The Ancient Theater of Zea, situated right next to the Archeological Museum of Piraeus, was built in the Hellenistic Times (2nd century BC).
In 1880 during excavation works aimed at the expansion of the city, vertebrae limestone columns, ancient construction stones as well as socket foundations – the latter probably belonging to a byzantine church – were found lying in an area known as “Frangoklissia” (a catholic church). Further excavations brought to light the Ancient Theater of Zea.
Obviously influenced by the Ancient Theater of Dionysus in terms of structure, the Ancient Theater of Zea consisted of a horse-shoe shaped orchestra (diameter: 16.34 meters), a stage (36 meters long) and an auditorium (diameter: 67 meters).
In the same excavation field were found a broken marble inscription containing citizens’ names who had contributed financially to the construction or perhaps the repair of the Theater of Zea as well as an inscription mentioning the boundaries of the site.
Today, the orchestra and the stage are well preserved, while no part of the auditorium has survived time. Around the ancient theater there is an open-air exhibition mainly consisting of funerary steles, templates with inscriptions, statues, all testifying the Ancient Greeks’ burial practices, covering an era from the Bronze Age till the Hellenistic Times.
At this very point, we should mention that there was another ancient theater in Piraeus, the Ancient Theater of Munichia, discovered at the same time with the Ancient Theater of Zea, during the same excavations. The Ancient Theater of Munichia, dated in the 4th century BC, was located in an area today known as Kastella, on the Southwestern side of the Munichia Hill, overlooking the Port of Piraeus. Sadly, a series of unfortunate incidents led to its being reburied! Today apartment buildings have been erected on the field with the Ancient Theater of Munichia lying right underneath.
However, the existence of two theaters in the city of ancient Piraeus reveals another aspect of the city’s identity – inseparably associated with the naval history as Piraeus was the main port of the Athenian fleet – and speaks volumes of its people’s culture and perception of art.
The Ancient Theater of Zea has been the venue for several cultural events, such as concerts and plays, while it is one of the numerous (more than 100) archeological sites in Greece that are open to the public at night on August’s full moon, one of the most romantic summer traditions developed in Greece within the last two decades.
Even if you can’ t make it to visit it on August’s full moon night, the Ancient Theater of Zea is definitely a site not to miss.