The ancient theater of Philippi is a very important monument, located on the southeastern hillside of the acropolis leaning against the eastern city wall. Its initial phase is dated in the reign of the King of Macedonia Philip II (middle of the 4th c. BC). The Roman colonizers continued to use the Hellenistic theater but they remodeled it in order to be adapted to the new spectacles of the Roman society and to receive a multitude of spectators from the city and the towns of the colony.
During the 2nd century AD the theater acquired a typically Roman form; it included a majestic three-story stage building, an orchestra paved with marble slabs and a koilon that was extended above the parodoi, covered with vaulted structures. The south portico of the stage building, which bears relief plaques with representations referring to Dionysos (maenads and others) on the pillar fronts is preserved.
During the 3rd century AD the theater was transformed into an arena for animal fights. The proscenium was demolished, the first rows of seats were removed from the koilon and a wall was built with a fence for the protection of the spectators from the wild animals, which were kept in a large underground space at the southern end of the orchestra. The epitheater must have been constructed during this period. This was a vaulted structure at the topmost part of the koilon, which contained additional rows of benches and increased the capacity of the theater.
The two arches used for bracing the theater against neighboring city-wall were probably constructed during the Late Roman times (end of the 3rd/beginning of the 4th c. AD).
During the Early Christian period (5th-6th c. AD) the performances at the theater of Philippi ceased. Its abandonment is probably connected to the prevalence of Christianity and the new morals that were not congruent with the animal fights or theatrical performances. The portico at the back of the stage building was remodeled into an area of workshops. The great earthquake that destroyed the city of Philippi at the beginning of the 7th century AD probably caused the destruction of the stage-building by fire. From then onwards the theater was systemically demolished, so that its members could be used as construction material for the creation of new buildings.
In the early Byzantine period the area southeast of the theater housed workshops. Finally, during the Turkish occupation the cobblestone road that connected Kavala and Drama until the beginning of the 20th century and crossed the archaeological site of Philippi, passed in front of the theater.
The first sources of information found today about the theater are provided by European travelers who started visiting the area from the middle of the 16th century onwards. The systematic excavations of the theater started in 1921-1927 by the French School of Archaeology at Athens and continued at the end of 1950s by the department of Archaeology. During this period the theater was altered in a quick and slipshod fashion in order to host the Festival of Philippi and Thasos. The 18th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in Kavala resumed the excavations in 1974 and since 1993 it co-operated with the Department of Architecture of the Aristotelian University of Thessalonica in a project including excavations and studies of conservation, repair and restoration of the orchestra, parade, stage building and retaining walls of the theater; which were completed in 2009 with the financing from the Management Fund for Archaeological Projects Execution and from the Second and Third Community Support Framework (B & C CSF).