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Architecture and Design of Theaters at Ancient Corinth

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Adam Dyer

on 16 November 2016

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Transcript of Architecture and Design of Theaters at Ancient Corinth

- One of nine muses/ goddesses of music, song and dance. A daughter of Zeus, she was the muse of Tragedy and was portrayed carrying a tragic mask.
- One of nine muses/ goddesses of music, song and dance. A daughter of Zeus, she was the muse of Comedy and was portrayed carrying a comic mask.
...a date which will live in
Image of a Bacchic Maenad among satyrs performing a "dithyramb"
Location of the Amphitheater in relation to the Forum at Ancient Corinth
Roman Games
One of the perennial images of theater is the combined masks of comedy and tragedy. These masks offer an important starting point when considering the theaters of ancient Corinth. The Comedy and Tragedy masks are based on muses that were part of the ancient Greek mythic cults. Understanding the cult origins of theater performing and the genesis and arrangement of the physical theater spaces and how these two fit in first century Corinthian society, creates an important social backdrop for Paul’s Corinthian epistles.
An indicator of the prominence of Dionysian worship in the theater is the Throne for the Priest of Dionysus from the Theater of Dionysus in Athens (330BC)
“Spectacle encoded the culture of ordinary romans and played an important role in their lives.” (Clarke, 130).
The Greek and Roman theaters have a distinct physical arrangement that will be familiar to a modern eye in some ways. A large circular stepped seating area surrounding a central “playing” area is much like our modern theater in the round. This arrangement is also the basis for the ancient amphitheater which takes two half rounds and faces them toward each other (from amphi- "on both sides" + theatron "theater").
Useful terms:

– Entrance
– Seat of Honor
– Seating
- Section of Seating
– entrance
– Dancing place
– building behind orchestra
– speaking place
Proskenion /
– acting area
– façade of Second Story Siene
– façade under stage
– stepped seating
Valve Regia
– Center door of scaena frons
Portage Hospitales
– guest doors

“THE plan of the theatre itself is to be constructed as follows. Having fixed upon the principal centre, draw a line of circumference equivalent to what is to be the perimeter at the bottom, and in it inscribe four equilateral triangles, at equal distances apart and touching the boundary line of the circle, as the astrologers do in a figure of the twelve signs of the zodiac, when they are making computations from the musical harmony of the stars. Taking that one of these triangles whose side is nearest to the scaena, let the front of the scaena be determined by the line where that side cuts off a segment of the circle (A-B), and draw, through the centre, a parallel line (C-D) set off from that position, to separate the platform of the stage from the space of the orchestra.” -
De Architectura
Architectural Orders
- “Classification system used to define styles of ancient architecture; most common to ancient Greece are the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders. The three main parts of a temple facade are the steps, the columns, and the entablature. These three elements in turn have three parts: three steps (uppermost being the stylobate), three parts to a column (normally the base, shaft, and capital), and three parts to an entablature (an architrave, a frieze, and a cornice). These architectural elements are further classified by their particular style of design (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian). The column is normally indicative of the style of each order. Doric order (simple, smooth, round) developed on the Greek mainland and in southern Italy and Sicily by 7th century BC. Ionic (scrolled-shaped decoration) developed in Ionia and on some of the Greek islands by the 6th century BC. Corinthian (elaborate capital with acanthus leaf decorations), used more by Romans than Greeks, emerged late in the 5th century BC. Later variations of these orders by the Romans produced the Roman Composite order.”
(Source: Ancient Theater Archive - Greek - Roman Theatre Glossary)
“The theater was a place in which dramatic and musical events were staged. In the Roman period staged fighting was added. The theater has several phases. The original structure was built late in the 5th century B.C. and had permanent seats but only a wooden stage building. This was supplemented with a new orchestra and stage structure in the Hellenistic period. Early in the reign of the Emperor Augustus the building was adapted to Roman tastes. In the early 1st century A.D. the pitch of the seats was made steeper and the uppermost portion received a covered stoa. The stage building was rebuilt in the Hadrianic to early Antonine period. It had arched niches decorated with relief sculpture showing gods fighting giants, Greeks fighting Amazons and the Labors of Heracles. In later antiquity theatrical tastes changed and the orchestra was converted into a gladiatorial arena. The lower seats of the orchestra were cut back to create a vertical face separating the audience from the combatants. This barrier once preserved frescos showing lions, a bull, a leopard and men fighting animals. A scratched inscription beneath one lion refers to the story of Androcles and the lion. The orchestra was later waterproofed to enable the staging of water shows such as staged sea battles.
In the courtyard to the east of the stage is an inscription reused in the floor. The letter cuttings were designed to receive cast bronze letters. It reads “ERASTUS PRO AEDILITATE S P STRAVIT” or “Paved by Erastus at his own expense in return for his Aedileship.” A chamberlain (oikonomos) of Corinth called Erastus was mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Romans 16.23. Many believe the inscription and the book refer to the same person.” - (Source: ASCSA.net - Corinth Excavations/ Corinth Monument: Theater)
“The Roman Odeion of Ancient Corinth was a small, indoor theatre intended for musical events and rhetorical competitions. It consisted of a semicircular orchestra surrounded by seating, a stage building, and two roofed parodoi. It is reckoned to have held an audience of about 3,000. Built in the 1st century A.D., it was remodelled in the mid-2nd century A.D., perhaps with money provided by the famous philanthropist Herodes Atticus. A courtyard surrounded by stoas was constructed to the north of the stage building, connecting the Odeion with the theatre and presenting the two buildings as a unified complex. In the third building phase (c. A.D. 225), a fire destroyed the north peristyle and part of the stage building. The Odeion was converted into a gladiatorial arena by cutting back the lowest eight rows of Orchestra seating. The stage building fell into disuse. The Odeion was finally destroyed and completely abandoned at the end of the 4th century A.D.” (Source: ASCSA.net - Corinth Excavations/ Corinth Monument: Odeion)
1 Corinthians 15:32 – 34

[32] If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”
[33] Do not be deceived:

“Bad company ruins good morals.”
[34] Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

1 Corinthians 13:1

[1] If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. [2] And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
1 Ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω,
γέγονα χαλκὸς
ἠχῶν ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον. 2 καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν, καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη μεθιστάναι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐθέν εἰμι.
Architecture and Design
of the Theaters at Corinth

Thank you!
Presentation by
Adam Dyer
NTRA 8400

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Theater Seating Arrangement
Full transcript