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As a Hellenistic city, there must have been a theater or maybe even an amphitheater in Byzantium, which would have also been present during the Constantinople era, but never have I seen or heard any such building apart from the Hippodrome. Is there any source regarding this building, if so do we know the location of it? Cheers!

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  • I have come across the claim that theaters were constructed there in the 4th century (citing Gilbert Dagron, Naissance d'une capital. Constantinople et ses institutions de 300 à 451. Paris 1974) but that they fell out of use about two centuries later. I don't have access to Dagron's book to check what he has to say on the matter.
    – njuffa
    Dec 20, 2023 at 11:21

2 Answers 2

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The book Roman Theatres: An Architectural Study, By Frank Sear on page 421 seems to mention no fewer than four theatres that were known to exist in Byzantium.

BYZANTIUM/CONSTANTINOPLE
(Istanbul, Turkey)
Location: four theatres are attested: the Theatrum Maius at edge of the First Region; ruins discovered (1913), north-east of Old Seraglio, belong to Theatrum Minus and so-called column of Claudius Gothicus marks its centre; there is another theatre in the 14th Region; and another theatre in the Sykai (Galata) district.

The book goes on specifying Remains that were located, Literature mentioning Byzantine theatres, as well as a Biography of other sources discussing these theatres. (These details are visible on the linked sample page so I won't reproduce them here)


A primary source, the Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae, "which was written during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Theodosius II (probably in 447-450)", mentions the existence of both a theatre and an amphitheater in region two. You can see this document is the source for a Wikipedia article on the 14 regions of Constantinople. The description there for region two has the following concerning the theatres:

East of the Augustaion and downhill from Hagia Sophia and Hagia Irene was the classical theatre (Latin: Theatrum Minus, lit. 'lesser theatre').3 Near the old Byzantine acropolis was the amphitheatre (Latin: Theatrum Maius, lit. 'greater theatre'), known also as the Cynegion (Ancient Greek: Κυνήγιον) and which was probably eastward of the acropolis, near the site of the kitchens of the Topkapı Palace.3 Both theatre and amphitheatre pre-existed Constantine's re-foundation of the city.

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As far as we know-(archaeologically and historically speaking), the Ancient, pre-Christian city of Byzantium, did not have a theater. It is certainly within the realm of possibility....for example, on the Aegean island of Rhodes, there is one of the best preserved Ancient Greek stadiums, though there is also an equally well preserved Ancient Greek theater. The ancient sacred site of Delphi also has a stadium and theater...so again, the existence of a theater alongside the famed in Hippodrome in Byzantium, is a possibility-(if archeologists are able to literally unearth it).

There almost certainly would not have been a Theater in Byzantium during the Medieval period-(that is to say, when Byzantium became, "Constantinople"), since it was the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius-(circa 400 AD/CE), who officially outlawed dramatic productions, oratories and festivities at The Theater...from his Palace in Constantinople. The Greco-Roman Theater, according to Theodosius-(and the Byzantine Emperors who followed), was viewed as anachronistic, paganistic and Un-Christian.

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  • I don't understand the reason for excessive downvoting here, would've been nice if they can add some comments as well. Maybe the lack of sources?
    – buræquete
    Dec 20, 2023 at 21:49

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