Theater of Merida (Emerita Augusta), at Merida, Badajoz.
Planta del Teatro de Emerita Augusta y alrededores
Plan of the Theater of Emerita Augusta and surroundings.
Press to enlarge.
Roman consul Marcus Agripa was the main instigator for bulding it. Construction began at year 16 b.C. Modifications were often made: at 105 a new frons scaenae was elevated and later -year 333- modified. The porticus postscaenae, or back part of the scene, and the rows are the only extant structure from its first design.
As the most part of Roman theaters,it was designed following models according to Vitrubius. It was composed by semicircular rows for 5.800 spectators divided into three levels: ima -22 rows and 6 doors-, media -5 rows- and summa cavea -5 rows-. As it was usual for this kind of works, the slope of hill -in this case San Albin mountain- was used to make its building easier. Its diameter is almost 96 m. long. Rows could be reached through 13 doors that communicated with vomotorium. At its center and lower part, there was an also semicircular orchestra. Its diameter was 30 m. long, with three rows of poedria reservated for Emeritan high society and divided by a small semicircular wall called "balteus". This orchestra was covered with marble. At its front vertical of podium was elevated: the frons pulpiti, composed by several right and round exedrae. Beside 13 doors to enter the rows, there were two more for the scene: they wall have vaulted walls.
Teatro de Emerita Augusta
Theater of Emerita Augusta. Press to enlarge.

(Bank of Images of the National
Center of Information and Educative Communication)

Frons scaenae, or front of the scene is the most outstanding element at the whole. On a podium 2,5 m. high, covered with marble, there were two groups of Corinthian columns almost 30 m. high. Bases and capitals are in white marble; columns in blue one. On each order of columns there are entablatures with architrave, frieze and cornice, all decorated. On them, there were Imperial divinized statues of gods and classic heroes: Ceres, Pluto, Jupiter, Proserpine... Between them there are three doors as an access to scene: the central -valva regia- one and the lateral -valva hospitalarium-. Behind this façade, there are several rooms for actors and other persons.
Surface of the scene, the pulpitum was covered with wood. Under the whole, there were tools for making curtains, decorations and other elements for the play.
At the back of the scene, out of the theater, there was a porticated garden, with a little chamber devoted to Imperial worship. The Eastern side gives place to a domus, house of the Theatre, with peristylum and rich mosaics. At the bottom, on a side of the square, there are public toilettes.
Modifications went on: at Trajanus age a part of central row was substituted at the ima cavea, for a sanctuary -sacrarium- for Imperial worship. At year 333 the orchestra was pavimented again and access doors were modified.
After triumph of Christianism at Roman world, performings were seen as heathen. They were forbidden and theater was never used until our days. Now, restored, it is a place for outstanding performings.
eatro de Mérida
Columns and capitals from the Scaenae Frons
eatro de Mérida
Entry to Merida Theater