Topography of Sparta

The Akropolis (view from theater)
The akropolis of Sparta is found in the north area of the city. Among other structures from earlier periods, there was a late archaic and early classical stoa found here. Pausanias described one particular monument from this period: "The most striking monument in the marketplace is called the Persian Colonnade, built from the spoils of the Persian Wars [most likely from Plataia]. It was altered in the course of time until it reached the size and decorative splendour you now see (3.11.3)." It featured the figures of defeated Persians and Artemisia. The Cyclical building (unknown use) was apparently repaired in Roman times, and may have played an important role in the city. In 1957, an excavator found a hearth and pit in it. The Roman agora is located near the ancient theater. It was constructed in the imperial period, and most likely served those who attended the nearby performances. A basilica of the Middle Byzantine period can also be found on the akropolis. It is from the 10th century CE, and has been recently cleaned by the British School.

Temple of Athena Chalkoikos
The temple of Athena Chalkoikos, near the theater, contained a bronze statue created by a local man, Gitiadas. Its interior was covered with bronze sheets, hence the name. This was one of the most important cult sites of the classical town, and in the turn of the century excavations, they found geometric pottery here. The only remains now, however, are two retaining walls, and it is difficult to differentiate this site from other remains on the akropolis. The most memorable event here was the death of Pausanias the king as described by Thucydides: "Setting off at a run for the temple of the goddess of the Bronze House, the enclosure of which was near at hand, he succeeded in taking sanctuary before they took him, and entering into a small chamber, which formed part of the temple, to avoid being exposed to the weather, he remained there. The ephors, for the moment distanced in the pursuit, afterwards took off the roof of the chamber, and having made sure that he was inside, shut him in, barricaded the doors, and staying before the place, reduced him to starvation. When they found that he was on the point of expiring, just as he was, in the chamber, they brought him out of the temple while the breath was still in him, and as soon as he was brought out he died" (1.134).

The Theater
The theater at Sparta, found on the south side of the akropolis, is most likely from the 3rd century BCE (with some doubt now expressed). It was restored during the early imperial period, replacing a 2nd century BCE wooden structure. As many as 16,000 people could fit into this theater, with entrances on the east side, on the top, and by the temple of Athena Chalkoikos. The center and stage were of white marble and the walls of limestone. Pausanias wrote that the marble theater was worth seeing (3.14.1). This marble, except for one section of seats, was taken to construct Mystra, the Byzantine site found just outside Sparta in the Taygetos mountain range. Much of the theater has not been excavated, but now it has been speculated that it will be cleaned and excavations may be conducted.

The Leonidaion
This structure is reportedly from the 5th century BCE, and is found in the north end of town. It has been suggested that this building is not classical, but is from the early Hellenistic period. It served as a monument of Leonidas, and supposedly contained the bones of this Spartan king. Pausanias wrote that Pausanias (the Spartan king) brought his bones home from Thermopylai forty years after the battle, and that every year they make speeches and hold games in which only Spartans can enter (3.14.1).

Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia
This is probably the most interesting site in Sparta, and it certainly enthralled later Roman visitors. It is reputed to be as early as the 12th century BCE, but it most likely only as early as the 8th century. It was rebuilt in the 6th after a flood, and the current temple was constructed in the Hellenistic period. This is the site where the famous whipping rituals took place as the center of the agoge. In the 3rd century CE, a semicircular theater was built around it, so the Romans could view the re-enacated whipping rituals. Pausanias wrote that they used to have a human sacrifice, but Lykourgos substituted the whipping of boys for this (3.16.9). It was here where the young Spartans used to perform dances, and wear masks, which can now be found in the Sparta museum. Also, a great number of interesting votive figures have been found here, including warriors, musicians and female figures, some as early as the geometric period. Victory inscriptions have also been found here, some dating as early as the 4th century BCE. Artemis Orthia and Eilethyia were also closely connected, and dedications to the latter were found here

The Menelaion
Hosting by WebRing.