Tell ‘Omar, 13 metres high and measuring 94x79m at its base, is the most important tell in Seleucia. It is located at the site’s northern limit, north of a vast rectangular agora overlooked by the Archives and the stoa. This is a difficult monument to interpret, characterized by a complex stratigraphical buildup. The excavations, which began in 1964 and were interrupted in 1970, concerned the northwestern part of the tell and highlighted three main architectural phases. The investigation was also extended to the area immediately at the foot of the tell, where Parthian and Seleucid structures were identified.
The basal levels at the foot of the tell, reached only in part due to the overlapping structures that were added subsequently, include a large courtyard and parts of several rectangular rooms. These remains, the oldest reached so far, are probably ascribable to the Seleucid period. It is likely that the massive unbaked brick structures that make up the northern side of the tell may also be ascribed to the same period. The morphological characteristics of the tell, which has a circularoid shape, allowed an interpretative hypothesis to be advanced on the Seleucid structure’s function as a theatre (Invernizzi, 1994a). Therefore, the massive solid walls would make up the imposing substruction of the cavea. The tell’s peculiar position also fits with this hypothesis, as it overlooks the city’s main agora, as is often the case with theatres in Hellenistic cities.
The theatre underwent several modifications and was probably used up to the late Parthian period. In fact, the most superficial remains of the great substructions of the cavea, which also include practicable areas, seem to belong to this period. The state of conservation of the walls towards the centre of the tell hints at the cavea’s now-disappeared terraces, which could be reached by lateral stairs such as those whose traces remain in the southwest part of the construction.
Some of the rooms that made up the substructions were distinguished by a special formal treatment, because their walls were plastered in blue or in pink, as attested by the now scarce traces of colour found during the excavation. Moreover, low podiums or plinths, which seem to suggest the rooms’ ceremonial usage (probably of a religious nature, as two large terracotta statuettes depicting a seated divine youth were found there) were placed inside them. A considerable part of this building was englobed in the substructions of the subsequent Sasanian phase.
The imposing theatre construction likely fell into ruin at the end of the Parthian period, but it was not demolished; its remains were recovered at the end of the Sasanian period, and the theatre’s purpose and architectural layout changed radically. In fact, at the centre of the tell, in correspondence of the theatre’s orchestra, a massive unbaked brick tower was built, using bricks that were larger than those used in previous periods. The tower was traversed by small gutters, which presumably served the purpose of facilitating the drying of the mortar in the inner core, and was surrounded by a very thick elliptical unbaked brick wall that was partly built over the remains of the previous structures. The space between the inner tower and this containing wall was filled with debris and, in the top part, with alternating layers of sand and reeds. A small treasure of 190 silver coins of Khosraw II (590-627 A.D.), deposited in a small jar in a ditch in front of the elliptical containing wall, provides a chronological reference for the end of the imposing construction.