The Ancient Theatre Archive - A Virtual Reality Tour of Greek and Roman Theatre Architecture

Greek - Roman Theatre Glossary

Ancient Theatre Archive Project

Compiled by Thomas Hines, Professor Emeritus, Whitman College. Editor and phonetic advisor, Edward E. Foster, Professor Emeritus, Whitman College, Washington, USA


Pronunciation Guide
This pronunciation guide uses the ordinary symbols of American English with one exception.  The symbols Æ and æ are adopted from the International Phonetic Alphabet to represent the sound of "a" as in "pat".

(Latin; pl. aditus: approach or access, entrance to a place). Generic word for any opening to some interior space or cavity. According to Vitruvius, "The entrances (aditus) should be numerous and spacious; those above ought to be unconnected with those below, in a continued line wherever they are, and without turnings; so that when the people are dismissed from the shows, they may not press on one another, but have separate outlets free from obstruction in all parts."de Architectura, Book V. Also see: vomitoria.

aditus maximus:

(Latin; pl. aditus maximi: the most important or greatest entrance/access). Roman entrance to the orchestra, typically located between the cavea and the scaena, one on either side of the orchestra; corresponds to the parodos in the Greek theatre.


(Greek; pl. agorai: open market or meeting place). Large, open public space which served as a place for citizens of a Greek city to assemble; the political, civic, religious and commercial center of a Greek city; buildings for all of these various purposes were constructed as needed in and around the agora.


(Greek; sing. analemma: supporting walls). Supporting or retaining walls for the audience seating area in a Greek theatre; more specifically, the wing walls which flank the stage, and against which the end seats of the auditorium abut.

architectural orders:

Classification system used to define styles of ancient architecture; most common to ancient Greece are the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders. The three main parts of a temple facade are the steps, the columns, and the entablature. These three elements in turn have three parts: three steps (uppermost being the stylobate), three parts to a column (normally the base, shaft, and capital), and three parts to an entablature (an architrave, a frieze, and a cornice). These architectural elements are further classified by their particular style of design (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian). The column is normally indicative of the style of each order. Doric order (simple, smooth, round) developed on the Greek mainland and in southern Italy and Sicily by 7th century BC. The Ionic order (scrolled-shaped decoration) developed in Ionia and on some of the Greek islands by the 6th century BC. The Corinthian order (elaborate capital with acanthus leaf decorations), used more by Romans than Greeks, emerged late in the 5th century BC. Later variations of these orders by the Romans produced the Roman Composite order.

The bottom element of the entablature in classical architecture. The "chief beam." It is the horizontal lintel (beam) that rests upon the column capitals (tops). It is the horizontal entablature element beneath the frieze.

Dressed stone work; rectangular blocks of any type of stone with square corners and dressed surfaces; used in masonry construction.
ow-LIE-um (Ancient Latin);

(Latin; pl. aulaea: a curtain or tapestry, mostly of the heavier and richer sort). The curtain in Roman theatre could be lowered into the stage through a slit to reveal a scene: aulaea premuniuntur, "the curtain is let down,” when the acting begins (Hor. Ep. 2.1, 189); aulaeum tollitur, “the curtain is raised.” Source: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin, Ed. (1890).


(pl. baldachins: canopy of state). An architectural canopy of stone, metal, or fabric. In an ancient theatre such as Miletus, it is a stone or marble structure built in the form of a canopy that signified status and served as a roof to shelter an area from the weather, example of baldachin remains are the columns as found in the center of the ima cavea at the theatre at Miletus, Turkey.

(Latin; pl. basilicas: large, tower-like structure, one at either side of a Roman stage). Usually roofed, these tall, rectangular structures served as a theatre foyer and contained openings (versurae) for access to the stage (pulpitum). The basilicas are often referred to as the versurae although strictly speaking the versurae are the doorways in the stage side of the basilica.

(Latin; pl. bisellia: seat of honor large enough for two or more people). The bisellium is a large, centralized, stone chair in front of the orchestra in a Roman theatre and is distinguished from a sella (general term for a Roman chair) and a prohedria (seat of honor) by its size. The bisellia at Heirapolis, Turkey is enough to seat a group of people. It was a seat of honor or a state chair, reserved for persons of note or persons who had done special service for the state.


