Theatre of Pompey

Theatre of Pompey


The Theatre of Pompey was a structure in
Ancient Rome built during the later part of the Roman Republican era. It was
completed in seven years, and was dedicated early in 55 BC before the
structure was fully completed. It was one of the first permanent theatres in
Rome. The building itself was a part of a multi-use complex that included a
large quadriporticus directly behind the scaenae frons. Enclosed by the large
columned porticos was an expansive garden complex of fountains and statues.
Along the stretch of covered arcade were rooms dedicated to the exposition of art
and other works collected by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus during his campaigns.
On the opposite end of the garden complex was a curia for political
meetings. The senate would often use this building along with a number of
temples and halls that satisfied the requirements for their formal meetings.
This is infamous as the place of Julius Caesar’s murder by the Liberatores of
the Roman Senate and elite. Origin
Pompey paid for this theatre to gain political popularity during his second
consulship. The theatre was inspired by Pompey’s visit in 62 BC to a Greek
theatre in Mytilene. Construction began around 61 BC and the theatre was
dedicated in 55 BC. It was the largest theatre the Romans had ever built. It
retained Pompey’s name throughout its active history of more than 600 years.
The construction of this theatre did not meet with universal approval: some
sources suggest that the building of a permament theatre met with criticism on
moral grounds. Description
The structure and connecting quadriporticus had multiple uses. The
building had the largest “Crypta” of all the Roman theatres. This area, located
behind the stage and within an enclosure, was used by patrons between
acts or productions to stroll, purchase refreshments or just to escape to the
covered porticoes from the sun or rain. The Porticus Pompei contained statues of
great artists and actors. Long arcades exhibiting collections of paintings and
sculpture as well as a large space suitable for holding public gatherings
and meetings made the facility an attraction to Romans for many reasons.
Lavish fountains were fed by water purchased from a nearby aqueduct and
stored. It is not known if the water supply would have been enough to run the
water works for more than a few hours a day, or if some other supply allowed the
fountains to run nearly nonstop. The highest point of the structure was
the Temple to Venus Victrix, Pompey’s personal deity. Some modern scholars
believe this was not mere piety, but essential in order that the structure
should not be seen as a self-promoting extravagance as well as to overcome a
moratorium on permanent theatre buildings.
The remains of the east side of the quadriporticus, and three of four
temples from an earlier period often associated with the theatre can be seen
on the Largo di Torre Argentina. The fourth temple remains largely covered by
the modern streets of Rome. This archaeological site was excavated by
order of Mussolini in the 1920s and 1930s. The scarce remains of the theatre
itself can be found off the Via di Grotta Pinta underground. Vaults from
the original theatre can be found in the cellar rooms of restaurants off this
street, as well as in the walls of the hotel Albergo Sole al Biscione. The
foundations of the theatre as well as part of the first level and cavea
remain, but are obscured, having been overbuilt and extended. Over building
throughout the centuries has resulted in the surviving ruins of the theatre’s
main structure becoming incorporated within modern structures.
During the theatre’s long history, which stretches from its dedication to
approximately 1455 AD, the structure endured several restorations due mainly
to fire. The theatre was still in use during the reign of Theoderic the Great
in the late fifth century AD. The last recorded repairs were carried out in
507–511. Following the destructive Roman-Gothic wars of 535–554 there was
no need for a large theater because the population of Rome had declined
drastically. The marble covering material was used as a building material
in order to maintain other buildings. Being located near the Tiber, the
building was also regularly flooded which caused further damage.
Nevertheless, the concrete core of the building remained standing in the 9th
century, when it was listed as a theater in a German description of the ancient
monuments of Rome. In the eleventh century the ruins were converted into
two churches and houses. However, the floor plan of the old theater was still
recognizable. Around 1150 the powerful Orsini family bought all buildings on
the site of the theater and transformed them into a large fortress. Later in the
Middle Ages the square of Campo de’ Fiori was built and the remaining parts
of the theater were quarried to supply stone for many newer buildings which
still exist in modern Rome.=Architecture=
The characteristics of Roman theatres are similar to those of the earlier
Greek theatres on which they are based. However, Roman theatres have specific
differences, such as being built upon their own foundations instead of earthen
works or a hillside and being completely enclosed on all sides.
Rome had no permanent theatres within the city walls until this one. Theaters
and amphitheatres were temporary wooden structures that could be assembled and
disassembled quickly. Attempts to build permanent stone structures were always
halted by political figures or simply did not come to full fruition.
Pompey was supposedly inspired to build his theatre from a visit to the Greek
theatre of Mytilene on Lesbos. The structure may have been a counterpart to
the Roman forum. The completion of this structure may also have prompted the
building of the Imperial Fora. Julius Caesar would come to copy Pompey’s use
of the spoils of war to illustrate and glorify his own triumphs when building
his forum which in turn would be copied by emperors. The use of public space
incorporating temple architecture for personal political ambition was taken
