BBC iPlayer – The Greatest Show on Earth: How Ancient Greek drama influenced Roman theatre


You don’t have to be a fan of classical theatre to enjoy Dr Michael Scott’s exposition of how the Romans appropriated the essence of Ancient Greek drama.

There are fantastic shots of Rome amid all the erudition – as well as an explanation of how Greek and Roman theatres – amphitheatres – differed.

In Rome, there is also a digital reconstruction of Pompey’s theatre, where Julius Caesar met an untimely end thanks to Brutus and his supporters.

The area where the Theatre of Pompey stood is now a footprint of the theatre site – but once you understand the geography of the small piazza where the theatre once stood, it is difficult not to get excited about visiting it on your next trip to Rome.

Exterior palace wall
Curved wall of facade fronting existing piazza where Theatre of Pompey stood – the wall stands on what would have been the interior of the theatre

The curved building along one side of the small piazza is the most obvious clue that the Theatre of Pompey once stood there – and the little decorated arcade housing an altar to the Virgin – Santa Maria Grottapinta – was once a corridor inside the theatre.

Santa Maria Grottapinta leads to Campo dei Fiori, so it is easy to visit the site of Caesar’s demise – and, in fact, you might easily walk through the unprepossessing square that Santa Maria Grottapinta opens onto if you did not know the significance of it.

The ceiling of Santa Maria Grottapinta

But for insight into how Greek theatre influenced Roman culture and modern theatre, as well as a digital reconstruction of the Theatre of Pompey, simply go to BBC iPlayer and enjoy.  The programme is available to watch online until 24 April and you can also view other documentaries on Ancient Greek and Roman history by Dr Michael Scott.

Buon viaggio!

Great Roman theatres…

Colosseum interior


Arena di Verona


Arena di Verona during set up for the show

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