Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

Ancient Roman theatre discovered beneath the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

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Archaeologists conducting an excavation beneath the Palazzo Vecchio, a 13 th century building which serves as the Town Hall in Florence, have discovered the remains of an ancient Roman theatre dating back nearly 2,000 years, including a Vomitorium (corridor) used by as many as 15,000 people.

Roman theatres started out as simple, temporary wooden structures, but by the 1 st century AD, they were building elaborate stone theatres, complete with backstage area, orchestra pit, and seating for thousands of people.

An artistic representation of a Roman theatre

An artistic representation of a Roman theatre. Image source .

According to Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA), excavations at the Palazzo Vecchio have revealed the original painted stone pavements along which spectators used to walk from the outer circle of the theatre to the orchestra pit, as well as wall foundations, and 10-metre deep well shafts, providing water and waste disposal for the theatre. The remains of the theatre cover a vast area of land and even include cells in which wild animals were confined.

Excavations at the Roman Theatre in Florence

Part of the theatre remains that have been excavated. Photo credit: ANSA

Research at the site has revealed that it was in use between the 1 st or 2 nd century AD until the 5 th century, and was initially built for around 7,000 people, but at the height of its popularity could have held as many as 15,000 spectators.

The theatre of ancient Rome was a diverse and interesting art form, ranging from festival performances of street theatre and acrobatics, to the staging of Plautus's broadly appealing situation comedies, to the high-style, verbally elaborate tragedies of Seneca. Although Rome had a native tradition of performance, the Hellenization of Roman culture in the 3rd century BC had a profound and energizing effect on Roman theatre and encouraged the development of Latin literature of the highest quality for the stage.

Featured image: The Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

By April Holloway

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