May 7 - 13, 2017: Issue 311



By George Repin 

The remarkable Roman theatre in Aspendos, Turkey, is considered to be the best preserved theatre of antiquity and also is without doubt the best preserved example of “eastern” Roman theatre construction in the world. (Note: See footnote for the distinctions between “western” and “eastern” Roman theatres.)

The outside façade of the "skene" and the entrance to the theatre.

Aspendos is 47 Kms east of the modern city of Antalya in Turkey and about 16 Kms inland from the Mediterranean Sea. In the 5th Century BCE the River Eurymedon on which the city stood was navigable and the city derived great wealth from trade in salt, oil and wool.  Its importance in the ancient world is indicated by the wide geographic distribution of its coinage which the city started to mint around 500 BCE. 

Believed to have been originally founded by Greeks, at various times Aspendos was dominated by the Persians, the Athenians and, briefly in 333 BCE, Alexander the Great.  In 190 BCE the city surrendered to the Romans.

The theatre was built during the reign of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE).  A statue honouring the architect Zeno, a Greek born in Aspendos, stands in the south parados.

With a diameter of 96 metres (315 feet) the theatre could seat 10,000 to 15,000 people (according to various estimates).   Although built in the Roman period, to conform with Hellenistic traditions, part of the theatre was built leaning against the hill where the city’s Acropolis stood, while the remainder was built on vaulted arches. There are forty-one rows of seats in the cavea (i.e. the auditorium where the audience was seated) subdivided by ten radiating staircases in the lower seating section and twenty-one staircases in the upper section.  Surrounding the uppermost row of seating at the top of the cavea is a colonnaded gallery with fifty-nine vaulted arches.  This sheltered walkway serves as a convenient access to the various seating sections and also contributes to the excellent acoustics at Aspendos. Post holes in the upper level of the theatre held masts which supported a velarium or awning which could be pulled over the audience to provide shade.

Layout of the "cavea" - i.e. the auditorium seating.  The left side of the "skene" and the stage on the right.

The skene, a high building behind the proscenium or stage, seemingly served to isolate the audience from the rest of the world but also provided a convenient backdrop for performers. An 8.1 metre wooden ceiling over the stage, which sloped back to the skene wall, has been lost.  It improved acoustics and protected actors from the elements.

Auditorium seating seen from the "orchestra" i.e. the space between the audience and the stage.

The beauty of the theatre can only truly be appreciated on site –amateur photographs such as mine do not do it justice.

Aspendos is the site of concerts and performances of opera and ballet in the spring and early summer.

Arches of the colonnaded gallery surrounding the uppermost row of seating.

The sheltered colonnaded access gallery surrounding the uppermost row of seating.

Footnote: Bieber identifies distinctions between “western” and “eastern” Roman theatres citing the straight, multi-storied scaenae frons with a higher, seven foot, stage as characteristic of “eastern” theatre construction techniques found at Aspendos, Priene, Miletus and Termessos.  These Hellenistic-influenced theatres in Asia Minor are in contrast to the “western” theatres in Italy, Spain, France and Africa which have recessed niches for the doors in the scaenae frons and a lower, four-foot high stage.

The "skene" with the "scaenae frons" at its foot.

Photos by George Repin 1997


Uploaded on 5 Jul 2008
Artist: Efe Kislali, Conductor: Antonio Pirolli, 
Video has been recorded by Arin DENIZASAN
Ankara Opera Orchestra,Opening concert, Aspendos Festival, June 7th 2008.

Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino  Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant  Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre   Around Angkor - 1963   Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross  The Oceaographic  Museum  in Monaco  The Island of Elba  Russian Fairy Tale Plates  Meteora  Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska  Cloisonné  Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories  Not A Chagall!  Did You Listen? Did You Ask?  Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand  Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells  Murano  University of Padua  Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi   Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park   Aphrodisias   The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children  Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre   Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island    ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997  Hotere Garden Oputae  Children of the Trobriand Islands  Page Park Market - Rabaul  Rabual   Kotor, Montenegro   Galleries of Photographs I   Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II   The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  Ivan Meštrović  - Sculptor   Delphi   Gallery of Photographs III  The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point  San Simeon - "Hearst Castle"  Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982  Russian New Year  Mycenae  "Flightseeing" Out Of Anchorage Alaska  The White Pass and Yukon Route  Totem Poles  Tivkin Cemetery  Krka National Park - Croatia   Tavistock Square and the BMA  Orthodox Easter  Wieliczka Salt Mine  A Walk on Santorini  Indonesian Snapshots Ephesus - The Library of Celsus  Ephesus - Some Places Of Interest  Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley United Nations Headquarters 1958  A Miscellany of Flower Images Gardens Bath St. David's In Wales   Zion National Park Nicholas Himona - Artist  Kraków  Lilianfels  Collonges-La-Rouge  Gingerbread Houses   Cape Sounion   Delos  Wroclaw  Colonial Williamsburg  Gruyères   Strasbourg  Coventry Cathedral

Copyright George Repin 2017. All Rights Reserved.