Greece – Eretria

My second visit to Euboea was made some months later, on the ” Inselreise ” with Dr. D Dorpfeld.

Eretria, which lies on the west coast of Eubcea, has a special interest for Americans because it was excavated a few years ago by the American School. The site of the theatre had been determined before by the depression in the earth which suggested the auditorium, but the plan and architectural history were first revealed by American spades.

The theatre at Eretria has this peculiarity: it was built on a plain instead of on a hill. The orchestra had therefore to be sunk in the ground; and it is possible that an amphitheatre of wooden seats was erected for the spectators. Afterward, however, the people of Eretria were not satisfied with a temporary wooden auditorium and made an artificial hill. The labor and expense of throwing up and moving the earth must have been very great. The orchestra was therefore put down as deep as possible. Why the founders did not choose a hillside to start with, I do not know, unless it be that some specially sacred associations were connected with this place. The theatre passed through three stages of architectural development. There are two puzzling peculiarities. One is the existence of an underground passage, big enough for a man to pass through, from the orchestra to the dressing-room, that may have served for the introduction of a ghost or for any mysterious disappearance. The other feature is an arched passage-way on the level of the orchestra, and leading by a flight of stairs to a point behind the skene.

From the theatre we ascended to what was once the acropolis, guided by the remains of the walls by which it was protected. You can follow the ruined wall, strengthened here and there by towers, down the hill and into the bay, running out to a little island and enclosing a portion of the harbor. It is possible that these walls existed before the Persian War, 490 B. C.; but they did not prevent the Persians from taking and sacking the town. From the acropolis we had a fine view of the mountains of Eubcea.

It was not far from Eretria that Dr. Waldstein discovered, in 1891, what was somewhat prematurely heralded by the press as the tomb of Aristotle or some member of his family. The tradition is, how-ever, that the philosopher was buried at Chalcis, and not at Eretria.