The Theatre of Marcellus, located in Rome, Italy, is one of the most significant ancient Roman theatres. It was commissioned by Julius Caesar and completed by Augustus Caesar in 11 BC. The theatre was named after Augustus’s nephew and heir, Marcus Marcellus. The Theatre of Marcellus is the only stone theatre dating back to ancient Rome of which significant traces remain today. Its construction on the Field of Mars dates back to 17 BC, when the huge tuff and concrete structure, covered in travertine, was completed: with its 130-metre diameter, it could accommodate up to 20,000 spectators.
The Theatre of Marcellus, built in ancient Rome, was the largest and most important theatre and could have accommodated between 15,000 and 20,000 spectators
The theatre had a capacity of between 15,000 to 20,000 spectators and its external facade was covered with travertine marble and featured huge marble theatre masks. The semicircular travertine façade of the theatre originally had two tiers, each composed of 41 arches. The lower tier had Doric columns, the second tier Ionic, and the top attic probably carried Corinthian pilasters. The arches led directly to the lower seats of the cavea and to stairs leading to the second tier corridor which had steps leading to the attic and the highest seats which were probably made of wood. In its heyday, the theatre hosted such cultural events as plays, musical contests, and poetry recitals. However, with the increasing popularity of circuses and gladiator games held in the Circus Maximus and Colosseum, the theatre fell into disuse. Indeed, in the 4th century CE, material from the theatre was used in other building projects, in particular, the bridge of Cestius.
Over time, the theatre was abandoned and quarried for its stone. It was later used as a fortress and then transformed into residential apartments
In the 11th and 12th centuries, the theatre was taken over by the Pierleone family and converted into a fortress between Tiber Island and Capitoline Hill. In 1368, the stronghold was taken over by the Savelli family who hired Baldassare Peruzzi in 1519 to create a palazzo that incorporated the theatre’s ruins. This palazzo is what we still see today, with several additions that were added in 1712 under the direction of the Orsini family. Despite all the changes over the centuries, the first two levels of the theatre remain somewhat intact and are visible from the outside. The first two levels are the property of Rome, while the apartment buildings, which still exist, are privately owned.