(Greek; pl. bouleuteria). Building for members of the council chamber; an assembly hall for magistrates; town hall.


(Latin; pl. caveae: the tiered, semicircular seating space in a Roman theater). From the Greek: koilon, a hollow or cavity. A large theatre had three tiers: the ima cavea was the lowest part of the cavea; the media cavea was the middle; and the summa cavea was the upper tier. Social rank dictated the seating restrictions for the audience with the ima cavea reserved for the upper echelons of society (senators and equestrians), the media cavea was reserved seating for pleb togata (respectable citizens); and those with lesser status (mixed crowd of urban poor, foreigners, slaves, and women) were restricted to the upper or summa tier. The Roman cavea corresponds to the Greek theatron.

Charonian stairway:

(Greek: stairway to or from the underworld). Charon was the mythological ferryman who conveyed the souls of the dead across the Styx. Underground passage ending in a staircase in Hellenistic theatres (also known as Charon steps) used by the chthonic deities or for "ghostly apparitions" according to Pollux; examples at Argos and Eretria; not a typical feature of Greek theatre construction.


(Greek: pl. chorodidaskaloi). Chorus teacher / director; taught songs/dances to chorus; originally performed as well.


(Greek; pl.chorêgoi) Wealthy citizens who funded performances in Greek theatre.


(Latin; pl. clepsydrae: from the Greek, klepsydra, "water thief"). Ancient water clock; ancient device for measuring time by the gradual flow of water. Remains found at Priene theatre in Turkey suggest speeches and debates may have been timed.


(Latin: row of pillars or columns). From the Latin root of columna, or pillar. A row of columns, often free-standing, separated from each other by an equal distance. The row may be curved or straight and may support a covered roof or enclose an open space.


(Latin; pl. columnationes: architectural element composed of free-standing columns). The scaenae frons (stage house front) of a Roman theatre ranges in height from one to three stories and is typically pierced by three doors and ornamented with one to three tiers of columns, balconies, and statues. The decorative column feature is the columnatio. The word describes the tiered column component as a whole rather than as individual groupings of columns.

Corinthian order:

Most elaborate of the Greek architectural styles and least used by the Greeks. Resembles Ionic in most aspects except for the column capital; Corinthian columns have tall capitals shaped like upside-down bells and are covered with rows of acanthus leaves and small vine like spirals called helixes. The Corinthian order was originally used for columns inside buildings and did not appear externally until the 4th century BC; use in exterior temple colonnades did not become widespread until Roman times.



Topmost element of the entablature in Classical architecture; the horizontal band that crowns the top of an architectural feature such as a colonnade, wall, or doorway. It typically projects out and over the frieze. It is composed of three parts: the bed, corona, and cymatium.

(Latin; pl. coryphaeus: the leader of the chorus in ancient Greek drama). Greek: koryphaios.

(Latin; sing. crypta: vault, grotto, covered gallery/passage/arcade). Large curved barrel-vaulted corridor beneath the cavea for audience traffic. Large theatres may have more than one. These corridors ran from one side of the cavea to the other and were intercepted by a network of smaller corridors (vometoria) that allowed access to the cavea seating.
(Latin; pl. cunei: a wedge-shaped object). Wedge-shaped seating section in the Roman theatre; corresponds to Greek kerkis.
(Greek; pl. diazomata: girdle). Horizontal, curved walkway separating upper theatron seating, (epitheatron), from the lower theatron seating, (theatron proper); corresponds to Roman (praecinctio).



Greek religious festival held in honor of the god Dionysos.


(Greek; Latin: Dionysus). Greek god; Son of Zeus and Semele, a mortal woman of Thebes; god of wine, agriculture, and fertility; patron god of Greek theatre; Roman counterpart to Dionysos is the god Bacchus.

