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The Amphitheatre of Cyzicus.

April 21, 2017

During our visit to the site of the ancient city of Cyzicus in December 2015, we find out that, apart from the ruins of Hadrian's Temple, there were vestiges of a large building some kilometers to the east of the temple. In order to locate it we climbed to the top of the hill that rises to the north of the site (the Dindymon mount of the classic texts) from where we scrutinized the hillside and the closer valley in search of ancient structures. We were lucky: far below from us, already in the valley, one could clearly distinguish, jutting out from among trees, an enormous wall with remainings of roman typology vaults. Very excited, we began the descent of the hill trying to identify, among the many forest paths that left the asphalt road, the most appropriate one to reach that magnificent ruin. It was not difficult: a dirt track full of bumps and stones seemed to point directly to that magical place. Since it was impractical for a normal vehicle, we parked on the side of the road and started walking on the dusty path. The Roman walls stood some 800 meters down the hill and, although the path did not exactly pass through them, it was easy to reach the first remains cross-country.

 

Photo 1.- Panoramic view of the Cyzicus amphitheater seen from the top of its cavea.


A first examination of the ruins added to what we had read about the site indicated that we were before the vestiges of the ancient Cyzicus amphitheatre. The truth is that there was not much left: a solitary pilaster with vault start. It was necessary to look out the other side of a dense thicket of prickly shrubs to fully confirm that this was an amphitheater: before us opened an immense oval completely covered with thick forest but still recognizable. In fact the point where we were, on top of a sort of wall of roman masonry, was the high part of the bleachers (cavea), reason for which by looking to the front and down one could identify the typical geometry of an amphitheater. From that place, it was impossible to get anywhere, due to the rapid descent of the cavea into the thick vegetation prevented passage. Carved stone, beyond the previous pilaster, there was little or none: the vast majority of the amphitheater is buried and invaded by a dense forest populated by a multitude of trees with thick trunks and leafy branches. When archaeologists want to excavate here it will not be easy. Photo 1 is a panoramic view of the amphitheater seen from the top of the aforementioned cavea. As can be seen, the ovoid plant typical of an amphitheater is easy to distinguish, especially since the vegetation is different: atlantic-type trees colored with different shades of green instead of the monotonous olive grove outside.

 

 Photo 2.- Couple of pilasters belonging to the remains of the amphitheater of Cyzicus ​.


Walking between olive groves and low mount, we went surrounding the great mass of land and thorny bushes that hides in its bosom the ruins of the Cyzicus amphitheater. It was pure cross-country and therefore not exactly easy to get around. A couple of hundred meters below, we found two other pilasters (photo 2). We could examine these structures much better than the first pilaster to which we were unable to get close because of the presence of a deep ditch on the ground. Thus, we checked that the exterior faces of these pilasters were made with granite ashlar (photo 3) of pleasing appearance, placing many blocks in "headers" (perpendicular to the plane of the wall) in order to reinforce the cohesion of the exterior face with the core of rough masonry. On the other hand, both the internal face and the vaulted structure that stood on these pilasters (and of which only the starting remains) were built with masonry (roman opus incertum). Undoubtedly, the vaults (photo 4) were erected using a semicircular wooden shoring whose support holes can be seen just below the vault. The arches that articulate these vaults were constructed with concreted masonry, correctly placed. Finally, once these vaults were completed, the intermediate spaces between pilasters were filled with a masonry similar to that of the arches, concreted in thin layers. The final result is not very attractive from the aesthetic point of view so it can be affirmed that all this masonry had some kind of facing, long time ago disappeared.