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Taormina is on the east coat of Sicily, towards the north. Here we can find the second largest theatre on the island (Syracuse has the largest).

ROMAN THEATRE (Graeco-Roman to be exact)

The Greeks, as was their custom, dug a "cavea" (tiers of steps for spectators) to create a theatre out of a hill here in Taormina. The Romans came and, as was their custom, either improved upon or added onto structures they obtained. The Romans, by contrast to Grecian designers, usually built straight up out of the ground. The original construction dates from about the 3rd century B.C.E., and was added to by the Romans in the 1st and 2nd centuries C.E., possibly a little later.

The “scene” is the area in which the actors performed and was constructed of two rows of Corinthian columns.

The flat area in front of the scene is the orchestra, an area occupied by musicians, choral members, and/or dancers. Our present day “orchestra” took its name from this part of the theatre.

The cavea, or seating area, held 5,400 spectators.


The point of being here is to show how the Romans cleverly got as much out of a piece of clay as was (or is) possible. You see triangles of brick (made of clay) edging a wall. The interior of the wall is rubble, cemented together, actually forming a concrete wall.

A very unusual find - the original clay squares from which the Romans created four triangles of brick. You can see the scribed markings on the clay. What is so clever here is the fact that the Romans broke the square and then used the hypotenuse of an isometric triangle to act as the face of the brick when placed in a wall. In other words, the Romans achieved maximum usage from this particular material and method of construction. The edge is the important part of the wall, while the corner extends well into the cementation to provide a sufficient anchor for the brick.

It was R. Buckminster Fuller, a 20th century engineer, who developed the concept of “getting the most out of the least material.” His invention of the geodesic dome (sphere), featuring extremely lightweight struts, has produced the highest ratio of enclosed volume to weight. A major example is the United States’ pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal.

© Architecture Past Present & Future - Edward D. Levinson, 2009

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