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Roman Theatre
Topics: Roman Empire, Ancient Rome, Drama, Greeks / Pages: 4 (865 words) / Published: Oct 27th, 2012

Roman Theatre-

• We look at Athens because we have the most sources
• Most important form of entertainment
• Very open, did not really need money to go to the theatre
• Profound religious associations
• Played an important political role
• Stage was, like the agora, democracy was discussed and displayed in front of the Romans
• Romans owed a lot to the Greeks in terms of theatre. They were very influenced by the Greeks
• We see this in the architecture of the theatre
• But Romans were more technologically advanced than the Roman
• Greek theatres built into hillside
• Romans built theatres on vaulted structures, which eliminated the need for a hillside

Roman Theatre: Architecture-

• “Cavea” → sitting area, auditorium
• “Pulpitum” → the stage o not very high o place where actors acted o (most acting in Greek theatre was done in the orchestra(circular)) o “orchestra”→ semi circular now, used for seating the most distinguished guests
• “Frons” → as high as the cavea, its ends at connected with the cavea to make a semi-circle

• earliest theatres in Italy were built by the Greek colonies in Southern Italy
• For a long time, Romans resisted in importing this form of entertainment
• When they conquered Italy in 3rd century BC (??), they adopted it, but it was still perceived as being foreign
• Theatres were only built as temporary wooden structures to be dismantled after show ended at the beginning o Thought it would become a meeting place for Greeks against Romans and did not want to provide them with that space

• Famous theatres: Built by Octavia in honor of his adopted son Marcellus, also Theatre of Balbus
• “Ludi scaenici” → religious celebration on the stage, so part of the “ludi” → religious festivals put on by the state (animal sacrifices, chariot races, theatrical shows)
• A new genre aside from tragedies and comedies emerged
Roman Theatre: Types of Shows-

• Pyrrhic dances o Had some military connection o Named after Achilles someone (?) o Done by some religious groups in order to keep warfare symbolically away from the community
• Ludus talarius o Done with dancers and musical instruments o We don’t know much about them
• Pantomime o Type of dance staged in Roman theatre o Dancer supposed to mimic a mythological character o Had a mask and special costume to identify who they were supposed to be o Orphius would be played, or “mad” Hercules (had to dance and shoot arrows at the same time)
• Circus type shows o Men walking on stilts o Different types of acrobats o Rope dancers and tight rope walkers o Mimes (Different than our mimes. Highly stylized comin acts, in which the actors are playing very specific roles. Topic of the mimes are usually drawn form everyday life or are very old and well known stories)
• Atellan farces o Italian origin o From Oscan origin o Short comedy skits
• Comedies and Dramas o Dramas with Greek and Roman content o Comedy with Greek content is called “palliata” o Comedy with Roman content is called “togata” o Tragedy with Greek subject called “crepidata” (named after the type of shoes the actor wore) o Tragedy with Roman subject is called “praetexta” (named after toga worn by the Romans)

Roman Theatre: Actors-
• histriones
• Origionally, Greek or Italian descent with a low social status (slaves or freedmen)
• In spite of this origin, some became very successful
• Able to amass huge amounts of money and be very close to important political figures
• Famous actors: Roscius, Aesop, Dionysia
• Became very close to politica figures
• A famous mime actor became the lover of Claudius’ wife
• What was the attitude of Romans towards the actors?
• They highly disapproved
• Considered theatre non Roman
• But sources are highly biased and reflected upon upper class Romans
• We see this feeling is not shared by everyone o Source about Nero by Tacitus in Annales
• So despite of these attitudes, theatre is very successful

Roman Theatre: Functions-
• What are the functions that theatre played in Roman society?
• Entertainment
• Relaxing
• To learn to become an orator o Society where how you speak and present yourself is very important
• Shows stores of religion and myth
• Social role o Theatre was a place where entire Roman population was allowed to come from rich to foreigner and slaves o It was still very hierarchical in seating
• Show their values o Comedy usually included a young Roman under the authority of his stern paterfamilias, he falls in love with prostitute, we find out at the end she is not actually a prostitute but free born girl who was stolen from her parents when she was young, they end up marrying o The discussion is about the limits (law and socially) of the authority of the paterfamilias o In the end, father allows him to marry girl as long as she is a certain status o Slaves are characters in comedies
• People come here to learn about the political situations
• Place where power can be negotiated

• Marcus Oppius o Met in theatre to raise money for him to stay in his political position

• In time of Republic, certain actor said “Miseria nostra Magn(a) est” o Our misery is Great, our our misery is Pempeius Magnus

• “Oh, just and glorious Lord” directed at Augustus

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