Doric order:

Architectural style presumably developed on the Greek mainland and in southern Italy and Sicily. Although the Doric order is traditionally credited with slightly pre-dating the Ionic order, both orders were established by the end of the seventh century. Doric columns are slightly tapered, simple and sturdy and have no base. Shallow, parallel groves (flutes) run from the bottom to the top of the shaft. The Doric capital consists of two parts, a round echinus and a square abacus. Above the capital is the architrave consisting of an unadorned beam supporting a frieze of alternating triglyphs (vertical, weight supporting blocks with three vertical grooves) and metopes (non-load bearing panels either decorated with relief sculpture or left plain). A simple cornice molding at the top of the architrave extends to protect the parts below from rain.

deus ex machina:



(Latin: literally, "God from the machine." Crane used in Greek theatre to represent flight; machine used to lift actors (usually portraying gods) above the acting area in both Greek and Roman theatre. Dates from the 5th century BCE. Latin phrase "deus ex machina" (du-ex-MEH-kah-nay) which literally means, "God from the machine." The phrase implied a convenient yet contrived plot device resolving an apparently insoluble difficulty.

(Greek; sing. eisodos: passageways leading to orchestra between koilon and skenê). Eisodoi was the name used by Aristophanes for the Parodoi. The two names are often interchanged. In some plays, the left (eastern) eisodos lead to the country whereas the right (western) passageway was the route to the city.


(Greek: "roll-out machine"). Moving platform used in Greek performances for revealing or changing scenes. A wheeled platform or cart, housed within the skênê and used to bring interior scenes into view; reveal the result of an "out of view" action, e.g. the murder of Agamemnon in Aeschylu's Agamemnon. According to Bieber, the ekkyklêma was introduced in 5th century BCE Greece; could be square, semi-circular, or round; may have revolved on a pivot, and may have been used in conjunction with moving screens (scaena ductilis).




That horizontal, architectural portion of a classical building or portico that sits atop columns or a wall, but beneath the roof or pediment. The entablature has three major elements: the architrave (the bottom element equivalent to the lintel in post and lintel construction), the frieze (the middle, horizontal strip that may be ornamented, and the cornice (the top horizontal strip of decorative moldings that overhang the parts below).

(Greek; pl. episkenia: literally the upper upper story of the Greek Hellenistic skene). In the early, Hellenistic theater the episkenion was the the second floor of the skene or Greek stage house. It was recessed from the roof of the proskenion. The proskenion roof was the stage (logeion) in the Hellenistic theater. The episkenion facade was pierced by one or more openings, (thyromata) that could be fitted with painted panels or doors.

(Greek: upper tier of theatron seating). Audience seating in theatron above the diazoma. Corresponds to the Roman "summa cavea." The koilon (seating area) in large, and in some medium-sized theatres, was subdivided into upper and lower seating tiers: the lower tier was know as the theatron proper and the upper tier was known as the epitheatron . A horizontal walkway (diazoma) separated the two seating tiers.



(Greek; pl. euripoi: narrow channel, a canal, conduit or aqueduct). This was the water drainage trench that ran around the perimeter of the orchestra in ancient theatres. In more sophisticated constructions the euripos was covered with paving tiles and connected to an underground drainage system.

The middle element of the entablature in Classical architecture. The wide, central band of the entablature above the architrave and below the cornice. The frieze is often decorated: Doric order may use alternating triglyphs (projecting rectangular blocks with vertical lines) and metopes (spaces between the triglyphs). In Ionic and Corinthian orders, the frieze may be plain or ornamented with relief figures or decorations.

(Latin; pl. gradus: Roman cavea seat; step or position). According to Vitruvius the gradus, "...are not to be less than twenty inches in height, nor more than twenty-two. Their width must not be more than two feet and a half, nor less than two feet." Seats could be carved from the theatre site’s living rock or assembled from carefully dressed and fitted (ashlar) masonry. Ashlar bench seats were often hollowed beneath the front edge for increased leg room. Prohedria (seats of honor) are less common but can be found in both Greek and Roman theatres.


Term describing the period of Greek civilization from 323 BC (death of Alexander the Great) to 31 BC (Roman victory at the Battle of Actium and the resulting decline of Ptolemaic power in Egypt); term derived from Hellene, the word Greeks used to describe themselves; term coined by the German historian Johann Gustav Droysen to differentiate between a Greek culture dominated by ethnic, city-state Greeks and a Greek culture dominated by Greek-speakers of various ethnicities governed by larger monarchies.


(Greek; pl. hypokritai: actor).


(Greek: wall that supported the raised stage in Hellenistic theatres; the front wall of the Hellenistic proskênion). Could represent the area under the stage and/or the facing wall that supported the logeion or raised stage. The hyposkênion was of stone construction with decorative ornamentations such as columns, pillars, and statues; it could have doors for entrances into the orchestra.


