Roman Amphitheater

the Roman odeon, or theatre, at Kom el-Dikkah (mound of rubble)

One of the most interesting things about Alexandria, I think, is that there is an entire, older Roman city beneath the modern one. In the few places they have dug down they have revealed Roman roads, baths, houses, streets and theatres.

One of the best excavated ruin is the Roman theatre. Originally, the area was excavated looking for the site of the Paneion (“Park of Pan”) in an area called the Hill of Rubble – Kom el-Dikkah. Instead of a part, a small amphitheater was found. In the layers above the roman street were found a Muslim cemetery and slums.

some of the substructure still exists, in brick and marble.

The theatre was not discovered in 1963, when it was found during excavation for a new building.

the brick foundations and fallen granite columns at the back of the theatre


another view of the theatre, buried until 1963

The half-round odeon seats 700-800, with 12 rows of marble seats facing a small stage. The stage still has some of the original mosaic paving, and the passages and rooms under the theatre seats for the actors can still be seen.

I would make a good audience member, but the seats are hard

The theatre is still in use, sort of. While visitors do not sit on the marble seats — some still with visible numbers on them — a new set of concrete and stone galleries have been built into the hillside, and a new stage erected before the original. The Roman Amphitheater is now the backdrop for a modern theatre company, and plays and lectures are performed here regularly.

the modern theatre overlooking the original

Nearby are the remains of the Roman Baths, and the Villa of the Birds. ALso mentioned is an earlier structure, the Great Theatre from the ptolemaic period, which was probably further north and as yet undiscovered. 


looking out over the new stage from the original seats

Parts of the original flooring on the stage remain. The geometric mosaic is in good condition (although not as good as those in the Villa of the Birds). There has been a lot of restoration work on the theatre, so it’s hard to know what’s correctly rebuilt and what is fanciful reconstruction.

original mosaic flooring remains in two places on the stage

The seats are marble, and pretty dang hard. I’m sure that theatre patrons brought little cushions to sit on. Or at least, I hope they did!

some of the “cheap seats”

access to the substructure of the theatre

Around the perimeter of the site (which also includes an ongoing excavation of a Roman Road, the remains of extensive Roman Baths, and the Villa of the Birds) contains a variety of statuary, including these — which look like bathtubs but are really sarcophagi — and some statues brought from the harbor, where they are excavating a Temple of Isis.

bathtub-like sarcophagi from the Romans


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s