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The Taormina Theatre 

Randy H. Sooknanan

Arts & History Writer

Why would the ancient Greeks build such a place upon such a dangerous environment? Why would the Romans continue to as well right under the nose of an active and volatile volcano? Well, put simply, it was too beautiful a spot not to.

1. Greek Theatre of Taormina - Sicily -

2. Greek Theatre of Taormina - Sicily -


Teatro Antico di Taormina

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The Greek theatre of Taormina, was born to accommodate dramatic performances and musicals, then it transformed during the Roman period to make room for games and gladiatorial battles. During this time, there was an expansion to the orchestra section, which in the Greek period designed for musicians, was adapted to be a new functional arena for brutal sport.

What was the purpose of the Greco-Roman amphitheaters?

Ancient Roman amphitheaters were large public venues, they were of a circular or oval design and had seating tiers around the perimeter. The height of the Classical Greek age (480 BC – 323 BC) pre-dates the Roman Empire by a number of centuries. Within the timeline of Ancient Greece, emerging around 800 BC to its subjection to the Roman Empire in 146 BC, saw fundamentally different uses for amphitheatres in general. The biggest difference? The Greeks used them for dramatic plays and the Romans used them primarily for major events such as gladiator combats, chariot races, venationes (animal hunts), and executions.

Initial ideology behind Amphitheaters 

The old Greek Theatres are irrevocably important from an anthropology viewpoint because the idea of Theater became significant to general Greek culture when it became an integral part of festivals honoring the gods. The Greek empire was far-reaching, and as a result, the concept was spread throughout much of the world, along with the mythological tales that many plays were based upon. Culture was more easily spread with the advent of massive structures where audiences could indulge in the art of militaristic Rome, games of violence for entertainment.

Location, location, location

If it is true that "the utmost pleasure of travelling is attained when movement in space is united with movement in time," then a trip to the extraordinary world of Naxos Taormina Archaeological Park is a perfect journey. We might start by asking ourselves why, in 734 BC, the first Greek colonists, having the whole Ionian coast at their disposal, should have selected precisely that point, on that small lava peninsula, the final outcropping of the majestic volcano, to found the first colony, Naxos. But Count Otto von Geleng would immediately provide his answer, and on arriving at Giardini, in the course of his stay in Taormina, in the early days of February 1863, he called it "the island in the sky," an authentic "region of the soul." To convey his happiness at having found such a paradise, he sent his watercolors to Berlin, where they were not well received. "Is there really," asked the critics, "a place where trees in blossom frame the snowy volcano, or are those paintings merely the fruit of the imagination of a young romantic artist?" This is the same wonder that still today amazes and bewitches the visitor to the Park, as happened to Frances Elliot, who, after her tor in 1879 and 1880, exclaimed: "The memory of what I saw during the journey by rail from Messina to Taormina makes me melancholy. Now I understand why the gods loved Sicily so profoundly."

The ancient theatre is without question the most important feature for sight-seers in Taormina, also because of its very fortunate natural setting, with a splendid view toward the Calabrian coast, the Ionian coast of Sicily and the spectacular cone of Etna. (1)


The theatre is divided into several parts: The Scene, the Orchestra, the Cavea, the Portici, and the Access Stairs. The Greek Theatre of Taormina is the second-largest theater of Sicily, after the one in Syracuse, it is also the world's best known and most admired.  The construction of the amphitheater starts by the Greeks around the third century. BC, at the time of Hiero II. To allow the construction was necessary to remove manually from the mountain over 100,000 cubic meters of rock. The plant was later renovated and expanded by the Romans, who inserted columns, statues, and ingenious covers. (2) 

In modern times

Since the 1950s the theatre has hosted various forms of entertainment such as plays, concerts, award ceremonies of, symphonies, operas and ballet performances. 

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