(Greek; the word is plural, sing. not used: the planks of a deck, or more generally, a platform or stage). The temporary scaffold seating in early Greek theatre consisting of tiered, wooden bleachers resting on wooden supports. The ancient writers Photius, Eustathius, Hesychius, and the Suda cite the collapse of temporary ikria at the Athens Agora during the 70th Olympiad (500-496 BCE) as motivation for the construction of the permanent Theatre of Dionysos at the foot of the Athens Acropolis. (Dinsmoor 120).

ima cavea:
EE-ma KAH-vay-a

(Latin: lowest tier of cavea seating). Most desirable seating in Roman theatres; reserved for the upper echelons of society (senators and equestrians).

Ionic order:

Architectural style presumably developed in Ionia and on some of the Greek islands by the 6th century BC. More ornamental and graceful than Doric. Considered by ancient Greeks to be feminine as opposed to the more masculine Doric style. The Ionic column rests on an elaborate curving base; column shaft more slender than Doric style (height to base ratio of early Ionic columns: 8 to 1, Doric ratio: 4 to 1 and 6 to 1); fluting on shaft is more prominent than on Doric column; significant detail is found in the capital: two spiral volutes (design element resembling partially unrolled scrolls; Ionic capital is directional (front and back are different that the sides). The typical Ionic entablature features an architrave with three parallel bands, a decorative frieze featuring continuous sculpture decoration (not divided into triglyphs and metopes as typical of the Doric style), and borders of carved dentils (rows of square shaped teeth).

itinera versurarum:
ih-TIH na-ra

(Latin: side doors used by actors to enter the stage). The doors in the Roman basilica (tower like structures flanking the Roman Stage). Also see: versurae.


(Greek; pl. kerkides: wedge-shaped seating section in Greek seating area (theatron). Corresponds to Roman cuneus.


(Greek; pl. klepsydrai: Greek water clock). The remains of such a clock at the theatre at Priene, Turkey, is evidence that public debate occurred at the theatre. Used for timing speakers. Alternate Latin spelling: clepsydra.

(Greek; sing. klimax: stairs). Audience stairways in Greek seating area (theatron). The staircases (klimakes) that separated the wedge-shaped seating sections (kerkides) of the Greek theatron. In multi-tiered theatrons, the staircases lead to curved walkways (diazomata) that separated the seating galleries. Corresponds to the Roman: scalae.

(Greek; pl. koila: a hollow or cavity). Occasionally used as equivalent to theatron or the Latin cavea but more specifically as a reference to the seating area of the theatre.


(Greek; pl. kolumbêthrai: pool or swimming bath). An orchestra adapted for water spectacles in Roman theatres. Numerous theatres such as those at Ostia in Italy, Hieropolis and Ephesus in Turkey, and Dionysus in Athens show evidence of late third to early fifth century Roman alterations including water cisterns, waterproofed orchestra walls, improved drainage, and water pipes.

(Greek: leader of the Greek chorus). One function of the leader was to carry on a dialogue with the actors. Latin: coryphaeus, coryphaios.
(Greek; sing. kothornos: platform footwear worn by actors). Tall boots with thick soles used by Greek actors to enhance their height. Corresponds to Latin cothurni; sing. cothurnus.

(Greek; pl. logeia: a speaking place, a stage). A high stage used by actors in Hellenistic theatres. Located behind the orchestra and before the skênê. The front of the logeion (stage) was supported by the hyposkênion (front wall of the proskenion). The remains of a logeion can be found at Priene, Turkey. The remains of access ramps from the paradoi to the logeion can be found at Sicyon, Greece. Logeion corresponds to the shorter Roman stage (pulpitum).


(Greek; pl. mêchanai). Crane used in Greek theatre to represent flight; machine used to lift actors (usually portraying gods) above the acting area in Greek and Roman theatre. Dates from the 5th century BCE. Latin phrase "deus ex machina" (du-ex-MEH-kah-nay) which literally means, "God from the machine." The phrase implied a convenient yet contrived plot device resolving an apparently insoluble difficulty.

media cavea:
MEH-dee-a KAH-vay-a

(Latin: middle section of auditorium seating). Roman middle tier of cavea seating. The media cavea was reserved seating for pleb togata (respectable citizens).

