The Greeks built a variety of different theaters, by no means all of which were the type of semi-circular, open-air arrangements we now associate with classical theater. The Odeum of Pericles, for instance, built in Athens in 440 BCE and believed to be the first indoor theater, was a square building which seated an audience of around 4,000, spread around all four walls with a stage in the middle.
The theater of Dionysus provides the pattern for outdoor Greek theaters, a monumental stone semi-circle carved into a hillside, with a flat orchestra (dancing or performance area) and behind it a scene-building, originally wooden, later replaced with a stone building that had projecting wings.
The Romans began to build theaters in the middle of the third century BCE, basing them on Greek models. The most obvious difference was that the began by building every part of the theater from wood. These temporary wooden structures could be fantastically elaborate, with several tiers of seating for...
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