Roman Theatre

This majestic Roman amphitheater in Volterra was built towards the end of the 1st century BC, thanks to the funding of the wealthy Caecina family, one of the most important in the city. The structure was elliptical in shape and could hold around 3,500-4,000 spectators, making it one of the largest in the Roman Empire.

Amphitheaters were a place of great cultural and political importance during the Roman era. Gladiator games, in fact, were a very popular form of public entertainment throughout the Roman Empire, used to distract the population from the political and social problems of the time. These shows also represented an important form of political propaganda, allowing the emperor to demonstrate his power and ability to provide entertainment to the population.

The amphitheater was 36 meters (122 Roman feet) long and had a rather elaborate design (which made it typical of the architecture of the Augustan period, during which there was a lot of experimentation in architectural design). The theater was equipped with a velarium, a kind of tent that could be pulled over the cavea to provide shade for the audience. The poles inserted into the brackets around the cavea supported the velarium. Some of these brackets (each with a hole where the pole was inserted) are well preserved in the theater of Volterra.

The building stands on a site from the Etruscan period and is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved in Italy. During excavations, various seats with the names of the representatives of the most powerful families of ancient Roman Volterra inscribed on them were discovered.

At the end of the 3rd century AD, the Romans left the amphitheater and built a thermal facility near the scenic structure. The entire complex was brought to light only thanks to the archaeological excavations started in 1950 at the initiative of Enrico Fiumi.

Despite the information collected, it is still unclear what the actual use was when the amphitheater of Volterra was used for its "original" function, so to speak, and further archaeological excavations will be necessary to solve this mystery.

However, the investigations conducted so far have allowed the phases of abandonment of the monument to be reconstructed and its stripping to be hypothesized. The next seasons of excavations could hold new surprises for archaeologists engaged in research.

Despite the damage suffered, the important restoration and conservation work carried out in recent years, combined with recent archaeological discoveries, make the amphitheater of Volterra an important tourist attraction and an important source of information on daily life in Roman times in the city of Volterra.

Created: 16 Oct 2014
Last update: 26 Jun 2023

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