Teatro Marcello marks one of the boundaries of the ancient Campus Martius in Rome – and sits next to the site of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus, so if you visit one, you cannot help but visit the other because the remains of the temple form the forecourt to the amphitheatre.
Both sit on the edge of the Jewish Quarter in Rome – which is one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe, so the area is steeped in ancient and more recent history.
Teatro Marcello is one of the first sites you will see if you land at Fiumicino Airport and take a cab to the centre of Rome. If you are not familiar with the Eternal City, you might think it is the Colosseum, especially through the window of a cab. It is Rome’s second major amphitheatre and is now used for live music events.
Teatro Marcello history
Teatro Marcello – the theatre of Marcellus – was originally planned by Julius Caesar, who cleared land for it in order to provide an open-air theatre for citizens of Rome to watch music and theatre events.
Caesar was murdered in 44BC, however, and the theatre was not finally completed until 13BC and was inaugurated by the Emperor Augustus – Caesar’s successor, great nephew and adopted son – in 12BC. The amphitheatre is dedicated to Marcus Claudius Marcellus (42 – 23 BC), the nephew of Augustus, whose sister Octavia was his mother.
The theatre was at the largest in Ancient Rome and measures 111 metres in diameter. The design uses a mix of Greek columns, including Doric and Ionic. The top tier was removed when it was redesigned in the Middle Ages, but were possibly Corinthian – there are remains of Corinthian columns on the site. The upper tier of the theatre is now luxury apartments, where residents get to hear the music for free.
The Roman Empire was declining towards 1AD and the theatre fell into disuse around 4BC – the empire finally fell in 4AD.
Centuries later, in 421AD, statuary inside the amphitheatre were restored – and over the centuries the theatre was used as a quarry, military fortress and small residences.
In 11AD the theatre became known as temple Marcelli by Pier Leoni, who founded the Pierleoni family and whose father was a convert from the Jewish faith – remember the Jewish quarter of Rome borders the amphitheatre.
Julius Caesar was known as a great friend to the Jewish community, which has existed in Rome for more than 2,000 years and is the oldest Jewish community in Europe. Caesar was greatly mourned by the Jews in Rome after he was murdered.
Today the amphitheatre is a popular tourist site and venue for events – and the temple is mainly in ruins and is under constant restoration and curation, but it is possible to wander through the site to the Jewish Quarter and get up close to the architecture.