VIP ‘box seats’ discovered at an ancient Amphitheatre in Izmir, Turkey

During excavation at a 1,800-year-old amphitheatre in the ancient city of Pergamon in Turkey’s western Izmir province, archaeologists discovered individual sitting spaces with names etched on them.

Since 2018, excavations have been proceeding at the Pergamon amphitheatre, which is famous in archaeology for its similarities to Rome’s famed Colosseum.

Archaeologists discover private seating areas at a 1,800-year-old amphitheatre in the ancient city of Pergamon, near Izmir, Turkey. (AA Photo)

The new discoveries were uncovered as part of the TransPergMicro project, which is being carried out by the German Archaeological Institute and Berlin Technical University’s Institute of Architecture under the authority of Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

In the second century, the amphitheatre was known to have staged gladiator and animal fights, as well as executions and re-enactments of naval engagements.

Nowadays, VIP spaces are similar to modern-day box seats in sports stadiums and entertainment venues.

The Pergamon amphitheatre, built during the Roman era, had a particularly wide arena, giving it an advantage over other ancient cities in the vicinity such as Ephesus and Smyrna, according to Felix Pirson, director of the German Archaeological Institute (AA).

“They wanted to build a duplicate of the Colosseum here, which would be visited by people from all walks of life. People from the upper classes or influential families, on the other hand, had private seats in specific areas with their names inscribed on them,” he explained.

“Another thing that drew our attention was the fact that Latin names were written in Greek letters. We believe some Italians had a privileged spot in the Pergamon amphitheatre.”

The new discoveries, according to Pirson, will be shown in the Bergama Museum in Izmir, and excavation work in the region will be completed this year.

According to Berlin Technical University scholar Ihsan Yeneroglu, teams have discovered five private seating spaces at the Pergamon amphitheatre so far.

While studies to identify the actual size and quantity are ongoing, researchers believe the capacity might be at least 25,000 and as high as 50,000.

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