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Theatre of Marcellus

The Theatre of Marcellus was an ancient Roman arena built by the Emperor Augustus.

TravelCurious Tip

If you're here in the summer try to catch one of the Tempietto Concerts, in which top classical musicians play for an Italian and international public.

Caesar vs Pompey

The Theatre of Marcellus was an ancient Roman arena used for games, dramas, and religious festivities during the Empire. The idea for the theatre was conceived by Julius Caesar, who cleared the space where it still stands today with the intention of rivalling the Theatre of Pompey, his political rival (the Colosseum had not yet been built).

Unfortunately for him, Caesar was assassinated before construction began. His nephew and adopted son and heir Octavian, who became Emperor Augustus, took over the project and by 17 BC it was in use for ludi – religious festivals with sacrifices and games – although it was not fully completed until 13 BC.

Marcellus memorial

The theatre takes its name from Marcellus, the nephew of Augustus by his favourite sister Octavia, and Augustus’s chosen heir to the Empire. Marcellus died at the age of 19 in 23 BC. The semicircular theatre, with its 41 double-tiered arches and Greek columns, could hold approximately 14,000 spectators. It was the largest in Rome before the Colosseum. The spectators would have been in a semi-circular seating area, while the gladiators or actors would be on the stage which was on the bank of the Tiber.

Today you can still see about one third of the seating area of the Theatre on the Via del Teatro di Marcello, right behind the Jewish Ghetto and the Portico of Octavia. The bottom two levels of the Theatre are still intact, while there are 16th century apartments built on top: a fascinating image of Rome's layered history.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Rome
Jewish Ghetto
For over 300 years all the Jews in Rome were restricted to this small area; today it is a vibrant and fascinating district.
Capitoline Museums
Yet another stunning museum of ancient art, in two Michelangelo-designed palaces.
Capitoline Hill
The ceremonial centre of ancient Rome, rejuvenated by Michelangelo in the Renaissance and offering amazing views over the Forum.
Bocca della Verità
Don’t get your hand bitten off by the Mouth of Truth!
Temple of Hercules Victor
The unique Temple of Hercules Victor is the oldest marble building in Rome, and one of its best preserved ancient temples.
Temple of Portunus
One of the oldest and best preserved ancient Roman temples, dedicated to the god of portals and cattle.

Related Tours

Private Walking Tour of Caesar's Rome
From the slum neighbourhood of his birth to the place where he met his grisly end, the city, empire and culture of Rome owes much to Julius Caesar. 

  • With your private guide, gain an insight into the dominance Caesar enjoyed as Consul of Rome
  • Discover Rome’s role in one of history’s most celebrated and contentious figures.
  • Unravel what led to Caesar claiming the role of dictator in perpetuity
  • See spectacular sights over the Roman Forum and Colosseum. 
  • Visit  the ruins of Largo di Torre Argentina, where Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC.
  • Explore well-preserved streets dating back to antiquity.
An astute politician and brilliant military strategist Caesar powered Rome into expansion, decisively defeating enemies and winning the hearts and minds of the common people. Each successful war assured him of the undying loyalty of his soldiers, who followed him into battle after battle. His life and death, are the stories of legends with unions that include a love affair with Cleopatra. The contributions he made have echoed through history - including the introduction of the Julian Calendar in Rome, setting the year at 365.25 days, divided into 12 months. A plot to bring his supremacy to an end in 44 BC resulted in his fatal stabbing by a mob next to the Theatre of Pompey.

Your Tour of Julius Caesar’s Rome will delve into the archaeological roots of the city to follow in his footsteps. Discover Caesar’s place of birth in 100BCE -  Subura, a district of chancers and sex workers where the Monti neighbourhood now stands - and established what helped propel Caesar from squalor to a global leader. Envisage Rome when several of its iconic monuments were being built, including the Colosseum. Learn how Caesar famously built the Via Appia Antica and opened up trade to the East, signaling an era of prosperity. As you stroll the well-preserved streets on your Tour of Julius Caesar's Rome, ponder his two expeditions to Britain and see fascinating ruins.
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