a central portico with four Corinthian
order columns and side porticoes of twin columns on the north
and south. The frieze-architrave of the central portico has been
determined from the fragmentary collapsed remains.
The greatly disturbed upper part of the cavea cannot provide
evidence in situ for the posj stairways which are typical of this
type of building. Following tradition, the project envis the analemmata
(the western confining walls of the cavea) and two more uniformly
placed witb respect to the cavea. The last construction period
is connected with the overall reconstruction of the cavea; the
dimensions of the orchestra were decreased, white the overall
diameter of 11 m was preserved, as a result of which it assumed
a semi-circular shape. The side facing the cavea was bordered
by marble orthostats, the pavement was of large marble slabs.
The number of seats was increased and the cavea adopted new dimensions
reflecting the political changes and the subsequent new functional
demands. The scaenae frons retained its fagade of two-storey porticoes.
The collapsed fragments which were found indicate the presence
of a second storey with columns and capitals of smaller size.
The detailed project of the Odeon was based on the data from the
final archaeological investigations. The idea of a deep horseshoe-shaped
orchestra was adopted, thus preserving in situ all original stone
structures, the original level and pavement of the large orchestra,
and also exhibiting the remains of the last construction period
in their original aspect - the orthostats, the semi-circular orchestra,
the parodoi and the parts of the southern analemmata. The project
envisages a reconstruction of the base plinth stonework and the
first two rows of seating, while the remaining five rows will
be constructed with new wooden material upon a metal frame structure.
The central part of the cavea is interrupted by the fence wall
of the neighbouring private estate. The development of the skene
is greatly reduced in extent to a one-storey fragmentary part
from the centra! portico.
The project provides valuable exposition space with protective
covering of the authentic structures, exposing ttieir multiple
layer structure and the long span of life of the ancient building.
Also included are the whole southern gallery, part of the eastern
gallery together with the spaces between the radial walls, the
stage channel and part of the northern gallery and rooms. A small
museum exhibition and an information centre for the archaeological
complex can also be established. Access to the exhibition halls
lies through the western portico through the two small entrances
of the stage wall. Thus the western portico and the open-air space
will be integrated in the modern implementation of the archaeological
site. At this stage of reconstruction the Odeon will be accessible
from the north, from Gurko Str., but the project preserves the
possibility of reconstructing the original ways of access -from
the ambulatio on the south, and from the cardo maximus to the
The idea of the authors of the project is to create a new, interesting
urban area, defined by the remains of the restored archaeological
site, as a focus of cultural life in the existing heterogeneous
urban environment. Cultural events and spontaneous happenings
in city life in a democratic society will define the functional
character of the Odeon in retrospect to its initial image.
Maia Martinova-Kyutova Restorers: Arch, Vera Kolarova
Arch. Roumiana Proykova Dipl. Eng. Peyo Manov
Contractor: REST-DIMITROV Pic
The restoration of the Odeon is carried out due to the funding,
provided by the A. G. Leventis Foundation, and the support of
the Plovdiv Municipality and the Ministry of Culture.