Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Theatres of Gerasa. ( II ) The Northern Theatre.

I’m not a scholar on Roman Architecture but I love Theatre. After my visits to this and other ancient complex had to make a research about those places, it sounds a little bit cold but anyway data is data and it could work for any purpose.

The North Theatre complex is composed of the North Theatre itself and a 'colonnaded plaza' in front of it where a staircase led up to the entrance.
Smaller than the South Theatre (Exterior Diameter 43, 47m, orchestra Diameter 14,33m), its orientation is determined by the northern decumanus (a decumanus was an east-west-oriented road in a Roman city, military camp, or colonia.) upon which it opens and from which it is approached. Built in 165 AD our Northern Theatre could be an Audiom, a roofed theater.

Two vaulted passages formed the entrance to the orchestra, and spectators entered through passages between the upper rows of seats.

The cavea shows the usual arrangement of four cunei in the lower half, and eight in the upper half. At the top of the upper section of the cavea there was scarcely room for passageway and colonnade. The theatre itself probably had two main phases during its lifetime. It was dedicated, and probably completed, in AD 64/65.
It was a small (originally had only 14 rows of seats), probably used for poetry readings, meetings or more modest performances than the large dramatic events that would have taken place in the city's larger Southern Theatre. The theatre may also have been the city council's meeting hall. It was modified several times and probably enlarged in the first quarter of the 3rd century. It finally went out of use as a theatre by the 5th to 6th centuries, and in later centuries, many of its stones were taken for use in other buildings.

On some of the seats of the lower cavea are inscribed in Greek the names of the voting tribes (phylai) that were represented in the bouleutirium or city council, except one tribe named after the Roman Emperor Hadrian, the others are named after Olympian gods.
The theatre's expansion in the first quarter of the 3rd century AD included the addition of eight rows of seats, doubling the theatre's capacity to around 1600 people.

The three best preserved external vomitoria (sorry, no photos), at the western end of the upper auditorium, show their original construction of three independent, semicircular arches rising towards the exterior with evidence of large wooden doors that could have been opened or closed to control access to the theatre.

The original scaena wall, facing the audience from behind the stage, was dismantled and replaced by a more complex scaena composed of two parallel wal1s. The elaborate scaenae frons was probably two storeys high, and was adorned with colored marble, free-standing Corinthian columns and broken entablatures, behind which were semicircular niches decorated with mosaics.
There is no information (I didn’t find anything) about any famous performance staged there or any important author; as many other ancient places I had to use my imagination to recreate life here, and it was a very interesting moment.

My next Roman Theatre to visit would be in Petra the stone-city in the middle of a Jordan semidesert region.

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