The Theatre of Ostia

Ostia is situated at the mouth of the Tiber at about 25 km from Rome. The history of the site goes back to the 4th century B.C. The theatre was built in the Augustan period at the north side of the main road (decumanus maximus) from the Porta Romana to the forum. The original theatre was much smaller. It consisted of a cavea with a diameter of 63 meter. The lower part had 12 rows of seats, the upper part 9 rows. During the reign of Commodus the theatre was enlarged and rebuilt. On this occasion an outer structure of 21 arches was built to increase the seating capacity. The diameter of the cavea was enlarged to 88 meter. As a result of this adaptation the number of seating places is estimated to 6.000. Because on one hand there was not enough place on the original site and on the other hand the available space was restricted by the existing portico behind the scene it was necessary to build part of this new outer ring over the pavement of the street. To minimize the effect on the circulation the outer ring of the theatre was conceived as an open arcade. The rebuilding was completed in 196 A.D.

The orchestra had a diameter of 23,5 m and was surrounded by a wall in front of which there are two broad steps for additional seatings for the magistracy and other VIP's.
There are only some decorative elements left of the scaenae frons, but this is not enough to make a reconstruction. We can only say that it was a rectilinear wall whitout niches or recesses.

The porticus post scaenam was originally (in augustan time) an open space of 107 x 78 meter eclosed by a wall. During the reign of Claudius a first portico was added which was duobled in the time of Hadrianus. In this way it responded to the prescriptions of Vitruvius about the porticus post scaenam. The shipping agencies and the mosaic pavements were added later. In this period the spaces between the inner columns and the outer wall were filled in with partition walls to obtain separate rooms. In front of these rooms a mosaic pavement gave the name of the guilds that occupied the different rooms.
The temple in the middle of the open space was built under Domitianus.



A. BoŽthius - J.B. Ward-Perkins, Etruscan and Roman architecture, Middlesex, 1970.
R. Meiggs, Roman Ostia, Oxford, 1973.
F. Sear, Roman theatres, An architectural study, Oxford, 2006.

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