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Augusta Emerita: Theater


Agrippa's theater in Mérida, Spain. Photo Marco Prins.
Agrippa's theater in Mérida
Augusta Emerita: Roman city in western Spain, modern Mérida, capital of the province of Lusitania..
 
History Photos

The building inscription over the doorways of the theater of Augusta Emerita offers valuable information about the date on which it was built:

M.  Agrippa  L.F.  cos  III.  trib.  pot.  III
Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, three times consul,
in the third year of his tribunicial powers

This suggests that 16-14 BCE was the date of the monument's completion, which suggests that actual building may have started in 20 or 19. As it happens, an almost identical inscription can be read on the façade of the Pantheon in Rome.

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Theater stage. Photo Jan van Vliet.
Stage

The theater, which was -just like the adjacent amphitheater- partly dug into the slope of a hill, could accomodate about 6,000 people, who could enter the building through thirteen doors. Among the first rows was a small box that may have played a role in the imperial cult. 

The spectacular stage façade (scaenae frons) was built in 105, during the reign of the Spanish emperor Trajan. On a base of red natural stone are two tiers of Corinthian columns, made of blueish marble. The capitals and bases are made of white marble. Between them were statues of warriors and local politicians, and feities like Proserpina, Pluto, and Ceres. A third building fase can be dated to 333-335 (during the reign of Constantine I the Great). In the Middle Ages, it fell into abuse.
Stands of the theater of Augusta Emerita. Photo Marco Prins.
Stands

In the porticus post scaenam, the garden that was often behind the stage, one could find a small sanctuary that was, to judge from the find of a splendid bust of the emperor Augustus, used for the imperial cult.

Excavation of the theater was started in 1910; it has been reused for classical performances since 1933; and reconstruction began in 1964. Only the theaters of Orange, Sabratha, and Aspendus are better preserved. A satellite photo of Mérida's most impressive Roman monument can be seen here.
Bust of Augustus as high priest. Museo Nacional de Arte Romano, Mérida (Spain). Photo Marco Prins. Fresco of a hunt. Theater of Emerita Augusta. Photo Marco Prins. Fresco of a hunt. Theater of Emerita Augusta. Photo Marco Prins. Outside the theater of Augusta Emerita. Photo Marco Prins.
Bust of Augustus, found in the peristyle behind the theater Building inscription (text) Fresco of a hunt Fresco of a hunt Outside
Stage of the theater of Augusta Emerita. Photo Marco Prins. Stage of the theater of Augusta Emerita. Photo Marco Prins. Stage of the theater of Augusta Emerita. Photo Marco Prins. Entrance to stage of the theater of Augusta Emerita. Photo Marco Prins. Entrance to stage of the theater of Augusta Emerita. Photo Marco Prins.
Stage Stage Stage Entrance to the stage Entrance to the stage

History Photos
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2003
Revision: 28 April 2009
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