The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Brixia (modern Brescia, Italy)


Modern Brescia, Mainland Italy

Theatre Type

Roman Theatre

Earliest Date

Augustus (late 1st century BCE – 1st century CE)

Renovations / Excavations

Severan renovaitons in the 3rd. cent. CE.; theatre in use until 1000 / 1173 CE; Palazzo Maggi Gambara built over the left side of the scaenae frons and stage in the 14th cent. CE.

GPS Coordinates

Seating Capacity



Cavea Width: 88 meters
Orchestra Width: 46 meters


Brixia (modern Brescia, Italy). Roman Theatre. Imposing remains of outer cavea walls; parts of stage area visible; still partly covered by later buildings. Cavea width: 90 m with ima, media, and suma levels, orchestra width: 49 m; 3-story scaenae frons (now gone) with entrances for actors; stone supports for 49 m. wide stage; capacity: 15,000; 27 BCE / 14 CE with major enlargement by Vespasianus in 73 CE; remodeled under the Severan emperors of the 3rd cent. CE.

Brixia, Roman Theatre (from Brixia Museum Signage)

The building used for theatrical performances in ancient Brixia was constructed on the slope of Cidneo Hill near the Capitolium and the Forum, easily accessible from the Decumanus maximus. The building itself dates from the time of Augustus (late 1st century BCE – early 1st century CE) and over the years was enlarged and improved, the architectural decoration of the stage building was renovated in the 2nd/3rd century AD.

The auditorium or cavea was formed of robust semicircular tunnels which served as foundations for the overlying stepped seating, although to the north the uppermost walls stand directly on the underlying rock of the hill. An arrangement of staircases rising from the curved underground passageways allowed theatregoers to make their way from the entrances to the three sections of the cavea (lower, middle and upper, known respectively as ima, media and summa).

The theatre stage back wall closed off the auditorium to the south. It was as high as the uppermost tier of seating (about 30 meters) and composed of three stories, with architectural ornamentation in polychrome marbles (columns with capitals, arches, pediments and niches). There were three apertures allowing stage entrance for actors: the valva regia for the protagonist and two lateral doors or hospitales. In front of the stage building was the stage itself, of which survive two parallel lines of small stone pillars that would have supported the stage floor of wooden planking.

The theatre remained in use until the late Roman period (late 4th -early 5th century CE). In the 11th/12th century the stage building collapsed, probably because of an earthquake, and the structure was exploited as source of stone for construction work. Its use is recorded as court for public hearings in the 12th century, but the ruins were soon covered by earth that slid down from the hillside behind. In the 13th century building work was started in the area – then property of the aristocratic Maggi family – on the construction of the mansion that still today stands on some of the ruins of the Roman theatre.

Brixia Archeological Site Signage, accessed 4/28/2015


The Roman theatre at Colonia Civica Augusta Brixia. Corvinus. Author: Laurens Dragstra Assessed 6/15/2022

Colonia Civica Augusta Brixia had a theatre as early as the Augustan age (27 BCE – 14 CE). However, the immense theatre that stood directly east of the Capitolium must be attributed to Vespasianus, who had it built in 73 as part of his forum project. It has been estimated that it could accommodate about 15.000 spectators, which makes it one of the largest in Northern Italy. The theatre was remodeled under the Severan emperors of the third century and was used for large public assemblies until well after the year 1000 – according to one source until 1076, according to another until 1173. Fairly large chunks of the seating section of the theatre, the cavea, have been preserved, but the permanent background, the scaenae frons, is completely gone. In the fourteenth century, the nice-looking Palazzo Maggi Gambara was built over the left side of the scaenae frons and the stage. If we study the right side of the building, we will see how elements from the Roman theatre were incorporated into the foundations of the palazzo.

For the full article see: Assessed 6/15/2022.

Last Update: 12-09-2022