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THE ODEON OF THE ANCIENT PHILIPPOPOLIS

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 -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 events.

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 east.

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.

Archaelogist:
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.

   
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