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Ancient Greek Architecture Essay

2186 words - 9 pages

Ancient Greek Architecture


Ancient Greek Theater Architecture Many aspects of ancient Greek theaters have long been studied and debated. Much of the information about these theaters is based on speculation due to the fact that so little of them still exist today. This lack of remnants especially applies to the architecture of the early Greek Theaters. However, through archeological finds and years of studying the people, the plays, and the architecture of the time, we are able to make many conclusions about these early structures. Greek Theaters are classified into three categories: The early Athenian Theaters, Hellenistic Theaters, and Graeco-Roman Theaters. Like most new inventions ...view middle of the document...

The skene of the fifth century theater is believed to have been a temporary structure, erected and taken down for each festival. It was constructed using light and perishable materials until later, when theaters were built in stone. At that point, a permanent stone skene was built (Allen 28). More became known about the skene after it changed to a permanent, stone fixture in the theater of the fourth century B.C. Lastly, but likely the most important part of theater is the orchestra. In its simplest form the orchestra is simply a circular plot of land designated as a place for dance. In fact, this is exactly how many see the Greek Theater developing. The orchestra appeared to have been circular in shape and possess supernatural powers. The surface of the orchestra was originally earth and measured about 66 feet in diameter. When many of the theaters were renovated, a raised stage was added, thus eliminating the need for the old orchestra. Therefore, the old orchestra was converted into additional seating (Betancourt). Obviously, this seating was needed because of the growing popularity of the theater. An altar (or thymele) was located in the center of the orchestra. It looked like a short drum of marble decorated with low-relief carvings of garlands and satyrs. It was used for sacrifices in honor of the god Dionysus. The altar was primarily used prior to performances. However, due to religious themes of the plays, the altar was occasionally utilized in the performances as well. Between the orchestra and the skene was a level surface known as the proscenium. The proscenium was the area in which the majority of the action took place. It was raised one foot from the surface of the orchestra. Theater and drama was born in Attica, the present day Athens. Built on the Acropolis is the theater where many of the lost and surviving plays from the fifth and fourth century B.C., were probably debuted. The Theater Dionysus, like many of its descendants was built in the open air of an acropolis. Dionysus was a very large theater, with a seating capacity of over 17,000. Regardless, it was believed to have excellent acoustics. Without the excellent acoustics, audience members in the furthest back rows would likely have very little idea what was happening on stage. Very few visual aspects of the performance could be made out from such great distances. For this reason, set designers would avoid intricate detail on most everything they constructed. Playwrights would call for designs that were relatively basic so they could be clearly discernible from the furthest seats. For the same reason, costume designers were forced to create costumes on a large scale. Very large masks were worn by many of the actors. The masks emphasized the dominant traits of the characters they were impersonating so they too could be seen from the same far away seats. During the reign of Alexander the Great and throughout the fourth century B.C., a new type of theater referred to as the...

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