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Italian Theatres


By Hugh Denard




Date visited: 11 Nov 1999

Karina's Documentation [DOC]

Urban theatre, facing west.

Plan from Teatri Greci e Romani



Theatre and quadriporticus to rear date from first half of 1st century B.C. (pre-TP).
Quadriporticus with interior colonnade from rear of post-scaenam to forum.  (Originally a quadriporticus, later used as a forum).

Scaenae Frons
Ionic and Corinthian, rectilinear scaenae frons, 3 entrances.
Under aedes (in fossa scaenicum) are several 'post-holes' (1 converted into a well).  Possible under-scaenae frons service / storage passages?
Stage c. 1.5 m. high?
Statues of mythological figures in scaenae frons: Orestes, Pylades, Telemachos, Telegonos and Diphylos (CIL XIV, 2947, 2651): mythological origins of town, and poet.

Ramps down into orchestra (north parodos stone ramp is extant).

View south-east from scaenae frons, showing paved parodos (left).

5 kerkides (cavea is 'much restored')

Cavea has porticus summa cavea (similar to Ostia).

View south-east showing cavea.

Road from acropolis to town runs under north section of porticus summa cavea. (cf. TP ingressi through substructure?)

View west along road under porticus summa cavea.  Note beginnings of archway (left) consistent with curve of cavea/portucus, at tangent to road.

Related structures
Above cavea, but slightly off east-west axis, v. large water-related structure (cisterns / fountain?)  Dimensions are similar to temple.  Height above ground? Visible above porticus summa cavea?

At opposite end of quadriporticus to theatre, west, according to Canina is a porticus / chamber (possible model for location of curia in TP?)

Small chamber to rear of post-scaenam to one side of porta regia: Canina shows 2nd symmetrical chamber, but we see road paving there.  See scavi notes.
(Visible: large stone fragment, but else Julio-Claudian brick.)

Question: proportions of cavea vis-a-vis quadriporticus?  (relation to TP's proportions?)
Karina comments:

Most important to sort out is the diversity of alignments which can be observed between the theatre and the 'plaza.'

Construction of theatre affected by a pre-existing urban reality - the 'plaze' original, earlier than theatre, different pavement obliquamente respetto all'asse del teatro, i.e. pavement different date than theatre, earlier, at a time later on (Augustan, I think) they tried to unify them, theatre + plaza (new pavement) to be further checked.  Connection theatre and plaze already there at an early time, but was it really thought to be like that, later on with new pavement could that be some sort of inspiration from Rome.

In a lot of cases in general it seems that a lot of things happened outside Rome, but that when 'bought' to Rome, it was completed, taken over, further developed and made into a 'total structure' a complete form.  Is this what is happening here?

Notes from Teatri Greci e Romani

Regio I, Latium et Campania


Roman theatre in the built-up area behind the forum square.  Facing west.

It dates to the first half of the 1st century B.C.  The monument was discovered at the start of the last century during excavations carried out by Luciano Bonaparte and later surveyed by Luigi Canina (1839-40).  The modern wall enclosing the cavea bears a marble inscription commemorating the visit paid on 7 October 1839 to Queen Maria Cristina of Sardinia by Pope Gregory XVI.

The cavea rests on the ground to the rear.  It had a lower maenianum divided by small flights of steps into four cunei.  There was also an upper maenianum with a tier of steps divided into three cunei crowned by a Corinthian portico, traces of which were found during excavations.  A parapet divides the cavea from the semicircular orchestra, which could be reached from the lateral parodoi covered by the tribunalia reserved for important spectators.

The rectangular scaena still features part of the frons with the porta regia in the centre and the hospitales at the sides.  The elevatoin, which was probably built in plastered peperino, had a double ionic and Corinthian order.  It contained statues on pedestals portraying mythical figures linked to the town's origins: Orestes, Pylades, Telemachos, Telegonos and the poet Diphylos (CIL XIV, 2947, 2651).  The frontage of the pulpitum has two cavities, which probably served an acoustic function to produce an echo and were connected by a channel used to raise and lower the aulaeum.

State of preservation:
it is in fairly good condition.  The cavea's lower maenianum, orchestra, lateral vomitoria, pulpitum and the lower part of the scaena are preserved.

diameter of the cavea: 46 m.
diameter of the orchestra: 15 m.
height of the cavea: 11 m. (L. Canina's reconstruction)
width of the scaena: 37 m. (L. Canina's reconstruction)

Original capacity:
1,500 seats.

Current utilisation:
it has been used in the past for theatrical performances.

Current capacity:
800 seats.

L.CANINA, Descrizione dell'antico Tuscolo, Roma 1841
D. SEGHETTI, Tusculo e Frascati, Roma 1891
E. GROSSI GONDI, Il Tusculano nell'eta classical, Roma 1908
G.E.CRACKEN, The sources for the study of Tusculum (A bibliography) Research publication of Lafayette College, 32, Pennsylvania, 1929.
M.BORDA, Tusculo, Roma 1958.
G.FORNI, 1970, s.v. Teatro.
F. COARELLI, Dintorni di Roma, Bari 1981, pp.66, 67, 115 ff.
M. FUCHS 1987, p.48
C. COURTOIS 1989, p.86-88.


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