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THE ANCIENT STADIUM

The stadium of Philippopolis is in the northern end of the fortified city, between the two fortification walls, in the natural fold formed by the eastern slopes of Sahat Tepe Hill and the western slopes of Taxim Tepe. Its longitudinal axis stretches from Djoumayata Square to the place where the streets Knyaz Alexander 1 Battenberg and 11-ti Avgust meet today. It could seat about 30,000 people.

The main part of the construction - the track - is about 200 m long and about 30 m wide. On both sides of the track and in its arc-shaped part (sphendon) there are 14 rows of seats made of monolithic marble blocks. The fronts of some of the seats are decorated with supports in relief in the form of a stylised lion's paw. The eastern stalls of the stadium are on artificial arc-shaped structures, due to the lack of a rock massif. Fragments of the amphitheatre rows have been attractively adapted today in the Excelsior and Star Gallery shopping centres.

The central entrance is shaped by pillars with plastic decoration: pilasters on which the attributes of the two patron deities of sports - Hermes and Heracles - are depicted.

The epigraphic and numismatic monuments discovered on the territory of the city prove that Pythian Games similar to the Greek games were organised periodically at the stadium, as well as Alexandrian Games in honour of Emperor. Caracalla. Another Roman emperor - Elagabalus - renamed them to Cendrian Games. The mint of Philippopolis struck special medallions with the image of Elagabalus and the different sports games held at the stadium in honour of these games. We learn from them that sports contests were in the classical and Hellenistic register of Olympic disciplines. In 393 AD, Emperor Theodosius banned the sports games and contests as "barbarian spectacles." The ancient stadium began to be used only as a hippodrome. The latest information about the stadium dates from the 11th century AD, when Anna Comnena, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor, visited Plovdiv. In her travel narrative she mentions ruins of a hippodrome.

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