The Archaeology News Network reports that after 1,700 years of neglect and silence, the ancient theatre of Messeni is slated to re-opens its doors for the public, this summer. Restoration work took nearly 20 years, but the theater is now ready for use again--as the theater was intended to be.

“We want the theatre to operate for events, schools, conferences. We want all areas of ancient Messene to operate in a multifaceted manner. We want the whole city to become alive, to be related to society and the institutions. The only damage is caused by women’s high heels; the risk of damages comes through time not people.”

Archeologist Petros Themelis has spearheaded the project from the beginning, and he believes that the purpose of a theater is the be used, not remain clothed. This from a man who has spent years trying to piece together the theater. From the article:

“When we first started the excavations, we found ourselves discouraged. The theatre was practically non-existent, the only thing left were some barrier walls and the olive groves surrounding it (…). Huge earth deposits covered the orchestra and the koilon” says Petros Themelis, head of the excavations.
After operating for six centuries, the theatre was abandoned, it declined and eventually succumbed. Characteristic for the apathy of the residents of the area regarding its fate is the fact that during Byzantine era, they removed many of the seats and used them as building material for temples and houses. The restoration of the ancient theatre lasted more than 20 years. The archaeologists managed to re-unite the scattered pieces and put back to their places more than 2,000 seats."
Ancient Messeni (Αρχαία Μεσσήνη) is a local community within the regional unit of Messenia, and is located in the far south of modern Greece. Most of the area of Ancient Messene contains the ruins of the large classical city-state of Messene refounded by Epaminondas in 369 BC, after the battle of Leuctra and the first Theban invasion of the Peloponnese. The ancient city can be visited an is a major tourist attraction. In ancient times, it was founded by Helots (Spartan slaves) running from Sparta. The defensive wall they built around the city to keep them out still exists in some places. Pausanias describes the ancient city in great detail in his 'Description of Greece'; a few choice selections.

"Round Messene is a wall, the whole circuit of which is built of stone, with towers and battlements upon it. I have not seen the walls at Babylon or the walls of Memnon at Susa in Persia, nor have I heard the account of any eye-witness; but the walls at Ambrossos in Phocis, at Byzantium and at Rhodes, all of them the most strongly fortified places, are not so strong as the Messenian wall." [4.31.5]
"The Messenians possess a statue of Zeus the Saviour in the market-place and a fountain Arsinoe. [...] There are sanctuaries of the gods Poseidon and Aphrodite, and, what is most deserving of mention, a statue of the Mother of the Gods, of Parian marble, the work of Damophon,31 the artist who repaired the Zeus at Olympia with extreme accuracy when the ivory parted. [...] By Damophon too is the so-called Laphria at Messene. The cult came to be established among them in the following way: Among the people of Calydon, Artemis, who was worshipped by them above all the gods, had the title Laphria, and the Messenians who received Naupactus from the Athenians, being at that time close neighbors of the Aetolians, adopted her from the people of Calydon.
The Messenians have a temple erected to Eileithyia with a stone statue, and near by a hall of the Curetes, [...] There is a holy shrine of Demeter at Messene and statues of the Dioscuri, carrying the daughters of Leucippus. [...] The most numerous statues and the most worth seeing are to be found in the sanctuary of Asclepius. For besides statues of the god and his sons, and besides statues of Apollo, the Muses and Heracles, the city of Thebes is represented and Epaminondas the son of Cleommis, Fortune, and Artemis Bringer of Light." [4.31.6 - 4.31.10]

The theater is only mentioned in passing:

"There is also a bronze statue of Aristomenes in the Messenian running-ground. Not far from the theater is a sanctuary of Sarapis and Isis." [4.32.6]

The restored theatre will open on the third of August with an opera performance in ancient Hellenic festival style. It will be performed by the Athens State Orchestra, conducted by Giorgos Kouroupos. Soloists Dimitris Platanias and Tselia Kostea will participate. The event is organized in cooperation with the “Diazoma” Association.vDuring the event, 2,500 spectators will be hosted at the theatre. After the completion of restoration works, its capacity is estimated to reach 5,000 seats, which is half the capacity the theater had in antiquity.

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