theater was an important center in the cultural life of Herculaneum.
In addition to dramas and comedies, political debates and even
religious rituals were also held here. In ancient times, up to 2500
people gathered here, that is, half of the entire city. The diameter
of the theater is 34 meters, of which the orchestra or Central stage
is 9 meters. The theater of Herculaneum was surrounded by two rows
of arches and columns. The upper tier had a semicircular shape and
was decorated with bronze statues of prominent citizens and members
of the Royal family, installed here as part of state propaganda.
There were also six beautiful statues of horses. Many statues were
destroyed during the eruption. However, some have been preserved
fairly well. This is how the vestal statues, Nero Drusus as a
priest, and the ugly and realistic bust of Marcus Calatorius and
Tiberius Claudius Drusus (pictured) are preserved.
The orchestra (theater stage) was faced with thick slabs of gailo Antico, of which only fragments still remain. To the right and left of the orchestra were large balconies (tribunals), probably intended for more important magistrates. They were supported by vaults and were accessed by separate staircases near the ends of the stages. A similar architecture is found in the Pompeii theater.
All the seats and stairs were made of volcanic tufa. The audience seats (cavea) are divided into six sectors, separated by seven passageways of steps that start at the orchestra and end at seven exits (vomitoria). They are separated by two parallel circumferential passages (prakashini). The lowest division of seats, ima cavea, consists of four rows of wider seats, 18 cm high and 90 cm wide. This was a place of honor, and there were band entrances that were closed by bronze gates. Here sat the most distinguished citizens of Herculaneum.
The vast majority of the audience sat on the eleven tiers immediately behind the media cavea seats of honor, with common stairs leading to their seats connected to the passageway separating ima Cavea from media Cavea. The highest part of the theater of Herculaneum was occupied by three rows of seats, known as Summa cavea.
The exterior of the Herculaneum theater was built
of tuff in the opus reticulatum architectural style. The walls are
partially faced with brick. The lower part was decorated with
superimposed rows of eighteen arches. The walls were plastered,
painted, and decorated with marble cornices. On the outer wall
behind the stage were several porticos of the Doric order, painted
red at the bottom and white at the top.
Although the theater of Herculaneum was found in 1709 today it is hidden under layers of volcanic rocks. Archaeologists are not trying to open the theatre as it is under the modern city of Ercolano. Local residents are not so easy to evict from their homes, and the lack of money does not allow the continuation of excavations and restoration. Today, the entrance to the theater is located among modern buildings. Through tunnels dug in the 18th century, you can enter and see part of the theater. Unfortunately, the first diggers got here in the 18th century and quite badly damaged the General appearance of the theater. All that they could carry with them, these brutes twisted, recaptured and simply stole for sale to the various Imperial houses of the continent. Two columns of red marble were transported to the Church of San Gennaro in Naples.