The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Tibur (Tivoli, Rome) Adriana Odeum (South Theatre)


Modern Tivoli, Mainland Italy

Theatre Type

Roman Theatre

Earliest Date

133-138 CE.

Renovations / Excavations

Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa is near modern Tivoli, 27 km East of Rome. Built by Emperor Hadrian, starting from c. 120 CE. The site is owned by the Republic of Italy and has been managed since 2014 by the Polo Museale del Lazio. During the Middle Ages, the site became a source for building materials and gradually disappeared. Rediscovered at the end of the XV century, Pope Alexander VI Borgia promoted the first excavations of the South Theatre (also known as the Odeum). From the XII, Villa Adriana was continuously excavated (and looted). After passing through several hands, Villa Adriana became the property of the Italian Kingdom in the XIX century, thus beginning new restorations and excavations. Due to centuries of haphazard excavations and looting, the history and any restorations have been obscured. For excavation records since see: Fasti Online: data base of Italian excavations since 2000. International Association for Classical Archaeology (AIAC).

Seating Capacity

1,100 - 1,200


Cavea Width: 55 meters
Orchestra Width: 16 meters


Villa Adriana (Hadrian): South Theatre (So-Called Odeum)
at south-east end of ‘Academy’ terrace; immediately south-east of Piranesi’s ‘odeon’.

Cavea: D 55 m, facing north-west; ima cavea, 12 rows paved in Greek marble, divided into 5 cunei by 6 staircases; at foot of them supports in form of lion’s feet; summa cavea: 7 rows paved in white mosaic in 4 cunei. Imperial loggia, separately accessible, in middle of cavea; it terminated in circular aedicule with single opening; here Ligorio saw 4 Ionic columns and paving in red, yellow, green, and white marble; upper seating, in wood, rested on buttresses around cavea (Gusman). Aditus maximi: staircases between semicircular section of orchestra (D) and section on line of aditus maximi (C); also staircases into aditus maximi (Piranesi).
Orchestra: D 16 m. Proscaenium: H 1.50 m. Pulpitum: L 32, W 5 m. Scaenae frons: rectilinear; 3 doors; architrave with allegorical scenes (Ligorio); columnatio, 14 granite columns on 8 podia. Postscaenium: 8 arched windows; 3 doorways; central one bigger than others; outer ones at ends, not corresponding to hospitalia.
Decoration: in circular aedicule socket found, bearing names of Minerva, Clio, and Hercules, as well as foot and club of Hercules.
Remains: part of seating and vaulted stage building survive.

Source: Sear, Frank. Roman Theatres: An Architectural Study. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. p. 140.

Adriana Odeum (South Theatre)
This is a small theater that could have held 1,100-1,200 people. Although set at the southern end of the villa, spectators could be conveyed here through the villa’s tunnel system, with which the Odeon (also known as the South Theater) is connected. The stage (7), scenae frons (9), cavea (4,5), and small temple (15) at the top end of the main axis of the seating are well preserved. The orchestra (1) was paved in opus sectile; the cavea in white marble. The structure was generously decorated with sculpture, but Ligorio reported in the 16C that many had been melted for lime. It is known that the scenae frons was decorated with statues of the Muses and a frieze of tragic masks (now in the Prado and Vatican Museums). In front of the temple was the statue group (now lost) of Hercules between Minerva and Clio. W. MacDonald and J. Pinto (Hadrian’s Villa [New Haven 1995] 135) speculate that the Odeon may have been used for religious ceremonies, but the theatrical nature of the design and decor militate against this. The structure dates to Phase III (133-138).

Source: “Odeum(South Theatre). Digital Hadrian’s Villa Project.” Project Director: Bernard Frischer. University of Virginia; Zukunftskolleg, University of Konstanz.  (accessed 3/24/2023)

Last Update: 03-25-2023