The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Tauromenium (modern Taormina, Sicily, Italy)


Modern Taormina, Sicily, Italy

Theatre Type

Greek / Roman Theatre

Earliest Date


Renovations / Excavations

Greek theatre renovated by Romans (Trajanic/Hadrianic period, (98 to 138 CE). Major Roman remodel: summa cavea was incorporated into the porticus. Access to the summa cavea was through doorways in the back wall of the arcaded ambulacrum encircling the top of the cavea.; summa cavea above crypta; brick-faced scene building with basilicas; seating recut. Theatre converted into Roman arena in 2nd/early 3rd cent. CE: orchestra enlarged to form arena including corridors and podia around arena; underground chamber dug into center of arena or staging equipment and animal cages; audience entrances relocated to upper cavea.

Seating Capacity

8,900 - 11,150


Cavea Width: 109 meters
Orchestra Width: 28 meters


Tauromenium (Greek Ταυρομένιον), (modern Taormina, Italy). Origin: Greek theatre, remodeled as Roman theatre, remodeled as Roman arena. Cavea: D109 m, facing south-south-west; ima cavea: 18 rows of seats (0.71 m deep) in 9 cunei; separated by praecinctio from media, 20 rows in 9 cunei; separated by praecinctio with podium (H 2.60 m) from summa, ?5 rows. Orchestra: D c.28 m; arena: D 34 m, surrounded by podium H 2.55–2.65 m, W 2.25); capacity: 8,900/11,150; ca. 265-215 BCE.

The Theatre at Taormina (Latin: Tauromenium), Sicily, Italy: The original Greek theatre at Taormina (Greek Ταυρομένιον) was carved directly into the living rock of Mount Tauro in the 3rd century BCE. Little of this earlier theatre exists except for a few stone seats with 3rd-century inscriptions and the remains of a Hellenistic sanctuary at the top of the cavea.

The majority of the ruins we see today result from numerous Roman reconstructions and additions that began as early as the Trajanic/Hadrianic period, (98 to 138 CE), with additions in the 3rd century CE when the theatre was transformed into a gladiatorial arena. Sited on a rocky promontory overlooking the Ionian Sea, Taormina has been a popular tourist destination in Sicily for several hundred years. With breathtaking views from above and warm protected beaches below, Taormina is the jewel of Sicily. It was a “must-see” stop on the 16th and 17th century European Grand Tour and its popularity continues today with its beautifully restored medieval buildings, breathtaking views, and its festival of winding streets strewn with shops, bars, and restaurants. And the star attraction is the theatre that overlooks it all. A two-thousand-year survivor of war, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes, the theatre of Taormina continues to impress visitors who idealize its weathered ruins, and it continues to serve as a venue for performances as it did in antiquity.

History: Taormina was founded by Andromacus at the behest of Dionysius the Tyrant Syracuse in 392 BCE. The original theatre dates from this time. Following the first Punic War, the city fell to the Romans in 212 BCE and became a favorite holiday spot for Patricians and Senators, establishing itself as a tourist destination. Thus, the Greek city Ταυρομένιον became Roman Tauromenium which today is known as Taormina.

The ruins of the theatre we see today were sited by ancient Greeks in the 3rd century BCE but re-envisioned during Rome’s 600-year occupation. The Hellenistic theatre the Greeks built has all but disappeared beneath the layers of Roman brick and concrete. The Greek theatre became a Roman theatre in the 1st century CE and that theatre in turn was transformed into a gladiatorial arena 300 years later.

The ruins at Taormina today are a 600-year compilation of Greek and Roman constructions, over two thousand years of wear and erosion, and countless patches and repairs performed by stewards of the theatre site. A study of the theatre in 1992 and 1993 led by Frank Sear of the Department of Classics and Archaeology, University of Melbourne reviewed the theatre’s previous research records and assessed the existing remains. His study determined a chronology of the various constructions at the site. Sear’s findings can be found in his 1996 publication, “The Theatre at Taormina — A New Chronology,” Papers of the British School at Rome, 1996, Vol. 6, pp. 41-79.

Last Update: 09-06-2023