Completed in 55 BCE, the Theatrum Pompeii was the first permanent theatre to be built in Rome. It was commissioned by one of Rome's leading generals, Pompey the Great (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, 106-48 BCE), who spared no expense in its construction, importing huge quantities of costly marble from Asia.
Prior to its construction, permanent stone theatres had been forbidden in Rome. To get round this problem, Pompey had a temple to Venus Victrix erected at the top of the cavea (seating). This allowed him to claim that he had not actually built a theatre, but rather a temple of Venus, to which he'd added the steps of a theatre.
To the east of the theatre stood a great rectangular quadriporticus, which comprised a building known as the Curia. It had acquired this name, on account of the fact that meetings of the Senate were sometimes held there. It was in the Curia on March 15th, 44 BCE, that Pompey's rival Julius Caesar was assassinated. Caesar, it is said, died at the foot of a marble statue of Pompey.
Above ground, almost nothing survives of Pompey's theatre, which was situated Campo dei Fiori and Largo Argentina, however the outline of the semi-circular auditorium survives in the layout of the buildings on Via di Grotta Pinta.
The theatre is recalled in the inscription that is emblazoned on the facade of Palazzo Sodalizio Teutonico dell' Anima, which lies on Via del Monte della Farina: 'HEIC UBI IGNOBILES NUPER TABERNAE RUDERA PREMEBANT PORTICUS CN POMPEII CUI CONTINENS ERAT CURIA C IUL CAESARIS NECE INSIGNIS SODALITAS TEUTONUM DE ANIMA NOBILIORES HAS AEDES EXSTRUENDAS CURAVIT ANNO AB URBE CONDITA MM SC XL VI A D M DCCC XC III' ('Here, where tawdry shops lately encumbered the ruins of the portico of Gnaeus Pompey, to which was attached the Curia, famous for the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar, the German Society of Santa Maria dell' Anima undertook the construction of this nobler palace 2,646 years from the foundation of the city, the year of the Lord 1893').
A marble statue of Pompey stands in the courtyard of Palazzo Sodalizio Teutonico dell' Anima.
Blogging about Rome,
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
Search Walks in Rome: