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Theatre of Pompeii
Location: Regio VIII
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
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
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."
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
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
Modern use of the Great Theater
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.