Cycling through history the Teatro di Marcello Rome

The Theatre of Marcello, often mistaken by uninformed visitors for a smaller version of the Colosseum, reminds us a tragic moment of the Roman history, the greatest “public” sufferance of the Augustan Age: the death of Marcus Claudius Marcellus, favorite nephew of the emperor Augustus. Son of the emperor’s sister Octavia, Marcellus was allowed to start his political career 10 years before the legal age, to pass in the line of succession Tiberius, son of Livia, Augustus’s wife, becoming Agrippa’s main competitor, who was in fact removed from court. Marcellus married Augustus’s only daughter, Julia, and while he was still very young he started making appearances at the side of Augustus on every official occasion. At the end of 23 BC, at 19, Marcellus died under mysterious circumstances. Rumor had it that Livia, Augustus’s wife and mother of Tiberius, was behind Marcellus death. Without Marcellus, in fact, Tiberius became emperor after Augustus’s death, but it is also possible that Marcellus fell victim to an epidemic that struck the city in that year. The pin for Marcellus’s death was great in the imperial family. Augustus resumed an old project of a theatre wanted by Julius Caesar but never carried out. He doubled the capacity of the theatre to 14000 spectators and dedicated it to the memory of Marcellus. It was built not far from a building dedicated to Marcellus’s mother, the Porticus Octaviae. The theatre was the second permanent theatre of Rome after the one built by Pompey on the Campus Martius. In 13 BC the building was inaugurated with plays dedicated to Marcus Claudius Marcellus. Story goes that Octavia fainted when Virgilius mentioned Marcellus’s ghost during the reading of his poem Aeneid for the imperial family.

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