Реферат: How Were The Greek And Roman Theaters

How Were The Greek And Roman Theaters Designed? Essay, Research Paper

How Were The Greek and Roman Theaters Designed?


The designs of theatres during the last five-hundred centuries b.c.

varied in many ways of construction and design. The technical advances in

acoustics and construction were enormous. The placement of the seating and

construction of the stage and even sizes of the theatres varied from theatre to

theatre. They varied from open-air to roofed, both columned and free-spanned

roofs. The versatility of uses of these auditoriums varied from holding sports

events to speakers and plays.

Some of the main architectural points of a theatre were the pit or

orchestra, cavea, skene, stage, and the parodoi. The pit or orchestra was

usually a circle marked out by a stone perimeter directly in front of the stage

for spectators to use. The cavea was the seating which was usually a range of

steps or terraces for the spectators to view the performance from. Generally,

the natural slope of the hill was used and the pit was located at the bottom of

the hill. The skene was a stage, dressing room, and usually a backdrop all in

one, it was generally a building built of stone immediately behind the stage

that extended to both sides of the stage with two to three doors in it to

provide access to the stage. The parodoi were ramps that lead from the pit to

the outside the theatre to provide access to the spectators (Molinari, 57).

The book written by Picard and Cambridge entitled Theatre of Dionysus in

Athens describes the theatre as an open-air theatre that was built into a

hillside as many of the theatres of that time were. It was cut into the slope

of the hill and used the natural slope of the hill to terrace the seating area.

The Dionysus used wooden benches which were very practical because of the ease

of construction and they were mobile. The orchestra was surrounded on the

audience side by a stone terrace. It was approximately eighty-five to eighty-

eight feet in diameter which was normal for that time period. The alter was

placed in the center of the terrace which made it a perfect location for

speakers and it could be removed for plays. During the early years of this

theatre there were no stage buildings. The buildings would be erected for each

particular event, perhaps a backdrop of wood or canvas and a dressing room that

is a tent or hut. The stage sets for the plays did not require extensive

backdrops and so backdrops were not a problem. The theatre was eventually

renamed Pericles and was renovated in which the orchestra was moved farther

north and the seats were backed up by a steeper slope. This gave the stage more

room for backdrops and sets as was demanded by the plays of Sophocles. The

terrace and supporting walls were also redone to accommodate the steeper slope

and they remained as such for the remainder of the theatre’s life. The long

hall was constructed behind the stage and underneath the hall a drainage system

was constructed to drain the orchestra of water. The drainage system was a

channel approximately two feet wide which was connected to the channel that ran

around the outside of the orchestra. The theatre was again remodeled during the

fourth century B.C. and renamed Lycurgus. In this renovation the wooden seating

was replaced with a stone auditorium. The theatre was remodeled and renamed to

the Hellenistic Theatre in the second or first century B.C. During this time

the scene was built, it was two stories with two or three doors and a few

columns with wooden panels between them where paintings were placed during plays

to serve as a backdrop. The theatre stayed in this form until it’s demise (5-


In Izenours book on roofed theatres he states that the design and

building of roofed theatres originated with the columned hall. The Telestrion

or Hall of Mysteries was one of the first columned halls. The exterior walls

were laid of stone that were penetrated by windows to provide both lighting and

ventilation. The columns and cross braces for the roof were made almost

exclusively of timber. The maximum span between columns was twenty-four feet

from center to center to accommodate the timber braces. The roof probably had a

high opaion with three bays on each side for center lighting. The building most

likely sighted three to four thousand people but there were problems with sight

lines to the stage in the center of the room. The large columns obstructed

about sixty percent of the viewing area (21-29).

Izenour also wrote that the Odeum of Pericles at Athens was cut into a

hillside with three heavy retaining walls on the sides. The seats in this

theatre were probably wood and could therefore be moved to accommodate the event

taking place. The interior was flat floored with a raised stage and probably

some risered seating. The roof was most likely double hipped judging from the

lack of engaged piers in the sidewalls which were essential for supporting

rafters. The maximum column span was probably twenty-four feet to accommodate

the roof supports. There is no permanent evidence of windows so there placement

could be any body’s guess. Seating capacity was about three to four thousand

with a little better sight lines that allowed about sixty percent of the

audience able to see the stage (30-32).

The Thersilion at Megalopolis described by Izenour as being the first

large hall of classical antiquity. From the outside this hall resembled the two

columned hall previously described, but on the inside there were many

differences. Once inside everything but the forest of columns was different.

The floor was sloped towards a flat off-centered area that was square with

columns at all four corners. There was a tremendous improvement in sight lines

due to the stage being off-centered and having the sloped floor. The columns

were also placed in successive concentric rows, one behind the other. The

seating was probably fabricated of wood, provided that there was any. The roof

was made of wood and supported by columns with a high opaion over the stage.

Although the theatre could fit ten thousand people while standing only one-third

to one half would have been able to see the speaker but that still leaves five

thousand that could (36-38).

Izenour states that the clear-spanned auditorium came about in about

three hundred b.c. This innovation came about because of the problems with

sight lines in the theatres. The Eccleesiasterion at Priene was completed about

two hundred b.c. and seated about six to seven hundred people on a steep, three

sided, rectangular stone radius. There were six huge timber trusses that

supported a gabled roof. There still columns but the number of them was reduced

greatly. There were also windows in the side walls but none in the roof. The

sidewalls were made of stone with two of them adjoining the theatre to two other


There were great advancements made in the building and design of

theatres in the five hundred years b.c. There were also as many similarities as

differences in the theatres built then. Many great playwrights had their

productions performed in these theatres and many great speakers spoke in them

and so they are a massive part of our history. Even though we don’t know fully

what the designers had in mind when they built these theatres, we do know that

they learned from their mistakes which has helped designers build better

buildings since their time.


Cheney Sheldon. The Theatre: Three Thousand Years of Drama, Acting, and

Stagecraft. New York. David McKay Co. 1958.

Izenour, George C. Roofed Theatres of Classical Antiquity. New Haven. Yale

University Press. 1992.

Molinari, Cesare. Theatre Throughout the Ages. New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co.


Pickard, A.W. and Cambridge. The Theatre of Dionysus in Athens. London. Oxford

University Press. 1956.

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