(Latin, pl. odea; from the Greek: oideion: singing place). Small roofed theatre (theatrum tectum) or recital hall used for musical presentations, poetry readings, lectures, or debates. Odea were built in two styles: buildings with rectangular outer walls like a bouleuteria (council house) or buildings with a curved cavea like a theatre; both used semicircular seating. Generally smaller than theatres, the odeum at Alexandria seated 800 while the Odeum of Herodes Atticus in Athens seated 5,500 (small only if compared to the nearby 17,000 seat Theatre of Dionysus).

(Greek; from the Greek, oideion, litrally "singing place"). A small, roofed theater or recital hall that was used for entertainment such as performed music, poetry readings, debates, or lectures. Corresponds to Roman odeum.


(Greek: temporary stage or platform). A raised wooden platform; a speaking or announcement place; a temporary logeion.


(Greek: Greek tragic mask). A vertically elongated actor's mask with a high head piece; very large headdress.


(Greek: dancing place). The orchestra was the primary chorus performance space in Greek theatre; also adapted for use as an arena for Roman "spectacle entertainment." The orchestra was the space between the audience and the Greek skene or Roman scaenae; possibly rectilinear in Early Classical Greek theatre; circular in Classical Greek theatre; horseshoe-shaped in Hellenistic theatre; semicircular in Roman theatres.


(Greek; pl. parabaseis: an important choral ode in Greek Old Comedy) The parabasis was delivered by the chorus at an intermission in the action while facing and moving toward the audience. It was used to express the author's views on political or religious topics of the day.


(Greek; pl. paraskenia: stage house constructions on either side of the stage). Hellenistic projecting side additions to the skênê; one to two story side wings on either side of the proskênion; could be ornamented with columns or pillars supporting a frieze. Corresponds to the Roman basilica.


(Greek; pl. parodoi: literally "side road"). Side entrance into the orchestra of a Greek theater (one on each side) between the audience seating (cavea) and the scene building (skene); primary entrance/exit for the chorus. Also used by audience for entrance and exit from theatre; also an ode sung by the chorus as it first enters the orchestra. May also be used to describe the arched entrance through which the chorus entered. Alternate name: eisodoi.


(Greek; sing. periaktos: from Greek, revolving; three-sided, revolving scenic device for quickly changing the scene). This was a device for changing scenery by mounting three upright, painted flats on a triangular base. By rotating the unit, three different painted "looks" could be revealed to the audience. Used for quickly changing scenic backgrounds.


(Greek: painted scenic panels used in performances). Scenic elements (painted flats) placed in the openings (thyromata) of the Greek skene in Hellenistic theatres. Painted to represent locations during performances and could be easily changed as required.


(Latin: raised platform, shelf, or stage). See: Greek logeion, Latin pulpitum.



(Latin; pl. portae). A Roman gate or doorway.
(Latin; pl. porticus: porch). An open structure with a roof supported by columns. In a Roman theatre the covered colonnade at back of cavea or behind scene house. Behind the scenes porticus are to be built; to which, in the case of sudden showers, the people may retreat from the theatre. (Vitruvius).
portae hospitales:
(Church Latin: POR-tay)

(Latin; sing. porta hospitalis: guest doors). Two doors on either side of the central door in the Roman scaenae frons. Door on right reserved for second actor - left door for person of less importance. The word "portae" referres to domestic doors. The center door, valva regia, was the principle door reserved for royalty or the main actor. Vitruvious: "The parts of the scene are to be so distributed, that the middle door may be decorated as one of a royal palace; those on the right and left, as the doors of the guests or strangers." de Architectura, Book V.

portus post scaenas:
POR-tuss post SKY-nahss (Church Latin: SKAY-nahss)

(Latin: passageway behind the scene house). A portico or passageway behind the scaenae (scene house) of a Roman theatre.

(Church Latin: pray-SINK-tee-oh)

(Latin; pl. praecinctiones: something that surrounds or circles). The curved, theatre walkway that separates the galleries or tiers of a Roman theatre; corresponds to the Greek "diazoma"; aisle concentric with the rows of seats, between the upper and lower seating tiers in a Roman theatre.


