Theatre of Pompeii

 Theatre of Pompeii


Location: Regio VIII


Great Theater of PompeiiThe Great Theater of Pompeii is well preserved despite the past centuries. It was built in the 3rd century BC and for four centuries it was the main theater of Pompeii. In the second century BC it was enlarged. It could fit about 5,000 spectators, most of population of Pompeii at the time of the eruption.

During the reign of Emperor Augustus the Great Theater was enlarged. The fact that it was located on a natural hillside greatly facilitated the construction and reduced the cost of its construction. It was increased by the money of the two brothers of the inhabitants of Pompeii, Marcus Holconius Rufus and Marcus Holconius Celer. The guys did not differ modesty and ordered the architect Marcus Artorius Primus to engrave their names throughout the Theater of Pompeii. The architect was also not a bad guy. He inscribed about his contribution and, just in case, wrote his name on the stones of the Great Theater.

In ancient times, the Great Theater of Pompeii could accommodate more than five thousand spectators. The lower ranks (ima cavea) (blue) were intended for noble and wealthy citizens of Pompeii. The rest (summa cavea) (in pink) was occupied by the rest of the city. The balconies above the two side entrances were intended for priestesses. An orchestra (B) was located in front of the stairs, which could enter or exit the stage through two side aisles.

In the passage behind the scene, archaeologists found an inscription of this content: "Meth from Attela, slave of Cominia, loves Croesus. Let Venus of Pompeii smile at their hearts and may they always live in love."

Great Theater of Pompeii  Great Theater of Pompeii  Great Theater of Pompeii  Great Theater of Pompeii



The central stage of the Great Theater Pompeii was raised one meter above the level of the orchestra. This is a purely Roman trait. In the Greek theater, for example, as the book of the architect Vitruvius states (Book 5, Chapter 4 “Theater Plan”), the stage should have been raised to a height of 3.2 meters above the level of the orchestra. The likely reason for the relatively low height of the stage is that the magistrates were in the orchestra. Their appearance would be difficult if the scene were much higher. The scene itself is long and narrow, measuring approximately 40 by 5 meters.

Behind the stage, a wall was erected decorated with columns, statues and bas-reliefs. Most of this wall was destroyed during the eruption. The viewers were protected by a canvas canopy, which could have been pulled by workers in the rain or bright sunshine. The system of ropes and levers was not preserved, but there remained rings through which it was possible to stretch the temporary roof. Sometimes, during the intermission, the audience was sprayed with fragrant water.

The long narrow room (e) behind the stage was used as a dressing room. There was a door in the back. The area under the stage was divided into several parts and included a space separated by a curtain, which, like in all Roman theaters, was lowered at the beginning of the play and raised at the end.

There were several ways for viewers to access their seats. In Ima Cavea (Ima Cavea) entered from the orchestra, which could be accessed through the archways. And in Media Cavea, they came down from above through several doors leading to the Great Theater.

Most of the ancient Roman theaters were destroyed by local residents, plundering stones for the construction of new buildings. The Great Theater of Pompeii escaped this fate. Most of the theater survived due to the fact that it was hidden under the meters of lava.


Modern use of the Great Theater

Nowadays, the Great Theater of Pompeii is used for concerts, operas and the theater. In the 1950s, in order to preserve the original seats, iron frames were installed, which made it possible to leave wooden planks on them. In 2008, restoration efforts began to allow further theatrical and musical performances. After the re-opening in 2014, the performances La Puheme and Carmen by Puccini took place.