The Ancient Theatre Archive

The Theatre Architecture of Greece and Rome

Tibur (Tivoli, Rome) Adriana (Hadrian’s Greek Theatre)


Modern Tivoli, Mainland Italy

Theatre Type

Roman Theatre

Earliest Date

117 – 138 (Villa Adriana construction dates)

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: database of Italian excavations since 2000. International Association for Classical Archaeology (AIAC).

GPS Coordinates

Seating Capacity

2,900 - 3,600


Cavea Width: 50 meters
Orchestra Width: 30 meters


Adriana (Hadrian’s Greek Theatre), Tivoli, Rome
300 m north of ‘Poecile’; close to Temple of Aphrodite.
Cavea: D 36 m, facing north-east; only lowest seats survive, and some marble steps of central staircase which divides it into 2 cunei.
Substructures: sides of cavea supported on vaults, which form rooms, probably for props; crypta around cavea supported highest seats; rectangular room at top of cavea in middle, ?a shrine.
Scene: narrow rectangular stage with staircase up to it and door- ways, at sides of which can be seen fragments of columns and marble revetments; a Doric column still stands at one side; façade had portico of 14 columns and half-columns (Piranesi).
Porticus post scaenam: large quadriporticus north-west of theatre, ?hippodrome (Piranesi).
Decoration: large marble herms of Tragedy and Comedy (now in Vatican Museum) found at entrance to theatre.
Remains: some remains of seating and stage area.
(Source: Frank Sear. p. 140)

Adriana (Hadrian’s Greek Theatre), Tibur (modern Tivoli, Rome)

This small theater, which had a rare oval plan, could hold between 2,900 and 3,600 spectators (R. Hidalgo, “Il considetto Teatro Greco,” Lazio e Sabina 8 [2012] 24). It consisted of a pulpitum (stage; 8) with a scaenae frons (stage building; 9), a semi-circular orchestra (1), a cavea (seating area; 4-5) with two maeniana (blocks of seats) divided by a praecinctio (aisle) to which were connected three vomitoria (entrance passageways). At the top of the cavea was a pulvinar (imperial box; 12). Despite the (modern) name, the structure does not have the canonical plan of a Greek theater. Recent excavations by Hidalgo show that the theater lacked a porticus post scaenam (peristyle behind the stage), a feature often associated with Roman theaters, but was set in the middle of a garden with fountains, pavilions, and topiary. As Hidalgo observes, the design was “a potpourri of elements belonging to Greek and Roman theaters united in a form and language that is innovative” (2013: 23). Very little of the decoration survives. Two herms, whose heads (restored in the 18C by Cavaceppi) are traditionally identified as Tragedy and Comedy, were found somewhere in the theater; they are now in the Vatican Museums (Pio-Clementino inv. 262, 285; Raeder, Statuarische Ausstatung, 1983: 100). The date of the theater is uncertain.


Last Update: 03-25-2023