Teatro di Marcello Facts & History

Teatro di Marcello stands between the Ancient Rome Area and the Rome Jewish Ghetto, hence it’s also known as the Jewish Coliseum. Works to build the theater started under Julius Caesar, but the dedication occurred only under Emperor Augustus in the 13th century BC. The Theater was then named after Marcus Marcellus, Augustus’s nephew and also husband of Augustus’s only daughter, Julia. Although it may sounds pretty strange today, Marcellus was at once Augustus’s nephew and his son in law, and perhaps also the chosen one to rule after his death. However, Marcellus died prematurely at the age of 19. He had been married with Julia only for two years.

Teatro di Marcello Rome, Italy
Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder
Location: in Via del Teatro Marcello in the Jewish Ghetto Area
Tickets: Not Needed. For more info visit Teatro Marcello Info
Accessibility: Accessible
Kid-friendly Attraction

Theater Marcellus in Numbers: Before & Nowadays

The open-air theater, which was used for acting, dancing and singing performances, originally featured 41 arches framed by 42 pillars. It was 36,60 meters in height (approximately 98 feet tall), while today it is a little bit taller than 20 meters (65 ft). Theater Marcellus could host nearly 15,000 spectators. The external facade was covered with travertine marble and featured huge marble theater masks.
The set resembled the facade of a monumental building, finely decorated with columns and statues of illustrious figures and gods.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Theatre Marcellus followed the destiny of many other monuments and sites in Rome such as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

The theater was turned into a cave to extract precious materials used to build churches and palaces in Rome. Part of the demolished materials collapsed on the area opposite to the Tiber bank. By the 13th century noble families in Rome fought for the property of this area. Eventually the Orsini family acquired it together with the apartments that are known today as the Orsini Palace.

Popular Tales: “The Show Must Go On”

According to some sources an accident occurred on the day of the inauguration of Teatro di Marcello. While the actors were going up on stage, the sella curulis, i.e. the Emperor’s seat, broke down and the Emperor fell. The senators and the rest of public were really concerned thinking about what the Emperor’s reaction would have been. However, with great surprise, Augustus just stood up smiling and with a hand gesture commanded the actors to keep going.

The Apartments of Teatro Marcello

Looking closely you will notice that the ancient ruins of the theater merge with a building, the famous Orsini Palace, made up by several apartments. The master’s rooms comprise three large bedrooms, the main hall, the library, the dining room and a wonderful ballroom. Another apartment features 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, 2 bathrooms and a stunning terrace. But that’s not all! Under the palace there’s a 431 square-meter wine cellar that goes right under the ruins of Theater Marcellus. The entire property was put up for sale in 2012 for 32 millions of euros!

Apartments of Teatro Marcello in Rome, Italy
Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder

The ancient ruins in front of Teatro Marcello

By the time of renovation works of Theater Marcellus, archaeologists brought to life the remains of two temples: the Temple of Apollo Sosianus and the Temple of Bellona.
The Temple of Apollo Sosianus dates back to 431 B.C and today still bears the name of Gaio Sosio who payed for the temple reconstruction later in 34 B.C. The temple was dedicated to Apollo Medicus and features three beautiful Corinthian columns. The facade showed a scene of war depicting the Greeks and the Amazon women. Marble statues were used to adorn the temple and were probably brought to Rome from Greece. Today, nine statues are kept in the museums of Rome “Centrale Montemartini”, where it’s possible to admire sculptures of Athen, Hercules and the Amazon women on horseback.

Columns in front of Teatro Marcello Rome, Italy
Credits: image by @Roma_Wonder