Ancient Stadium

The Stadium of Philippopolis was built at the beginning of 2nd century AD by Emperor Hadrian. It is situated in the northern part of the city surrounded by defence walls, to the north of the Forum, in the terrain between Taksim Tepe and Sahat Tepe.

The Stadium forms an architectural ensemble together with the Thermae (Baths) and the Treasury. It was pronounced a national cultural value in 1995.

The Stadium was approximately 240 metres long and 50 metres wide. Its length was 600 Roman feet equalling the Roman measure for one stade. The Stadium could seat up to 30 000 spectators. Some of them came to Philippopolis particularly to witness its games.

The seats for spectators are tiered in 14 rows, crossed by stepped aisles down to the track. The seats are made of solid marble blocks (40 cm high and 75 cm wide) and the front parts are decorated with stylized lion paws. The front part of the lowest row is revetted with massive marble 1.80 meters plates (orthostats), stepping on solid marble blocks. The seats from the highest row had backrests. 

At Dzhumaya Square is exhibited in situ the northern curved part of the Stadium (sfendona). Under the tiered rows of seats (cavea), a covered vaulted passage-street was found. It connected the track with a corridor dug in the terrain. The vault supported the royal seats above it. North of the corridor a section of a fortress wall was found. It was built back in 2nd century AD and undergone certain repairs in 3rd and 4th century AD. In the 4th century AD this area was crossed by an ancient aqueduct.

Like the other imperial buildings for spectacular events, the Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis had its seats of honour preserved by inscriptions in the marble blocks. Seats with Greek inscriptions were found, proving the existence of special seats for members of higher public position.

The main entrance of the Stadium was formed by masonry pillars decorated with marble pilasters and reliefs. On the pilasters there are busts of Hermes (hermai) with placed above them prize vases with palm sprays, accompanied by Heracles’ attributes – lion skin, a mace and a quiver. The marble pilasters are exhibited in the Regional Archaeological Museum - Plovdiv.

The limiting walls of the cavea were built from cut granite stones, labelled with letters at some places. The architectural marble elements of the entrance and the orthostats on the front row were tied to each other with lead-soldered iron cramps. In front of the entrance a granite pavement was uncovered, consisting of hexagonal blocks – 0.70 by 0.70 meters diagonally.

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