Greek:400 BCE, Roman: 1st C. CE.
Renovations / Excavations
Rebuilt in 2 phases: (Augustan, Flavian); remodeled in Hadrianic period with passages under cavea; scaenae frons redecorated in early 3rd century CE. Excavations of the theatre began in the 18th century under the supervision of the Prince of Biscari. The work was continued in the 20th century (1950 – 1970) revealing remnants of the Roman cavea, ambulatory, and orchestra. Portions of the theatre remain buried beneath modern Catania but expropriations in 1991 resulted in the acquisition of all the buildings on the east side of the theatre allowing for a more clear picture of the ancient remains.
Cavea Width: 82 meters
Orchestra Width: 24 meters
Catana/Katane (modern Catania, Sicily, Italy) Greek Theatre converted into Roman Theatre. Cavea width: 87 m; imma 23 rows in 9 cunei; media 10 rows in 9 cunei; summa 5 rows in 8/10 cunei; orchestra width: 29 m; capacity: 7,500 (TH); Earliest date: Greek:400 BCE, Roman: 1st C. CE.
Catana / Katane Roman Theatre (modern Catania, Sicily, Italy).
The theatre ruins in modern Catania may be Roman, but the site was used hundreds of years earlier by the Greeks to build their theatre. The remains of this earlier Hellenistic theatre are long gone; the excavated ruins we see today are the result of 400 years of Roman renovations, earthquake damage, and successive waves of non-theatre-related constructions.
Catania is the ancient site of the Hellenistic colony of Katane, founded in 729-728 BCE by Chalcidian Greeks. The original Greek theatre was built sometime in the 5th century BCE. Rome renamed the city Catana when they occupied the city in 263 BCE. The earliest date for the first Roman remodel of the theatre is debated but consensus has it during the Augustan, Flavian period in the late 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE. Successive Roman alterations in the 2nd century CE and as late as the 4th century further erased any vestiges of the Hellenistic theatre that once sat on the southern slope of the Montevergine Hill.
Unlike other ancient theatre sites in Sicily, the theatre at present-day Catania was buried beneath additional layers of successive building projects for centuries following the fall of Rome. Today it lies exposed, for the most part, amidst successive building projects that followed a history of massive earthquakes including a catastrophic quake in 1169 that destroyed most of the city and another even more devastating earthquake in 1669. Following each event, the city was rebuilt and with each reconstruction, the Roman theatre was buried further beneath the necessary building projects.
Excavations of the theatre began in the 18th century under the supervision of the Prince of Biscari. The work was continued in the 20th century (1950 – 1970) revealing remnants of the Roman cavea, ambulatory, and orchestra. Portions of the theatre remain buried beneath modern Catania but expropriations in 1991 resulted in the acquisition of all the buildings on the east side of the theatre allowing for a more clear picture of the ancient remains. (T. Hines)
Description of the Theatre (Reproduced from: Sear, Frank. Roman Theatres: An Architectural Study. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
CATANA/KATANE (Catania, CT)
Location: theatre and odeum built side by side on a steep slope in centre of town.
Cavea: D 87 (Pensabene), 97 m (Mitens), 102 m (Coarelli), facing south; ima cavea: 23 rows (12 lowest rows separated by very narrow praecinctio from upper 11 rows), in 9 cunei; praecinctio at top of ima (W 1.1 m); media: 10 rows in 9 cunei, separated by praecinctio (W 2.80 m) with podium (H 5 m) from summa, 5 rows in 8 or 10 cunei; flat platform in middle of summa (W c.6 m), ?for temple. Built of black basalt with white marble seats and black lava for dividing staircases.
Substructures: rests against hillside, built of opus vittatum; annular passage (W 2.60, H 3.50 m) under upper part of ima cavea, with 4 vomitoria to narrow praecinctio in middle of ima cavea; another (W 2.30, H 4.5 m) under media cavea, with 3 (or more?) vomitoria to praecinctio at top of ima cavea. Around top of building barrel-vaulted crypta (W c.4 m, H 6.5 m) supporting summa cavea, accessible from pair of double staircases built against outer wall of building; 16 radial staircases run from crypta; 8 to praecinctio at top of media cavea; 8 to lower annular passages; radial staircase emerges from lowest annular passage at orchestra level in middle of central cuneus; at each end of it a radial corridor emerges, apparently at orchestra level, in middle of each end cuneus. Tribunal: east tribunal uncovered.
Orchestra: D29 m, paved in marble. Kolymbethra: orchestra later transformed into kolymbethra. Proscaenium: alternately curved and rectangular niches.
Scaenae frons: regia enclosed in ?large rectangular niche; hospitalia in curved niches; columnatio: H 22.65 m, 3 storeys, 2-storey giant order in front of regia (Pensabene); white marble column base found in situ; matches another found in 18th-cent. excavations of Serradifalco; parts of columnatio found in old excavations revealed columns of grey granite, africano, and breccia. Decoration: statues of Hercules, Apollo, two Muses, ?Roma, base with dolphins in relief, relief of Hercules, and gigantomachy frieze; recent excavations revealed frieze with five lictors in procession and related fragment, perhaps showing a general.
Remains: well-preserved cavea; scene building being excavated (in 1996). Date: ? 5th cent. bc. (reused limestone blocks and an older wall under present cavea); rebuilt in two phases (Augustan, Flavian) visible at points under later cavea; remodelled in Hadrianic period with passages under cavea (Wilson); scaenae frons redecorated early 3rd cent. ad.
Inscriptions: G. Manganaro, Epigraphica, 51 (1989), 173, fig. 48; 176, fig. 55.
Literature: Thucydides (6. 51) and Diodorus (13. 4. 4) tell story of Alcibiades holding an assembly in Catane; do not specify which building it was held in. Frontinus (Strateg. 3. 2. 6) sets his version of story in Agrigento and says assembly held in theatre.
Bibliography: Paternò Castello, Viagg. Sicilia, 29–30. Houel, Voy.Sicilie, 2. 137–9, pl. cxxxix, and 140–1, pl. cxl. Serradifalco, Ant. Sicilia, 5. 12–18, pls. i–v. Goldicutt, Antiquities, pl. 29. A. Holm, Catania Antica (Catania, 1925), 42–5. G. M. Bacci, Kokalos, 26–7 (1980–1), 746–8; E. Frézouls, ANRW 2. 12. 1 (1982), 378–9. F. Giudice, in Enciclopedia di Catania, 2 (c.1982), 310–12. Coarelli, Sicilia, 329–30. R. J. A. Wilson, ANRW 2. 11. 1 (1988), 125–7. Belvedere, ‘Opere pubbliche’, 364–6. Mitens, Teatri Greci, 100–3. Wilson, Sicily, 63–70. Di Grazia, Rilievo, 80–1. P. Pensabene, Rend. Pont. Ac. 69 (1996–7), 53–74.