This is one of the best preserved ancient theaters in the world. Built at the end of 1st – the beginning of 2nd century under Emperor Trayan, the theater was one of the major public buildings of the ancient Philippopolis. It is situated on the southern slope of Three-hills in the saddle between Dzhambaz tepe and Taksim tepe. In addition to theatrical performances it was used for gladiators’ and hunting games. It was active until the fifth century and had capacity of 6000 spectators. In 1981 it was partially restored. Now this site has been fully adapted to the Plovdiv’s modern cultural life and holds different types of performances with capacity of about 3500 spectators.
As one of the most important cities in the borders of the Roman Empire, Philippopolis has its own theatre, which nowadays shines upon the heart of the Old town as the only restored and functioning antique theatre in Bulgaria. According to the building inscription on the frieze architrave of the stage structure, the theatre is built between 114 – 117 year AD during the reign of Emperor Traian (Marcus Ulpius Traianus). Situated on the south slopes of the Three Hills, in the saddle between Taksim Hill and Dzhambaz Hill, the Ancient theatre is one of the most significant public buildings of Philippopolis, remarkable with its architectural representativeness and magnificence.
Accessible to visitors today, the stage has friezes and statues, while 28 rows of marble seats (of which 20 are preserved) had capacity of about 6000 spectators. Inscripted on the seats, the appellations of the ten districts bear the names of deities and mythical heroes. Steep stairs separate the theatre into radial sectors. The playing ground (orhestra) is horseshoe-shaped and its diameter measures 26,64 m. At the southern part stands a three-storey edifice, used by the actors (skene).
The honourary spectator seats are marked with the names of magistrates and notable citizens. A theatre loggia standed, for the emperor and thedignitaries, above the arched passage of the second rang seats . It was built with resources provided by the Gerousia (council of elders) of Philippopolis.
The theatre combines stylistic features of the Hellenistic and Roman theaters. It was mainly designed for theatrical performances, but the great number of administrative inscriptions prove that the building was also used as a seat of the Thracian provincial Assembly (Кoinon). Here were held contests for poets, musicians, singers and town-criers, as well as battles against animals, and gladiator fights, a proof of which are the specific characteristics of the construction. It exists until the end of the IV century, when it is burned down.
Discovered and rebuilt by archeologists of Plovdiv in the early 80s of the XX century, the Ancient theatre of Philippopolis is among the most important theatres of the Roman Empire period.
Nowadays this facility is the most emblematic monument of the ongoing cultural and historical continuity, carried through the ages on the Three Hills. Reborn for a new breath of life of functioning stage for classic drama, dancing and music, the Ancient theatre is a charming spiritual center of the city in which the today’s culture interacts with the intransitive values of the past.