The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Alexandria (modern Alexandria, Egypt)


Modern Alexandria, Egypt

Theatre Type


Earliest Date

ca. 145-211 CE

Renovations / Excavations

GPS Coordinates

Seating Capacity

700 - 800


Cavea Width: 33 meters
Orchestra Width: 6 meters


Alexandria (modern Alexandria, Arabic: al-Iskandariyya, Egypt). Roman Odeum. Cavea width: 33m; Orchestra width: 6m; capacity: 700/800; ca. 145-211 CE.

Roman Odeum at Alexandria, Egypt:

This 4th century building must have been a landmark in its time. It continued in use for close to 300 years, falling into ruin only after the Islamic conquest. Built with a semicircular audience, it was initially intended as a small theatre for music performances (odeum). The blocks used in its construction came from some unidentified, but the grandiose ruin of earlier date. Two examples of sets made of reused architectural elements from a fine cornice are displayed on top of the auditorium. In the early 6th century AD, the building was altered in order to make it conform to new public demand. The round hall was now given a horseshoe-shaped auditorium and covered with a large dome. It was entered from the west through a tripartite vestibule that replaced the demolished stage building. Two pedestals can still be seen in this new entrance. Resting on them were two tall columns of a large arcade supporting the dome. Given the Greek graffiti praising winners in a chariot race, still to be seen in many places on the seats, the edifice must have been used for public meetings. Most probably, however, the alterations were connected with turning a small theatre into a large auditorium for purposes of the nearby academic complex.Roman Odeum In Alexandria.

From signage at Kom el-Dikka museum site.

In a park in the center of Alexandria, on the northern side of Midan el-Gumhureya is a Roman amphitheatre, the only example of this type of monument extant in Egypt. The small Odeum, dating originally from the 2nd century AD, was a roofed semi-circular theatre used for music and poetry performed on a stage paved with mosaic tiles and contained seating for more than six hundred people in thirteen tiers of white marble. The theatre was later remodeled, but destroyed during an earthquake probably in the 6th or 7th century. It was discovered during modern building work and excavated by a Polish team of archaeologists during the 1960s. More recent excavations at the site of Kom el-Dikka, which means ‘Hill of Rubble’, have revealed many remains of the Roman central city, including a bath-house, cisterns, a gymnasium and streets of the residential area. To the east of the Odeum, a large villa dating to the reign of Hadrian has been named the ‘Villa of the Birds’ because of the magnificent mosaic floor in the main room depicting various species of birds. The Villa of the Birds is one of the best-preserved examples of a large Roman residence in Egypt.
Egyptian Monuments. A detailed guide to the archaeological sites of the Nile Valley and desert areas of Egypt. accessed 12/29/2017

Alexandria Amphitheater (Kom el-Dikka)

Located in the heart of Alexandria, Kom el-Dikka is an extensive Roman theatrical and residential complex. It includes the only known Roman amphitheater in Egypt, an impressively well-preserved structure composed of thirteen terraces. This was constructed in the traditional Greek style, with a flat stage in the center on the lowest level, and raised rows that ascend in steps surrounding three-quarters of the stage. The bench-style seats are all carved out of white or gray marble except for the first row, which is of red granite. Visitors can see, if they look very closely, the remnants of Roman numerals chiseled into each row. The oldest part of the theater consisted of approximately sixteen or seventeen rows of seats, allowing for an audience of 700 to 800 people. It was eventually expanded to include exclusive “boxes” on the highest level for the upper echelons of society.

Current excavations at the edge of the site have uncovered Roman baths, lecture halls, and a small village, the centerpiece of which is the Villa of the Birds, a large house filled with beautiful mosaics. At the site is a small outdoor exhibition of Pharaonic and Greco-Roman-era objects that have been found beneath the waters of the nearby harbor.
Supreme Council of Antiquities. accessed 12/29/2017

Last Update: 01-22-2023