Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Ancient stadium of Philippopolis, 2009 - 2011

Ancient stadium

Ancient stadium

From ancient times until today Plovdiv has strategic importance along the Diagonal Road. In the Antiquity Philippopolis (or Trimontium) flourished as a centre of the Roman province of Thrace. The town developed in the plane under the Three hills. Major benchmarks in the structure of the Roman city are public buildings and facilities: the urban forum complex, the theatre and the stadium.

The Ancient Stadium of Philipopolis is situated in the natural crease of the terrain between Taksim Tepe and Sahat Tepe. It extends in its longitudinal axis (about six metres below the current level) from the Jumaya Square to where now Knyaz Alexander I Street and 11th August Street meet (also known as the Kamenitsa Square). The facility was built in the second half of the second century AD. Here were held games and contests – Pythian, Kendrisian and Alexandrian games.

It is believed that about 30 000 spectators could sit in the stadium. The length of track is 190 metres and the width – between 25 and 30 metres. The Northern curved part (svendona) has 13 marble tiered seats built on a podium above the runway, 1.8 m high. Under the cavea was discovered a vaulted entrance, which connects the arena (the track) with the corridor, dug into the natural terrain and continuing in an antique street from the first century AD. Fragments of the amphitheatrical rows along the Eastern and Western sides of the arena are preserved in the basements of modern buildings on Knyaz Alexander I Street. The architecture and artistic decoration of the Propylaea (the entrance to the stadium) located on the Southern side are clarified by fragmented findings and by graphic reproductions and are four masonry pillars, shaped with marble pilasters and bas-reliefs.

The Northern curved part (the svendona) of the Ancient Stadium – the Jumaya Square – hides various historical layers. Supposedly, in the underground archaeological area under the svendona is concealed data for earlier historical layers. Behind the Ancient Stadium goes the route of the city wall of Philippopolis built during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, which marks the Northern boundary of the built in the valley ancient city. This determines the location of the Stadium as the ultimate site in the Northern area of the city plan. In the Late Antiquity – IV century AD – the changes of the development of Philippopolis affect the primary structure of the Stadium. There are incorporated the pillars of the construction of the city aqueduct along its route from the Rhodopes to Taksim Tepe.

All this determines the Ancient Stadium as a remarkable example of the complex historical stratification of the “eternal city” of Plovdiv.