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Bill Thayer

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Roman Theatres


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The Roman theatre of Volterra.

Now before we start, repeat after me: a theatre and an amphitheatre are different types of buildings.

A theatre is a space with a stage, and the audience is on one side of it. People need to hear, so a theatre is relatively small.

Amphi-theatres, however, are "theatres in the round": amphi- means "around" in Greek. An amphitheatre is for action: it's a sports arena, where the spectators sit around the field. They need to see, but they don't really need to hear, so an amphitheatre can be much larger.

Theatres look like this: but amphi-theatres look like this:

[image ALT: A plan of a smaller semicircular structure.]
		
[image ALT: A plan of a large oval structure.]
This site is about theatres. For Roman amphitheatres, go here.

A careful site is slowly on its way, but for now, in addition to the few basically photo items below, and without any frills, here are the 2 most useful items:

  1. The more important is Book V of Vitruvius' de Architectura, over half of which is about theatres: how to build them, how to site them, their acoustics, the attached porticos. Some of this text is very tedious, and the rest is fascinating.

  2. Also useful is the general article on theaters in William Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1875), including a large plan of the Roman theater, and another of the Greek, to which I hope to add a few photographs of mine at some point. The entry is a compendium covering the building, the machinery and the performances; touching on the social aspects of the theater; and giving the primary sources.



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IGUVIUM (Gubbio)
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1 page, 5 images ]

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CARSULAE
[
7/18/98: 1 placeholder ]

[image ALT: A Roman theater repaired with reinforced concrete, and with iron railings along the aisles up; surrounded by a church and a two-story cloister.]
SPOLETIUM (Spoleto)
[
1 page, 3 photos ]

[image ALT: A straight line of stones on a barren hill was once the front of a Roman theater stage, but it definitely takes imagination.]
ZILIS (Dchar Jdid)
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1 page, 1 photo ]


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Site updated: 9 May 01