(Greek; pl. prohedriai: front seating). Seat of honor for dignitaries, officials, and priests. Found in the front row surrounding the orchestra or in the front row of each kerkis (wedge-shaped seating section). The center seat in the front row was reserved for the priest of the god Dionysos-Eleuthereus. Beside him sat the other priests and officials, while the lesser priests and priestesses sat in the second tier of seats. Seats were made from carved stone.


(Greek: proskenion literally means "something set up before the skênê"). In Hellenistic theatres such as Priene, the proskenion described the theatre's high stage (logeion), the skene's side stages (paraskênia), and the logeion's decorated, supporting wall (hyposkênion). All were in front of the skene "scene house" or, pro-skênion.


(Latin; pl. pulpiti: a pulpit, platform, or actor's stage). Roman theatre stage (logeion in the Greek theatre). A platform for a public speaker in front of the scaenae (scaenae frons); Vitruvius gives the maximum height as five feet as opposed to the ten to twelve-foot height of the Hellenistic logeion. See also Latin, podium.

scaena ductilis:

SKY-nah (Church Lat. SKAY-nah) DOOK-ti-liss

(Latin: moving or guided scene). A pair of painted, movable screens that could be opened and pushed to either side of the stage. The remains of foundation tracts at Megalopolis in Greece suggest the use of a huge version of this scenic device.


(Latin; sing. scaena: theatre scene or stage house). From the Ancient Greek, skene. In the Roman theatre usually referring to the stage house or building behind the pulpitum (stage); corresponds to the Hellenistic skene. Often used in the pl. (scaenae) because it was composed of multiple parts.

scaenae frons:
(Latin: front of scene house). Elaborately decorated permanent architecutural front wall of the Roman scaenae (stage house). The wall could range in height from one to three stories and was typically ornamented with one to three tiers of columns (columnatio), balconies, and statues. The wall normally contained three entrances to the stage - a richly decorated center door valva regia or "royal door," flanked by two smaller doors: the porta hospitalis or "guest doors." The sides of the stage were enclosed by the basilica walls, each having a door which lead off-stage. In some theatres a permanent roof extended from the scaenae frons and covered the stage.
(Latin; used in the plural: stairs). Audience stairways in Roman seating area (cavea). The staircases (scalae) that separated the wedge-shaped seating sections (cunei) of the Roman cavea. In multi-tiered seating, the staircases lead to curved walkways (praecinctions) that separated the seating galleries. Corresponds to the Greek, klimakes. Vitruvious also uses scalaria when talking about the system of staircases in the theatre.

(Greek: tent). The building behind the orchestra in a Greek theatre. Originally used for storage but provided a convenient backing for performances; also used as a a waiting area/dressing room for actors; evolved to have doorways (center, left, and right) for use in performances. Corresponds to the Roman scaena or scaenae.


(from Latin socculus: a light shoe). Stone support for columns.

summa cavea:
SOO-ma KAH-vay-a

(Latin: highest tier of cavea seating in a Roman theatre) Used by less distinguished audience members such as urban poor, foreigners, slaves, and women) .


(Greek). Four rows of columns; also, a meeting place or public square.

thay-AH- oh-my

(Greek: to gaze at or behold). To view as spectators in the theatre.


(Greek; sing. theatês). Spectators.


(Greek; pl. theatra: the seeing place of the Greek theatre). The theatron was the “seeing place” of a Greek theatre as opposed to the auditorium "hearing place" of the Roman theatre. The theatron was where the audience sat to watch the performance of a Greek play: alternate name koilon, a hollow or cavity. The theatron originally referred to the audience space of the Greek theatre, but later became synonymous with the entire structure consisting of the spaces for both the audience as well as the performance; corresponds to Roman cavea. Roman spelling: theatrum.


(Latin). Corresponds to Greek theatron.

theatrum tectum:
thay-AH-trum TEK-tum

(Latin). A covered theatre.


(Greek). Festival fund subsidizing the cost of theatre attendance at the Athenian Dionysia; recipients restricted to Athenian citizens; establishment of subsidy may date to Pericles ca. 450 BC; theoric fund established to either grant tickets free of charge or to provide monetary distributions for use at the festival; fund often cited as evidence supporting an Athenian concern for universal accessibility to theatre but arguments can be made that the fund also allowed the state to control and stabilize ticket prices.


