Teatro di Marcello (Theatre of Marcellus) – Rome archaeological sites

One of Ancient Rome’s surviving buildings, now an impressive sight in modern Rome

The Teatro di Marcello, or Theatre of Marcellus, is a structure which illustrates the last two thousand years of Roman history.

The theatre was begun by Julius Caesar, but finished by Augustus, the first of Rome’s emperors, who claimed that he had found Rome in clay and left it in marble. He dedicated the theatre to his favourite nephew Marcellus. Instead of inheriting Augustus’s empire, Marcellus died young and was the first to be laid in Augustus’s mausoleum.

When the days of bread and circuses gave way to the days of raids and sackings, this big structure by the river had obvious strategic importance. The theatre was comandeered by the Fabi family, who built a fortress on top of the arches. Later the building passed through the hands of the Savelli and Orsini families; in the sixteenth century the former theatre was converted into a palazzo. Much more recently, the theatre saw yet another transformation: into luxury flats.

Today when you look at the Teatro di Marcello, you can see the high arches of the ancient theatre, medieval fortified walls and the more elegant additions of Baldassare Peruzzi, who undertook the conversion to a Renaissance palazzo.

You can’t usually get inside the building unless you’re lucky enough to know a resident. But the archeological area around the base is usually open (free) in daylight hours. You can walk past the great arches, by scattered archaeological finds, to the Portico of Octavia. In the summer piano recitals are held here.

The theatre is on Via del Teatro di Marcello, downhill from the Capitol, on the way to the Mouth of Truth.

On this site

Capitoline Museums