The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

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An ancient theatre is a thousand-ton museum exhibit that invites you to have a seat and admire the same astonishing vistas that impressed an ancient audience.

The subterranean, brick-faced corridors still lead to marble-clad seats; the drainage ditch surrounding the orchestra still performs its intended function, and words spoken from the center of an ancient Greek orchestra still reverberate in an otherwise silent stone thearon.  Hamlet said, “the play’s the thing.” But when the players are long gone, the thing that remains is the theatre.

In Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, Thomas Cahill said that if history is learned, it’s learned in pieces because we only have pieces of our past to study. He continues by saying that most are tiny but when lined up, examined, and compared, they present a glimpse of what once was. Ladies and gentlemen, I present for your consideration, hundreds of very large pieces of our past – the extant ruins of Greek and Roman stone theatres. All lined up and waiting to be examined and compared.

Thomas Hines, Professor Emeritus, Department of Theatre, Whitman College.

Select A Region on the Map or Choose a Theatre from the Sidebar List

The Ancient Theatre Archive: for those unfamiliar with the project, The Ancient Theatre Archive is an Internet resource for theatre history and architecture studies – specifically, the study of European stone theatres dating from the 5th century BCE to the 5th century CE. 

Think of the online project as a digital museum of ancient Greek and Roman theatres and envision each ancient site as an exhibit. This museum of architectural antiquities spans the width and breadth of the ancient Roman Empire. A walking tour of these actual sites would require a long and arduous journey, (I know because I personally took this tour and walked that walk). The digital tour on the other hand is accessible online, it is free of charge, self-directed, and presents students with annotated visuals plus an illustrated glossary of Greek and Roman theatre terms.


The Ancient Theatre Archive 

The Ancient Theatre Archive is a non-profit, educational project, originating from Whitman College, USA. Research and publication, partially funded through grants from Whitman College, The United States Institute for Theatre TechnologyThe Benson Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Humanities.

© Thomas G. Hines, Professor Emeritus, Department of Theatre, Whitman College. All Rights Reserved. Pages may be downloaded, printed, copied, and distributed as long as they remain unchanged and The Ancient Theatre Archive is given due credit.

This website is a non-profit making organization. If some of the published images violate any copyrights, please contact us by email and they will be removed immediately.

Last Update: 11-18-2022