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The ancient theatres of western Greece
During antiquity, at least half a dozen theaters in the Aitoloakarnania district in western Greece used to attract crowds thirsting for drama performances. Today most of them, along with surrounding archaeological sites, lie largely unattended; some have not even been excavated at all.


In the area of the Acheloos River estuary, on the fertile plain formed by the river’s silt west of Mesolongi and near the village of Katochi, is the archaeological site of Oiniades. The city was located on a hill now covered by impressive oak trees. The landscape is significantly different than it was during antiquity, when the city was an important port. The Athenians unsuccessfully laid siege to it in the 5th century BC, but Oiniades later became a member of the Athenian League.

The area is locally known as Trikardokastro, due to the fortification of the ancient acropolis, where a 5th-century BC tower still survives. Parts of it, being near the river, are occasionally affected by rising waters. Nevertheless, excavations have brought to light port and shipbuilding installations, buildings in the agora, public baths and a 4th-century BC theatre, all of which make the open site well worth a visit.

The theatre, which had a capacity of about 4,600 people and is noted for its acoustics, is in relatively good condition and is used for cultural events in summer -- the only one in the district that has been revived. Inscriptions on the first rows of seats refer to freed slaves.

The largest ancient theatre in the district is nestled in a hillside within the walls of the city of Stratos, with a panoramic view of the Acheloos valley some 60 kilometers upriver and next to the highway heading north from Agrinio. The river was navigable at least up to that point in antiquity. The theatre is impressive but not in good condition.

A book in Greek, titled “Ta archea theatra tis Aitoloakarnanias” (The Ancient Theatres of Aitoloakarnania), was recently published by Diazoma.

Source: Kathimerini [January 26, 2011]

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