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Archaeological Research and Exhibition of the Stadium

The Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis was discovered in 1923. During the years excavations and archaeological research were led by D. Tsonchev, L. Botusharova, M. Martinova-Kjutova. Sections of the seating rows are preserved and exhibited in the basement floors in some of the buildings along the main street today – Knyaz Alexander I Battenberg Street. In 2004 five rows of seats, a staired aisle, a section of the track and a draining canal were uncovered during reconstruction work at the former "Hristo Botev" cinema.

Like the other imperial buildings for spectacular events, the Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis had its honourable seats preserved by inscriptions in the marble blocks. In the middle of the Eastern part of the Stadium such seats were discovered during the construction of a trading centre. Unlike the seats for regular spectators those had inscriptions in Greek showing that they were reserved for members of higher pulblic position.

The main entrance of the Stadium called the Propylaea consisted of four or six masonry pillars supporting arches to the South and the North. The pillars were supposedly decorated with marble pilasters and bas-reliefs featuring the prize – vases with palm sprays, accompanied by Hercules’ attributes – lion skin, a mace and a quiver. The original bas-reliefs are exposed in the Regional Archaeological Museum of Plovdiv. Since they depicted Hermes and Hercules, the latter are believed to have been the patron deities of some of the stadium games. All the architectural marble elements of the Propylaea were tied to each other with lead-soldered iron cramps. In front of the Propylaea a granite pavement was uncovered, consisting of hexagonal blocks – 0.70 by 0.70 m diagonally.

The archaeological information concerning the stadium is mostly from the 1920s of 20th century. More elaborate excavations, however, were undertaken about half a century later by the archaeologist Liliya Botusharova. Parts of the sfentona (the curved part to the north), cavea (the seating area), a covered street and the ruins of an aqueduct were explored. A section of the defense wall was discovered as well. In 1976 conservation works were conducted resulting in concrete parapet belts surrounding the exhibiting openings of the ruins. A cafe was designed between the contemporary level and the ancient level of the Stadium.

In 1995 the Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis was listed as a cultural value of national significance.

Plan of the Stadium, Tsontchev, D. Contribution a l’histoire du stade antique de Philippopolis / Regional Archaeologic Museum, Plovdiv