The Ancient Library

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On this page: Theatre (continued)



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is Greek, but the stage-buildings were altered in Roman times].

[For further details, see A. Miiller, Die Griechischen BiihnenaUerthiimer, 1886; or A. E. Haigh, The. Attic Theatre, 1889.]

(II) The Roman Theatre, In Rome, where dramatic representations, in the strict sense of the term, were not given until 240 B.C., a wooden stage was erected in the Circus for each performance, and taken down again. The place for the spectators was a space surrounded by a wooden barrier, within which the public stood and looked on in a promiscuous mass. It was not until 194 B.C. that a place was set apart for the senators nearest to the stage, but without any fixed seats; those who wanted to sit had to bring their own chairs; sometimes, by order of the Senate, sitting was forbidden. In 154 b.c. an attempt was made to build a permanent theatre with fixed seats; but it had to be pulled down by order of the Senate. In 145 b.c., on the conquest of Greece, theatres pro­vided with seats after the Greek model were erected ; these, however, were only of wood, and served for one representation alone. Such was the splendid theatre built in 58 b.c. by the sedile jEmllius Scaurus, con­taining, among other decorations, 3,000 bronze statues, and provided with 80,000 seats. The first stone theatre was built by Pompey in 55 b.c., a second one by Cornelius Balbus, 13 b.c., and in the same year, the one dedicated by Augustus to his nephew Marcellus, and called by his name, the ruins of which still exist (fig. 4). The first of these contained 17,500, the second 11,510, and the third 20,000 seats. Besides these, there were no other stone theatres in Rome; wooden theatres continued to be erected under the Empire.

The Roman theatre differed from the Greek. In the first place, the auditorium (cdvfa), which was divided in the same way as in the Greek by horizontal passages and by stairs (only into an uneven number of divisions), formed a semicircle only, with the front wall of the stage-building as its diameter, whilst in the Greek it was larger than a semicircle. Again, a covered colonnade ran round the highest story of the Roman theatre, the roof of which was of the same height as the highest part of the stage. The orchestra, moreover, which


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was enclosed by the cavea, contained places for spectators; these were, at first, reserved exclusively for the senators; foreign am­bassadors whom it was wished to honour were afterwards admitted to them. The most distinguished places were the two balconies over the entrances to the orchestra, on the right and left side of the stage; in one of these sat the giver of the entertain­ment and the emperor, in the other the empress and the Vestal Virgins. Places of dignity were also assigned to magistrates and priests, probably on the podium, or the space in front of the lowest row of seats, where there was room for a few rows of chairs. The first fourteen rows of the ordinary seats were, after 68 b.c., appro­priated to the {quites / after them came the general body of citizens, who were probably

arranged in the order of their tribes ; in the upper part of the cavea were the women, who sat apart, in accordance with a decree of Augustus (they had formerly sat with the men); the lowest classes were relegated


(Denoting row 12, in the block named after ^Egchylua; Overbeck, Pompeii, p. 150, ed. 1876.)

to the highest tiers. Even children were admitted, only slaves being excluded. Admission was free, as was the case with all entertainments intended for the people.

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