Theater of Marcellus

Theater of Marcellus


The Theater of Marcellus was built in 13 BC by Emperor Augustus. It was the largest theater in ancient Rome. After Julius Caesar defeated Pompeii in the struggle for control over Rome, he wanted to build a theater rivaling the Pompeii Theater which Caesar’s enemy had built in 55 BC. After Caesar was killed in 44 BC, the project was restarted by Augustus known as the emperor who turned Rome from the city of brick into the city of marble.

The theater was the largest in the Roman Empire and was named after Marcellus, the son of Augustus’s sister Octavia. The building was completed in 11 BC the semi­circular theater was more than 30 meters high. It could accommodate more than 14000 spectators.

Three levels of the theatre

Theater of MarcellusThe design of the theater with its multiple levels of arches was a model for Colosseum built decades later. The three levels of the theater had different architectural styles. The first one consisted of fifty two open arches supported by columns in the Doric Order. The second level had arches with Ionic columns while the third one consisted of a closed wall with pilasters in the Corinthian order. The structure was mainly built of tufa, cement and brickwork.

In the twelfth century the Theater of Marcellus was owned by the Fabii family who made a fortress out of theater. In 1368 the building was acquired by the Savelli family who asked architect Baldassare Peruzi to transform it into a fortified palace. In the seventeenth century the palace fell into the hands of the Orsini. As a result of all the modifications that were made over the centuries, only a section of the first two levels of the original theater are still visible today.


Location: Via del Teatro di Marcello, Rome

Nearby sights: Porticus of Octavia, Tiber Island, Capitoline Hill

Nearby hotels: Little Queen, Portico D’Ottavia Luxury & Home Philosophy, Kame Hall

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