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The Greek theatre of Siracusa


The Greek theatre of Siracusa hosted and still hosts classical theatrical performances today. In fact, it is the city of Athens that we look at, in particular, at the tragedies of the fifth century. B.C. and to the model they provided: for example the Dionysias, shows that were organized at the foot of the Acropolis of Athens in honor of Dionysus. At the same time they fulfilled an educational, civic and religious function and for this reason they were offered free of charge by the polis to the citizens. In Sicily, however, it was not possible to recreate in the same environment, as the scene was always centered on themes of entertainment and common life.

The structure of the Greek theatre

The Greek theater of Syracuse consists of three fundamental elements: the Cavea or Theatron, the Orchestra and the Scene or Skene.


The Cavea is built entirely in the rock through excavations carried out on the Temenite promontory. The most evident part of the work was obtained from the rock. It is made up of a series of stone steps in the shape of a semicircle. Divided into nine sectors, they are intended to accommodate spectators and consist of 46 steps. Inside, up to 15,000 people of various social classes could take place.

Just like modern football stadiums, even in ancient times the structure housed the public by placing them differently in sections and stands of honor: this time, however, based on a criterion of social importance.

Aerial view of Greek Theatre of Siracusa

In fact, the front rows and places of honor were reserved for illustrious personalities such as priests, magistrates, nobles;

the rest of the population was accommodated, on the other hand, higher and higher, up to the most extreme sector.

The latter was financed by the polis and was intended for the less well-off. It is thought, albeit with some reservations, that entry was also extended to women. The upper part of the auditorium, intended for the people, is the worst preserved. The Spaniards, in fact, in the sixteenth century, obtained from it banks of rock for the construction of defensive structures for the island of Ortigia.


The spectators were all facing the central area of the structure: the orchestra. The term derives from the Greek orcheomai (to dance). It indicated the place where the choir moved and danced and where, perhaps, the actors also originally performed. Near the orchestra, the Syracuse theater also featured side passages: they were used for the scenic appearances of spirits. Usually in the center of the orchestra there is also an altar dedicated to the divinity.


Finally, the scene or skené was the main space in which the action took place. The scene of the Greek theater of Syracuse today presents deep furrows and excavations to which it is not easy to give an explanation: perhaps the work of the Romans who dedicated this space to the fight between gladiators and beasts like what happened at the Colosseum. Even today, in June, shows are played and staged, in particular tragedies, both Greek and Latin.

The Theatre today

Since 1914 with the birth of the INDA, the stage space of the Greek theater has been mainly used for the so-called “classical representations” of Greek tragedies and comedies, following the dictates of tradition. The performances, previously held every two years, are one of the reasons for the pride of the Greek culture of the city. Except for normal use within the tour circuit of the Archaeological Area, the auditorium of the theater is occasionally used for concerts or official awards, however the theater has always been limited in its use due to its conservation and the delicacy of the stone.

In 2014 the Regional Councilorship for Cultural Heritage authorized the use of the theater for summer performances of music, opera and dance.

Discover more about the theatre here >

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