Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other

Syracuse: Theater


Theater of Siracusa (Italy). Photo Marco Prins. Syracuse: the ancient capital of Sicily
 
History Texts Photos

The theater of Syracuse (satellite photo), which is about 138 meters wide and one of the largests theaters in the Greek world, dates back to the reign of Hiero I, who was tyrant of Syracuse from 478 to 467. The architect's name was Democopus. In this theater, Aeschylus' Persians were staged for the first time.

Theater of Siracusa (Italy). Photo Marco Prins.
The theater was expanded by Timoleon and king Hiero II, who increased the number of rows to 67. The seats were divived into nine "wedges" named after a member of the third-century royal family or some deity. All in all, the theater had a capacity of about 20,000 people. (About 21 rows were removed when a sixteenth-century Spanish governor of Sicily needed stones to build new defenses.) In the Roman age, the theater was probably used for gladiatorial contests. For this purpse, the stage and orchestra were changed.

At the top of the theater were two porticoes and an artificial grotto with an arched ceiling and eight niches. There is some water flowing through it. This was the Nymphaeum, which was used for religious festivals.
Theater of Siracusa (Italy). Photo Marco Prins.

Several inscriptions refer to members of the royal dynasty that was in charge of Syracuse in the third century BCE, and appear to be the names of the wedges into which the theater was divided. They can still be read: βασιλεος ῾Ιηρωνος (of king Hiero), Διος Ολυμπιου (of the Olympian Zeus), βασιλισσας Φιλιστιδος (of queen Philistides), βασιλισσας Νηρηιδος (of queen Nereis).
History Texts Photos
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2008
Revision: 30 January 2008
Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other