Roman Theatre of Mérida

The Roman Theatre of Mérida is the old theatre building of the Roman colony Augusta Emerita. It is a World Heritage Site since 1993. .

The Roman theatre of Mérida was built on the orders of the consul Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. According to the inscriptions of the theatre itself, it was inaugurated between the years 16 and 15 B.C. Its construction was planned together with the one of the next amphitheatre.

As time went by it suffered several reforms. Throughout the 1st century A.D., the stage was raised, as we see it today. Around the 4th century A.D. it underwent a further remodelling.

Once Christianity became the official religion of the Empire, theatrical performances were considered immoral. Therefore, the theatre was abandoned and, later on, mostly collapsed. Only the ‘seven chairs’, i.e., the highest part of the grandstands, stood out on the ground.

The excavations that led to the rediscovery of the theatre began in 1910, under the direction of José Ramón Mélida. Today it is the jewel of Roman monuments in Mérida, and one of the best preserved theatres of antiquity.

Teatro romano de Mérida
Photograph taken by J. Laurent around 1867.

The cavea or grandstands benefit from the slope of the San Albín hill. It has an audience capacity of 6,000. As other Roman theatres, it is divided into three areas, separated by a wall called balteus. 

The ima cavea was the closest sector to the stage, just behind the seats reserved to authorities. The media and summa cavea, also separated from each other, have five rows of seats. Access and transit to the stands were made through the so-called vomitoriums.

Teatro romano de Mérida
Side view of the theatre.

Between the grandstands and the stage, there was the orchestra. It is a semicircular space where the choir was placed. It has blue tiles separated by white marble stripes. Moreover, the access to the  orchestra is made through vaulted passages placed at the sides, called parodoi.

At the lintel placed in the access to these passages, there is an inscription confirming Marcus Agrippa as the promoter of the theatre construction.

Teatro romano de Mérida
Parodoi of the theatre.

The ‘main character’ of the theatre is, without a doubt, the scaena. It is an elevated platform, originally covered entirely with wood. It can be reached through two stairs at the sides of the orchestra. 

At the scaena, the frons scaenae, the construction that serves as a backdrop, stands out. It has two floors upon which stand Corinthian columns. The main door for actors was called valva regia. Besides, the lateral doors were the valva hospitalia.

Teatro romano de Mérida
Ceres' seated statue in the stage.

Behind the stage, there were the rooms where the actors prepared themselves. This group of rooms is the postcaenium. Behind this area there were some gardens for recreation. They originally had a double colonnade on all four sides.

At the back, a rectangular room has been preserved. It has been identified with an imperial worship place. There were also portraits of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus and of Tiberius.

Teatro romano de Mérida
Gardens at the back of the theatre.

Location: Plaza Margarita Xirgu, s/n, 06800 Mérida, Badajoz.
Telephone: (+34) 924 00 49 08

Here you will find information about your tickets as well as the updated schedule of the Roman Theatre in Merida.

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