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The Antitheatrical Prejudice: Roman Ban on Permanent Theater and the Triumph of Pompey


This study examines the cultural and political processes leading to the institution and resolution of the (unwritten) ban on the permanent theater, effective in Rome, from 154 BCE until the construction of Pompey’s Theater-Portico Complex (61-55 BCE). Previously approached from the viewpoint provided through textual evidence, the crisis of the permanent theater has been interpreted as a power struggle between masses and the Roman elite. Building on my dissertation research, this work takes a new perspective. By situating the issue in an interdisciplinary Hellenistic context, my project presents the crisis of permanent theater as an inter-elite problem, a struggle between the Roman Senate and powerful political actors like Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (“the Great”). To demonstrate this point, using historical and archaeological evidence, I analyze spatial development of Roman theater buildings in South Italy and Sicily parallel to the urban development in Rome in the period between the introduction of the Greek theater to Rome in 240 BCE and the construction of Pompey’s Theater-Portico Complex. I focus on the monuments alongside the triumphal path leading to Pompey’s monument. The exploration of theater and urban space is carried out together with narrative analysis of theatrical performances, processions and sacrifice, which occasionally take place in the context of a civic festival or triumphal celebration. An accompanying reconstruction of the theatrical events and triumphal procession in Rome concluding at Pompey’s Theater-Portico complex illuminates how Roman theater building and urban space worked politically before and during the First Triumvirate. The three dimensional images produced by the research team illustrate theatrical moments increasing the popular appeal of published results. This study establishes cultural connections between the Hellenistic East and the Republican Rome contributing to European history and recent debates on globalization.

Field of science

  • /social sciences/sociology/globalization
  • /humanities/history and archaeology/history
  • /humanities/arts/performing arts/dramaturgy

Call for proposal

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Funding Scheme

MC-CIG - Support for training and career development of researcher (CIG)


Mahmutbey Dilmenler Cad 26 Bagcilar
34217 Istanbul
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 100 000
Administrative Contact
çağrı Erhan (Prof.)