Saturday, March 5, 2011


This great picture called "Début des fouilles" of 1931, shows the excavations of the theater of Vienne, or Roman Vienna, in France. I visited this impressive theater in 1994, which was built around 40 to 50 AD. It was after Autun the largest theater in Gaul, able to hold up to 13,000 spectators. It had a diameter of 27 meter, only one meter smaller than the theater of Marcellus in Rome. At the top of the cavea or seating area was a temple dedicated to either Apollon or Bacchus.

Starting in the 3rd century the theater, due to invasion and war, lost many of its statues and ornaments and gradually fell to rubble. During the middle ages some parts of the theater were used as shelter. In the 1930’s the Roman Theater was rediscovered and restoration began. On July 30th 1938 the Roman Theater was reopened with the play “The damnation of Faust", by Hector Berlioz, based on Goethe's 'Faust'.

It is not easy to find proper information regarding the theater, but it's clear that local dignitaries took advantage of the facility to consolidate their popularity by inviting their fellow citizens to shows, such as the very wealthy senator from Vienne, Decimus Valerius Asiaticus (or his family) in the first century A.D., who had his own troupe of actors: the Scaenici Asiaticiani, as the inscription on their funeral altar reads.

A 70 foot-long (21 meter) sculptured frieze of animals led by Dionysius, the patron deity of drama, ran across the front of the stage. This small dog is fortunately well preserved.

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