The Stadium

The Stadium

The Stadium of Nicopolis was built at the foot of the sacred hill of Apollo south of the Victory Monument and between the Theater and Gymnasium. It was oval in plan, with an E-W orientation. The earthen embankments with sporadic remains of the substructure of seating, the ruins of the entrances, and the remains of the retaining walls that restrained the downward thrust of the embankments are preserved.

The unusual type of stadium with two sphendonai—a feature found in only a few stadia in Asia Minor—is referred to in the research as a “stadium-amphitheater” and considered to be a transitional type from the Greek stadium to the Roman amphitheater. According to one view, the Stadium of Nicopolis was the prototype of this type of stadiums.

The Stadium at its present condition

The Augustan Stadium

To configure the slopes on the north side of the Stadium, the gentle ends of the hill were used; the slope of the east sphendone and the south side were the result of fill held in place by retaining walls. During its first building phase, the Stadium had a horseshoe-shaped ground plan; in the same phase, there was an underground passage, a hidden entrance (κρυπτή είσοδος). The form of the Stadium in this first building phase, when it was built to host the Actian Games’ athletic competitions, recalls the architectural composition of Greek stadiums as this had developed in Hellenistic times.

In front of the west end of the Stadium at the main entrance, we suppose that one of the city streets (cardo) must have concluded after passing through the Northwest Gate of the wall and the North Cemetery. We assume that work to erect the Stadium must have been finished by September 27 BC, the year the first Actian Games were held. The length of the Stadium is calculated at 218 meters, and its width from the north retaining wall to the south at 58 meters. The length of the track is estimated to have been 200 meters, and its width, 23.50-24.00 meters.

Virtual reconstruction of the Augustan Stadium

Later Building Phases

A support wall has been identified, which was done to reinforce the original walls in vulnerable areas of the sphendone and south side of the monument where the original walls would have received maximum thrust from the slopes.

A series of extensive interventions gave the Stadium its characteristic ground plan with two semicircular ends. Specifically, a second sphendone was added on the west side, providing a triple passageway into the track, and three additional entranceways were built: two at about the center of the north and south slopes, and a third along the axis of the east sphendone at the location of the earlier passageway. In addition, a podium (height 2.60-2.80 m.) was built around the arena (konistra).

The renovation of the Stadium is dated to the late 1st – early 2nd century AD, and was probably owed to the emperor Domitian, to whom the construction of the stadium-amphitheater of Patra is attributed. The reconstruction of the Stadium with the addition of the second sphendone and surrounding podium turned the Stadium into a venue for gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights. A relief  plaque with a representation of a gladiatorial combat—a chance find—in all probability belonged to the frieze of a grave monument, apparently that of a gladiator.

Virtual reconstruction of the Stadium with two seimi-circular ends


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