Theater of Marcellus was erected on a site before the Temple of Apollo Sosianus, probably the same spot where, in the republican period, there used to be a temporary theatre. Its construction was begun by Caesar but he probably had time to do little more than clear the site by demolishing part of the Circus Flaminius.
The theatre was completed by Augustus, who in 13 or 11 BC dedicated it to his nephew Marcellus, his designated heir who had died prematurely ten years earlier. The theatre was over 32 metres high and its cavea (the hemicycle, with tiers of seating for the audience) had a diameter of 130 metres and held over 15,000 people.
The building as we see it today has been partly altered by the superstructures added in later centuries, but the general outline of its original architecture is still clearly visible.
In Rome the theatrical representations, so important in the election campaigns, were generally kept in a provvisory wood theater, near the old Temple of Apollo in the Campus Martius. Not up until 55 B.C. did Pompey construct the city’s first masonry theater. The structure prepared by Caesar was on the exact same site as the provvisory theater.
The theater should have been constructed on effective bases, and the front was offered with an exterior of 41 arches, framed by engaged columns, on 3 floorings. The very first 2 floorings are Doric and Ionic orders, the 3rd, which absolutely nothing stays, need to have been an attic nearby Corinthian pilasters.
The interior ambulatory and the radial walls of the cunei (wedge-shaped sectors of seats) remain in opus quadratum of tufa for the first 10 meters down, in opus caementicium with a facing of opus reticulatum in the inner part. It has actually been determined that the cavea (diam. 129.80 m.) might hold in between 15.000 and 20,000 viewers, making it the biggest theater in Rome as far as audience capability was worried. Beyond the orchestra (diam. m. 37) was the phase, which absolutely nothing stays.
On either side were apsed halls, which a pier and a column of one are still standing. Behind the phase was a big semi-circular exedra with 2 little temples. The structure was likewise visible for its abundant decor, still noticeable in the Doric frieze on the lower order.
Three columns from the temple of Apollo, with their entablature, still stand in front of the Marcellus theater; this temple was restored in 34 B.C. by the consul C. Sosius, and was furnished with magnificent works of art.
The destruction of the Theatre of Marcellus began as early as A.D. 370 at the hands of the Romans themselves, who used blocks from it to restore the nearby Bridge of Cestius. The work of demolition continued sporadically until the 12th century, when, in the course of the struggles of the noble families between themselves and against the Popes and Emperors, some of the former built themselves a fortress upon the remains of the Theatre.
During the Middle Ages Theater of Marcellus was occupied by the Savelli family and in the eighteenth century by the Orsini. The 16th century Palazzo Orsini occupies the third storey of the Theatre of Marcellus. The upper part of the cavea, preserved to a height of 20 metres, is now incorporated into a palace designed at the start of the sixteenth century by Baldassarre Peruzzi. Its present appearance and isolation from the buildings round it are the result of demolition work in 1926-1932.
Distance to the Colosseum
Theater of Marcellus set in the center of Rome, 1,5 km from (18 min walk) from Roman Colosseum.