Theater of Pompey2016-11-01T10:47:20+00:00

Roman Building Projects

A Marker of Social Organization and Military Success

Republic

Theater of Pompey

This photo of the Gismondi model of ancient Rome shows the theater of Pompeius along with the portico immediately behind the scaenae frons. At the back end of the Portico is the Curia Pompeia where the Senate occasionally met and where Julius Caesar was assassinated. The photo was taken by Craig Phares for Pro Romanis, a GENCYA communications entity. This photo may be used for educational purposes only and must be accompanied by the following copy and link: “Property of Pro Romanis, a GENCYA communications entity. For more information, please visit www.proromanis.com”.
The footprint of the Theater of Pompeius can be seen in the pattern of modern streets in the Campus Martius.
An illustration of the how the Theater of Pompeius might have looked at street level.
Source: Teatro di Pompeo con Tempio di Venere vincitrice, Gatteschi collection of Roman architecture and reconstructive drawings of Emperial Rome, 1900-1935, dhc.aarome.org/collections/gatteschi
  • The first stone theatre erected in Rome
  • The capacity was approximately 10,000, perhaps more; ancient sources claimed that the theater seated 40,000
  • Commissioned by Pompeius Magnus in 55 BC and dedicated in 52 BC, to celebrate his conquest of the eastern Mediterranean, 14 statues represented the 14 conquered nations
  • To get around the censors’ prohibition against building a permanent theater, Pompeius had a temple built inside the theater; it was dedicated to Venus Victrix
  • Behind the theater, there was a large portico surrounding a garden at the end of which was a curia for meetings of the senate; it was here that Caesar was murdered in front of the statue of Pompeius
  • Augustus restored the theater at great expense
  • Augustus moved the statue of Pompeius from the curia to the theater itself
  • Tiberius restored the theater after a fire in 21 AD, the work was completed under Caligula
  • The outside of the theater was supported by three levels of arches; with engaged Doric columns adorning the first floor, Ionic columns the second floor and Corinthian columns the third; the columns were of red granite

Political and military implications

  • Built by Pompeius to memorialize his victories in the East; he conquered 14 countries and added them to the Roman Empire; these victories were represented by a confiscated work of art from each city
  • The Porticus behind the theater was the first public park in ancient Rome
  • The project was funded by spoils from Pompeius’ eastern conquests
Platner, SB. Platner’s Topography and Monuments of ancient Rome. Second Edition. Allyn and Bacon. Boston. Norwood Press JS Cushing Co.–Berwick and Smith Co. Norwood, Mass. 1904, 1911. Pages 366-367.
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