History is on stage in Volterra
The Roman town is in front of you thanks to its ancient theatre, one of the biggest and better preserved in Italy
Excavations carried out in the 50’s by Enrico Fiumi just beyond the Porta Fiorentina uncovered one of the finest and most well-preserved Roman theaters in Italy. In the Middle Ages the theatre was reduced by the construction of the defensive wall in the 13th century so that the summa cavea and the entrance to the theatre are no longer visible. An extensive quadrangular portico (porticus pone scaenum) (6) with an apse on either side was added to the theatre at a later date. Today the quadriporticus flanks the remains of the Roman Baths (7) erected when the theatre was abandoned at the end of the III century A.D.
The urban and historical evolution of Volterra
is visible at the theatre monumental complex
The Theatre was commissioned by two members of the CAECINAE family, Aulo Caecina Severo and Gaio Caecina Largo, both Roman consuls, the former in the 1st century B.C. and the latter in the 42 A.D. during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius. The cavea (2), or the seating area was built into a natural incline like Greek theaters and is composed of two tiers of steps: the ima cavea with 10 rows of seats in Pignano limestone and the media cavea with 9 rows of seats in the same stone. The cavea seated from 1.800 to 2000 spectators. Above the media cavea a semi-circular arched corridor, the crypta (1) with 11 doors, gave access to the seating area and probably supported the summa cavea, no longer visible. At the foot of the seating area lies the orchestra (3) enclosed by a low marble slab wall; a space originally designated to the musicians and choir but here in Volterra reserved for illustrious citizens.
The parallel wall contained the curtain and the wooden stage (4) was adorned by the scaenae frons (5), the elaborate back wall of the stage, once 15.57 metres high. Remains of the scaenae frons were uncovered during the excavation, hence part of the back wall has been reconstructed.