Taormina Amphitheatre - History and Facts | History Hit

Taormina Amphitheatre

Taormina, Sicily, Italy

Taormina Amphitheatre was first built by the Ancient Greeks in the third century BC and reconstructed by the Romans.

Peta Stamper

20 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Taormina Amphitheatre

Taormina Amphitheatre (Teatro Greco Romano) in Sicily was initially built by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC before being rebuilt and enlarged by the Romans. While known as an amphitheatre, the site is actually an ancient theatre – not the gladiatorial arena of the type normally meant by the term. As well as being a major draw for tourists to the city, today the theatre continues to be used for concerts, plays and other events.

Taormina Amphitheatre history

The Ancient Greeks inhabited Sicily from 750 BC, establishing many significant settlements on the island to make use of Sicily’s fertile soil and advantageous trading location. Around the 3rd century BC at the time of Hiero II, the Greeks dug directly into the hard rock of Mount Taro to construct a theatre, removing around 100,00 cubic metres of rock. Large columns would have been hauled up the mountain by slaves to encircle the stage.

The Greek theatre was designed to accommodate dramatic or musical performances and so included an orchestra at the lowest levels of the theatre and a large scene where actors or dancers would perform. The cavea, or auditorium steps and seats, were designed so all 5,400 spectators could hear wherever they sat. Taormina’s theatre became part of the natural landscape; the light and splendid Calabrian coastal scenery providing a natural backdrop to performances.

After the Punic Wars the Romans annexed Sicily, forcing out the Carthaginians. While Sicily remained largely Greek culturally, the Roman settlers expanded the theatre and shifted its function to reflect Roman entertainment: gladiatorial games. The Romans expanded the orchestra, as well as adding columns, statues and covers.

During the Middle Ages, the grand Corinthian style columns were removed to adorn palaces and places of worship, including the Cathedral.

Taormina Amphitheatre today

Today, over 2 millennia later, the Taormina Amphitheatre remains a social space for watching performances. The entertainment offered includes theatre, concerts, symphonies, operas, ballets and the David di Donatell awards have all been held within the ancient auditorium.

The modern seating has had a mixed response, but allows this fantastic site that has weathered the ravages of time to continue functioning as was originally intended. Be aware the site is not very accessible for those who cannot climb easily. However, those who visit are rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Etna.

Getting to Taormina Amphitheatre

If driving, the theatre is a 50 minute drive along the A18 from Catania, just off Taormina’s SS114 road and up the steep SP-10. There is a parking block at Porta Pascale, 10 minutes walk. For those using public transport, the Interbus Terminal of Taormina is a 10 minute walk from the theatre.

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