A stroll at the Theatre of Marcellus, Rome

"A stroll at the Theatre of Marcellus, Rome" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Tuesday 10th January 2012

Porticus Octaviae (Portico di Ottavia), Rome, Italy

An archeological area of 10.000 square metres in the heart of the city, right by the Capitoline hill. An enchanting pedestrian area immersed in history: passing by the Porticus of Octavia, it is possible to reach the Theatre of Marcellus on foot and enjoy its grandiosity in an atmosphere of magical silence.

The Theatre of Marcellus (Latin: Theatrum Marcelli, Italian: Teatro di Marcello) is an ancient open-air theatre in Rome, Italy, built in the closing years of the Roman Republic. At the theatre, locals and visitors alike were able to watch performances of drama and song. The theatre was inaugurated in 13 b.C. by Emperor Augustus, dedicated to Marcellus, his sister Octavia's son, who died at the age of 20. (mourned by Virgil, En., VI, 860 ss.)

The theatre founded by Caesar and finished in 13-11 b.C. by Augustus who dedicated it to the memory of his nephew and dearest son-in-low Marcellus (a son of Octavia and a husband of Julia, dead at the age of 19) was cleaned and restored in its higher part in 1926-1932. The architecture of this theatre served certainly as a model for the construction of Colosseum.

Teatro di Marcello, Palazzo Orsini
Fig: Teatro di Marcello, Palazzo Orsini

The inner part after its transformation in a fortress of the Pierleoni and later, in the 13th century, of the Savelli family, was adapted by latter to a palace of the Renaissance type (architect B.Peruzzi). And the definite form and look of this building was giving to it by the Orsini in the 18th century. The theatre with the diameter of 130m could offer the seats for 15.000 spectators; he scene was destroyed in the 4th century for the needs of building material for the restoration of Ponte Cestio standing near by.

Today, the Theatre of Marcellus' ancient edifice in the rione of Sant'Angelo is among the most popular tourist spots in the city of Rome. It was Peruzzi, the famous architect who transformed this theater into a sumptuous renaissance palazzo for the noble Savelli family. This is the only surviving theater used to stage plays from ancient Rome. The curtain was made of material richly decorated with legends. The first row of seats were reserved for Senators where as the public sat in the higher rows.

A stroll at the Theatre of Marcellus, Rome
Fig: A stroll at the Theatre of Marcellus

The complex of the Porticus Octaviae (Portico di Ottavia) at the Circus Flaminius (the area which corresponds to the antique ghetto) was reconstructed by Augustus in honor of his sister Octavia on the site of the ancient Portico di Metello (27-23 BC); it was damaged by fire in 80 and was then rebuilt by Settimus Severius in 191. The Porticus Octaviae (portico of Octavia; Italian: Portico di Ottavia) is an ancient structure in Rome. In the medieval era, it was used as a fish market, which lasted up to the end of 19th century. this role is remembered by the name of the annexed church of Sant'Angelo in Pescheria (Italian: "St. Angelus in the Fish Market"). The portico, which lies in rione Sant'Angelo, represents the center of the Roman Ghetto.

Located in the Campus Martius area, between the Tiber and the Campidoglio, it is a striking example of the kinds of modification and changes of use undergone by ancient Roman monuments over the centuries. The Romans had seen in Greece how theaters with a semicircular auditorium could be built against the slope of a hill, thus avoiding the necessity of a costly building operation to provide support for the tiers of seating, and the same technique could well have been applied in Rome, which had plenty of hills. The desire to display Roman power, artistic achievement and technological skill, however, led Pompey to erect a free-standing theatre in 55 B.C. and Augustus followed his example in the theater built for his nephew and son-in-law Marcellus, predestined to be the Emperor's successor had he not died before his time.

According to sources of the time, it could hold 15,000-20,000 spectators, second in capacity only to the nearby Theatre of Pompey. Now, it is the only ancient theater remained in Rome. In the 16th century the noble family of Savelli turned it into a palace. Today when you look at the Teatro di Marcello, you can see the high arches of the ancient theatre, medieval fortified walls and the more elegant additions of Baldassare Peruzzi, who undertook the conversion to a Renaissance palazzo. The area around the theatre is still used for concerts today. The theatre is on Via del Teatro di Marcello, downhill from the Capitol, on the way to the Mouth of Truth.

Theatre of Marcellus (Teatro di Marcello)
Via del Teatro di Marcello (Via del Portico d'Ottavia)
00186, Ghetto, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Rione Ripa (Circo Massimo-Bocca Verità-Aventino) (Roma centro)
Theatre of Marcellus (Teatro di Marcello) is Shown By "Map J Zone" As "3"
Transit: Circus Maximus (900 m)
Bus: 57, 94, 95, 160, 713, 716, 717, 774, 780.
Entrance Fee: Ticket: €5.00. Max 35 people per guided tour. Free of charge: children under 6 years of age. Concessions are not available.
Telephone: +39 06 6710 3819, 066 861570, 0039 060608 every day from 9.00 to 21.00
Telephone Booking: Booking required. Tel: 06 85301755
Note: the monument can't be visited inside but it can be viewed from the outside.
http://www.zetema.it/ [For Events]

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