The Theatre of Butrint was one of the first monuments discovered by Ugolini and its excavation, began at the end of May 1928, was the longest and most difficult undertook during his campaign because the debris fallen from the slope of the hill buried the orchestra and the seats under several metres of earth. It can be dated around the middle of the 3rd century BC thanks to the dedicatory inscription and the numerous inscriptions of slave manumission found on the western parodos and on the diazoma.


Its first phase presents an irregular shape which could be reconnected to the presence of earlier structures, probably built under the Peristyle building and which has influenced the construction of the Theatre itself. The extension of the lower cavea was in fact limited to the west by the Shrine of Asclepius and to the east by a rectangular structure interpreted as a Greek stoa. The Shrine was built before the Theatre, however the link between the two became even more evident during the Roman renovation of the complex with the construction of a stage building joined to the auditorium thought vaults constructed over the entrances of the Greek theatre. It was in the same moment when the seating of the lower cavea was extended above the Shrine and the earlier western entrance of the Greek theatre was replaced by a vomitorium situated above the earlier votive deposit. This means that the Shrine was incorporated in the Theatre substructures, which can suggest also a close relation with the same cult. 

Nowadays, the lower cavea is well preserved along with the orchestra, the parodoi and the stage. The lower part has six radial stairways, whose interval decrease from east to west because. The same irregularity can be seen also in the decreasing width of the plinth below the front row of seats and in the number or rows, since che Shrine of Asclepius prevented the construction of the last four rows. Almost nothings remains of the Greek stage, entirely replaced during the Roman renovation, even though many blocks belonging to it have been reused in the pavement and for the new foundations. The theatre was partially destroyed due to medieval stone-robbing, however it was after the Second World War that its conditions significantly worsened. The eastern part of the Theatre is the more damaged, since the retaining wall on this side of the hill has slipped toward east causing the collapse of the masonry and the detaching of external buttresses. Nevertheless, the biggest problem is represented by the infiltrations of groundwater, which covers the pavement of the Shrine and part of the Theatre for most of the year. 


For what concerns the findings, little was recovered from the upper levels, apart from some inscriptions. Below the Medieval terracing many architectural fragments and pieces of marbles were found, along with the group of Julio-Claudian portraits (Livia, Augustus and Agrippa's heads) and other statues (Asclepius' head, warriors, male and female heads and torsos, fragments of Mercury's statue) originally decorating the scaenae frons. It must be noted, however, that the Roman reconstruction of the sanctuary seems to be independent from the erections of these statues. Augustus' portraits follows the characteristics typical of well-known sculptural models such as the Prima Porta, while Livia and Agrippa's heads show more affinities with Hellenistic royal portraits for Livia and with a more classicising and idealised style for Agrippa. 

There are several inscriptions recovered in the area of the theatre. There is the commemorative inscription on the second row of seats celebrating the construction of the Theatre by the prostates of the Chaones and the priest of Asclepius using the revenues derived from the cult of the god. There are the 29 inscriptions on the analemma of the western parodos, 27 of which are manumission inscriptions for the liberation of slaves, covering a period of almost 30 years. Finally, there are the 14 inscriptions on the diazomawhich refer to acts of manumissions as well, even though these are more specific in mentioning, in a span of almost one decade, the time of the year and the witnesses participating in the ceremony. These are subsequent to the inscription of the parodosin fact they refer to the strategos and the prostates ton Prasaibon. The manumissions are dated between 3rd and 2nd century BC. They refer also to the presence of the prostates of the Chaones and, most of the times, the priest of Asclepius, who was the caretaker and the guarantor for the manumissions. The names of both the prostates and the priests are also used as reference for the dating of the inscriptions.

Bibliography on the subject


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  • Morricone L., Le iscrizioni del teatro di Butrinto, edited by l. Pugliese Carratelli in La parola del passato, vol. XLI, 1986
  • Mustilli D., "Relazione preliminare sugli scavi archeologici in Albania (1937-1940)", in Reale Accademia d'Italia. Rendiconti della classe di scienze morali e storiche, f. 12, series VII, vol. II, Roma, 1941, pp. 677-704
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