from Sulla and those prior to the dictator. Using religious associations
and ritual for personal glorification and political propaganda were an attempt
to project a public image. The use of concrete and stone
foundations allowed for a free standing Roman theater and amphitheater. Creating
vaulted corridors underneath the seating gave access to each section of the
auditorium and allowed access to upper levels.
The stage and scaenae frons sections of the theatre is attached directly to the
auditorium, making both a single structure enclosed all around, whereas
Greek theatres separate the two. This created acoustic issues requiring
different techniques to overcome. This architecture was the model for
nearly all future theatres of Rome and throughout the empire. Notable
structures that used a similar style are the Theatre of Marcellus and the Theatre
of Balbus, both of which can be seen on the marble plan of the city.
The entire theatre complex had multiple uses. The Temple of Venus Victrix was
located directly across from the stage. The portico contained galleries,
shrines, gardens and meeting halls. The location of the theatre is of historic
significance in large part due to the murder of Julius Caesar that took place
in the complex, located in the large Porticus of Pompey behind the stage in a
meeting hall called the Curia Pompeia. The structure, located in the far end
near the sacred area, was being used on a temporary basis for meetings of the
Senate at that time. While history records this location as
the place Caesar fell, it is often confused with other meeting spaces by
the senate. The first senate building was The Curia Hostilia, built in the 7th
century BC by Tullus Hostilius and repaired in 80 BC by Lucius Cornelius
Sulla. The Curia Julia was begun by Caesar before his death on a different
site after the first curia was destroyed by fire.
Today most of the location of the curia at the Theatre of Pompey is covered by
roadway; however, a portion of its wall near the Sacred Area was excavated under
Mussolini. In October 2012 Spanish archaeologists claimed they had
discovered the location of the concrete structure erected by Augustus over the
site of Caesar’s murder.=Associated temple complex=
In order to build the theatre as a permanent stone structure, a number of
things were done, including building outside the city walls. By dedicating
the theatre to Venus Victrix and building the temple central within the
cavea, Pompey made the structure a large shrine to his personal deity. He also
incorporated four Republican temples from an earlier period in a section
called the “Sacred Area” in what is today known as Largo di Torre Argentina.
The entire complex is built directly off the older section which directs the
structure’s layout. In this manner, the structure had a day-to-day religious
context and incorporates an older series of temples into the newer structure.
Temple A was built in the 3rd century BC, and is probably the Temple of
Juturna built by Gaius Lutatius Catulus after his victory against the
Carthaginians in 241 BC. It was later rebuilt into a church, whose apse is
still present. Temple B, a circular temple with six
columns remaining, was built by Quintus Lutatius Catulus in 101 BC to celebrate
his victory over Cimbri; it was Aedes Fortunae Huiusce Diei, a temple devoted
to the “Luck of the Current Day”. The colossal statue found during excavations
and now kept in the Capitoline Museums was the statue of the goddess herself.
Only the head, the arms, and the legs were of marble: the other parts, covered
by the dress, were of bronze. Temple C is the most ancient of the
four, dating back to the 4th or 3rd century BC, and was probably devoted to
Feronia, the ancient Italic goddess of fertility. After the fire of 80 AD, this
temple was restored, and the white and black mosaic of the inner temple cell
dates back to this restoration. Temple D is the largest of the four; it
dates back to the 2nd century BC with Late Republican restorations, and was
devoted to Lares Permarini, but only a small part of it has been excavated.
=The site today=The largest intact sections of the
theatre are found in the Palazzo della Cancelleria, which used much of the
bone-colored travertine for its exterior from the theatre. Much of what is left
today is located in cellars of the surrounding neighbourhood of hotels,
homes and restaurants. The large red and grey columns used in its courtyard are
from the porticoes of the theatre’s upper covered seating; however, they
were originally taken from the theatre to build the old Basilica of S. Lorenzo.
Pieces from the structure can be located throughout the city of Rome, including
sculpture and other archaeological finds. Located in the Campus Martius, a
dense neighbourhood of later buildings has grown in and around the area. The
entire site is now covered by later buildings and streets. However, the
shape of the theatre is still distinguishable in an aerial view. In
some locations, buildings were built directly on top of the theatre’s
original foundations from the curved seating. This has resulted in several
curved buildings and streets. Limited archaeological work on the site
has taken place over the years. Many early excavations were not documented;
however, a few have done some work to estimate the area and map out plans
based on the broken marble map that once adorned the Temple of Peace called the
Forma Urbis Romae. Luigi Canina was the first to undertake
serious research on the theatre. It was Canina who discovered the representation
of the theatre on the Forma Urbis as well as the first study of the existing
remains. His are the first re-construction drawings to be
attempted. It was on these drawings that Martin Blazeby based his recent
three-dimensional images. See also
Opera Publica Roman theatre
List of Roman theatres References
External links The Pompey Project
The Theatre of Pompey Theatrum Pompei at LacusCurtius
The Temple above Pompey’s Theatre Pompey’s Politics and the Presentation
of His Theatre-Temple Complex, 61–52 BCE theaterofpompey.com
Roma Online Guide

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *