The ancient theater
The ancient theater dates back to the early Roman times and it is considered as one of the largest in Ancient Greece. It preserves the orchestra, the retaining walls of the cavea and part of the cavea. There are two phases in its construction, with the first dating to the late Hellenistic period. Its monumental construction occupies an area of fourteen acres, while its capacity reached 16.000 spectators and had two tiers. The cavea, which had an opening of 140 meters, was built around 30-20 BC, with white marble and was supported by two retaining walls, to the south. At the top there was a perimetrical gallery to protect spectators from the bad weather. The original scene was made of wood and was wheeled in metal bars fixed to the ground. Later, the scene became permanent. The horseshoe-shaped orchestra of the theater, 25 m in diameter, was paved with red-white marble slabs, giving an impressive aesthetic result. In the eastern retaining walls of the cavea there are inscriptions of the rulers of Sparta during Roman times.
The temple of Athena Chalkioikos
The Temple of Athena Chalkioikos is defined more by some indications from the excavation rather than by the architectural ruins themselves. It was discovered during the excavations of the British School of Athens (early 20th century) on the top of the acropolis, above the ancient theatre and it is considered as the most important temple of ancient Sparta.
The temple’s connection with the mythical king Tyndareus, father of the beautiful Helen and the Dioscuri, as well with the legislator Lycurgus indicates the long life of the temple. Ancient writers refer to the goddess as "Poliouchos" (Patron Goddess) and as " Chalkioikos ". Τhe name “Chalkioikos” probably comes from the fact that the interior of the temple was decorated with bronze sheets that had mythological representations, as described by the traveler Pausanias. Both the bronze wall decoration and the bronze statue of the goddess were works of the Spartan artist Gitiadas, who renovated the temple, probably at the end of the 6th century BC.
The worship in the temple of Athena Chalkioikos was closely connected with the public and military life of the city. The temple of the patron goddess was the gathering place of the army and the final destination of the procession of the young armed Spartans. It was also the place where winners in battle and various games were honored.
A unique and emblematic work of Laconic sculpture, the marble upper body of a hoplite (480–470 BC), which is now on display in the Museum of Sparta and has been identified with Leonidas was found around the temple. According to some archaeologists it was probably part of the sculptural complex of the temple.
The temple of Athena Chalkioikos has been associated with dramatic moments in Spartan history, as the winner of the battle of Plataea (479 BC) Pausanias sought refuge there, when he was accused of betrayal by the Ephors. According to the historian Thucydides, the Ephors, after removing the roof of temple, trapped him inside and let him die, dragging him out of the sacred place just before his death so as not to contaminate the temple.