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Italian Theatres


By Hugh Denard



Date Visited: 13 Nov 1999

Karina's Documentation

Plan of theatre, temple, porticus complex from Teatri Greci e Romani

According to old scavi plans, temple is above and behind (i.e. to north of) cavea, perpendicular to scaenae frons and centrally aligned with porta regis. Is it, perhaps, the first such Italian theatre-temple arrangement ?
(Temple and theatre both face south.)

The curve of the cavea is visible today in the topography of the area, and echoed by later walls; Orchestra is roughly (exactly?) twice the width of the temple.

Views north west towards temple from behind later walls (correspond roughly to external wall of cavea?)

View north towards temple from 'orchestra'.

Views north showing paved areas in front of temple.

Porticus surrounds temple on three sides (as if a rectilinear version of the cavea).
Unlike Tivoli, porticus does not extend to surround theatre as well.
Karina writes: In reconstructions by Spanish team, although some sort of an enclosure.

View north-west showing spatial relationship between front of temple and porticus to west.

View north along west side of temple showing spatial relationship between temple and porticus to north.

View south west from furthest corner (NE) of porticus.

View north west from road.

Altar in front of temple.
Channel intersects temple facade, and is built into architecture: sacred stream?
Karina writes:

Sacred stream - rather a sacred grove - a sacred grove is thought to have surrounded the temples and there was one particularly important sacred tree, situated behind the temple and positioned on its axis, from which it is thought that the entire complex was planned. There was also a complicated drainage system / water supply in form of canals cut into the rock on which the sanctuary was built and water might have had some importance for the cult and the growing of the sacred grove.

View south from within temple, showing channel (left).

View west-south-west from temple (temple wall visible to right).

Road runs outside porticus towards town, but seems stopped by wall (retaining wall of cavea?)
Karina writes:

The main access to the sanctuary took place from the south eastern corner at the height of the principal altar from a road which ran parallel with the eastern side of the enclosed area and which connected to a road at the back of the sanctuary and at the front i.e. in front of the theatre. There was also a small entrance on the south western corner and two smaller entrances on each side of ceomplex into the porticus and shops. In addition there might also have been access through the portals of the theatre.

View south-south-west along road.

Renaissance Castiglione site built on top of Roman town nearby. (Is the theatre-temple complex therefore Urban or Extra-Urban?)
New scavi currently in progress strongly suggest a similar relation of theatre to town as in Tusculum - i.e. Urban - now generally accepted to be an ureban sanctuary.

Only piles of fragments around scaenae frons area (?) remain, but not in original position.

Topography suggests position of scaenae frons.

View south east from orchestra over mound suggesting location of scaenae frons.

Significance for TP
Built pre-Praeneste and Tivoli, and possible model for these (and for Pietrabbondante? Location of porticus is possible model for / influenced by Pietrabbondante's buildings to N and S of temple?)
Possibly the first such Italian theatre-temple arrangement.

Notes from Teatri Greci e Romani

Regio I, Latium et Campania


Probably a Graeco-Roman theatre. Originally extra-urban, it was urban during the Roman Empire. It is linked to a temple. Facing south.

It was probably built in the mid-2nd century B.C.

The theatre occupies the shorter southern side of a vast sacred area. In the northern part stands the so-called temple of Juno surrounded by walls with tabernae.

The semicircular cavea rested on a natural slope and was at least partly cut into the rock. Not all scholars agree that the structure is a theatre. Although some prefer to consider it a monumental flight of steps in the form of a theatre cavea, its interpretation as a theatre is now certain. This is confirmed by a number of comparisons and the opinion of the very first scholars, who were the only ones to see the monument in good condition. Visconti, who described it in 1797, saw tiers of steps and the two extremities of the scaena.

If we accept the much debated dating of the entire area as the 2nd century B.C., the monument is one of the first examples of the 'theatre-temple' complexes typical of Hellenistic-Italic architecture. Ludi scaenici are described (CIL XIV, 2794).

E.Q. VISCONTI Monumenti gabini della Villa Pinciana (2a ed), Milano 1835, pp.16-18.
R. DELBRUECK Hellenistische Bauten in Latium II, Strasbourg 1912, pp.5-7.
J.A. HANSON Roman theater-temples, Princeton 1959, pp.29-31.
G. FORNI 1970, s.v. Teatro.
A. BOETHIUS, J.B. WARD-PERKINS Etruscan and Roman Architecture Harmondsworth 1970, p.166.
C.F. GIULIANI Tibur I Roma 1970, pp.164-165.
F. COARELLI Dintornni di Roma Bari 1981, pp.169-171.
J.L. JIMENEZ, Arquistectura, en El santuario de Juno en Gabii Roma 1982, pp. 61-63, 79.

Further Literature
F. COARELLI I santuari del Lazio de eta republicana Rome 1987, p.11 ff.
M. MELIS & S.VARDARO Gabii: Storia di una citta Rome 1993.



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