|Brixia Roman Theatre, Modern Bressssss, Italy.
The building used for theatrical performances in ancient
Brixia was constructed on the slope of Cidneo Hill near
the Capitolium and the Forum, easily accessible from the
Decumanus maximus. The building itself dates from the
time of Augustus (late 1st century BC - 1st century AD) and
over the years was enlarged and improved, the architectural decoration of the stage building was renovated in the
2nd/3rd century AD. The auditorium or cavea was formed
of robust semicircular tunnels which served as foundations
for the overlying stepped seating, although to the north
the uppermost walls stand directly on the underlying rock
of the hill. An arrangement of staircases rising from the
curved underground passageways allowed theatregoers to
make their way from the entrances to the three sections of
the cavea (lower, middle and upper, known respectively as
ima, media and summa).
The theatre stage back wall closed off the auditorium to
the south. It was as high as the uppermost tier of seating
(about 30 metres) and composed of three stories, with architectural ornamentation in polychrome marbles (columns
with capitals, arches, pediments and niches). There were
three apertures allowing stage entrance for actors: the valva regia for the protagonist and two lateral doors or hospitales. In front of the stage building was the stage itself, of
which survive two parallel lines of small stone pillars that
would have supported the stage floor of wooden planking.
The theatre remained in use until the late Roman period
(late 4th -early 5th century AD). In the 11th/12th century the stage building collapsed, probably because of an
earthquake, and the structure was exploited as source of
stone for construction work. Its use is recorded as court for
public hearings in the 12th century, but the ruins were soon
covered by earth that slid down from the hillside behind.
In the 13th century building work was started in the area
- then property of the aristocratic Maggi family - on the
construction of the mansion that still today stands on
some of the ruins of the Roman theatre