(Greek). Platform in the orchestra, next to the altar of Dionysus, both platform and altar refered to as the thymelê; it is suggested that the leader of the chorus used the thymele as a platform during dialogues between the chorus leader (koryphaios) and the chorus.


(Latin; Greek: thymelikoi). Lyric and dancing performers primarily restricted to the orchestra in the Hellenistic theatre.


(Greek; sing. thyroma). Openings or doorways and their frames that pierced the facade of the skene or episkenion in the Hellenistic theatre.


(Latin; sing. tribunal: seat of judgment). Two raised platforms in a Roman theatre reserved for praetors (title granted to Roman magistrates) and honorific guests. One tribunal was the seat of judgment occupied by the magistrate who presided at the games, the other was reserved (in Rome) for the Vestal Virgins. The two elevated tribunalia platforms in the Roman theatre are found on the extreme sides of the cavea above the two side entrances (aditus maximi) to the orchestra. Corresponds to modern opera box seating.

valva regia:
VAL-va RAY-gee-a

(Latin; pl. valvae: royal doorway). The central door in the Roman scaenae frons wall; door used by the principal actor. The doors on either side of the central door were the portae hospitales (guest doors). The plural "valvae" was a word associated with temple doors or other grand doors while the word "porta" referred to a domestic door. Vitruvious: "The parts of the scene are to be so distributed, that the middle door may be decorated as one of a royal palace; those on the right and left, as the doors of the guests or strangers." de Architectura, Book V.


(Latin; pl. velaria). An awning in a Roman theatre or amphitheater that stretched above the audience as protection from the sun and elements. Also referred to as velum.


(Latin; pl. vela: sail, covering). A fabric covering or awning used to shade the audience in the Roman theatre. Also referred to as velarium.

(Latin: sing. venatio: “animal hunts”). A type of entertainment in ancient Rome involving the hunting and killing of wild animals. Public spectacle that featured contests between beasts or between men and beasts, usually in connection with gladiator shows.

(Latin; sing. versurus: side entrance onto the Roman stage). Entrances on either side of a Roman stage. Commonly used to denote the large foyers (basilicas) that flank the stage, but strictly speaking versurae refer to the entrances themselves. Vitruvius speaks of the versurae procurrentes which provide the two lateral entrances to the stage. Greek and Roman stage directions indicate that the right entrance was to or from the forum or city and the left entrance was to or from the country or foreign locations: de Architectura, Book V.

via venatorium:
VEE-a veh-na-TAW-ree-um

(Latin: road or way of the hunter). A complex of hallways and rooms which housed animals and equipment; found in Roman theatres designed to accommodate gladiator combat or animal hunts.


(Latin; sing. vomitorium: literally a means of "spitting out" or "vomiting" theatre visitors). Vaulted passageways leading to or from the theatre seating. The vomitoria connected to the lateral cryptae under the cavea forming an efficient network of exits and entrances for the audience.



Although the glossary words and definitions were compiled by the author from numerous sources, I wish to acknowledge the following significant works:

Art & Architecture Thesaurus: The Getty Research Institute.

Bieber, Margarete. The History of The Greek and Roman Theatre. 2nd ed. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1961.

Brockett, Oscar G. and Franklin J. Hildy. The History of The Theatre. 10nd ed. Princeton, Boston, London, Toronty, Sydney, Tokyo, and Singapore: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.

Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. (1890). (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin)

Dinsmoor, William B. The Architecture of Ancient Greece. Reprint of 3d ed., rev. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Izenour, George. Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992.

Perseus Digital Library. Ed. Gregory R. Crane. Tufts University. (accessed April 17, 2012).

Sear, Frank. Roman Theatres: An Architectural Study. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Vitruvius : Ten Books on Architecture. translation by Ingrid D. Rowland; commentary and illustrations by Thomas Noble Howe; with additional commentary by Ingrid D. Rowland and Michael J. Dewar. New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.

I find it only fitting that Frank Sear's, Roman Theatres: An Architecture Study, is second only to Vitruvius in the alphabetical listing. His seminal work on Roman theatres was indispensable in the compilation of this glossary. If errors are found, the mistakes are mine alone. Photographs contained in the glossary, except as noted, were produced by the author.




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