The Ancient Greek Amphitheatre

A discussion of the evolution of the Ancient Greek Amphitheatre.

This paper traces the history of the architectural form and cultural function of the amphitheatre from its modest beginning in ancient Greece through to the Roman influenced theatre of today. It examines how, although some aspects of their design and function are debatable because so little of their physical structure exists today, Greek theaters can be chronologically classified into three categories: The early Athenian, Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman. It discusses how all of these theaters could be divided into essentially three parts: the theatron (or auditorium), the orchestra and the skene (or scene building) and how these standards developed over time.
“In its simplest form the orchestra of a theater is simply a circular plot of land designated as a place for dance and this idea defines the orchestra employed during this time. It was circular in shape with a diameter of about 66 feet and was believed to be a locus for supernatural powers. An altar (or thymele), described as “a short drum of marble decorated with low-relief carvings of garlands and satyrs, or other Greek icons? was usually erected in the epicenter of the orchestra. It was primarily used prior to performances for sacrifices in honor of the god Dionysus, however plays with religious content often incorporated the altar into the performance. A level surface area, raised one foot from the orchestra and situated below the skene, termed the proscenium, served as the area in which the majority of the dramatic action transpired.”