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Fermo, Roman Theatre







At the top of the Sabulo Hill, right opposite the façade of the city cathedral is a very evocative street which winds among the ruins of the theatre built with all probability at the time of the emperor Augustus. As in Rome, also in Fermo ludi scaenici were organized periodically and regularly to pay homage to a number of gods, but ludi triumphales and ludi funebres were also quite frequent. While the former were organized to celebrate important military successes, the latter were put on to commemorate illustrious people in the community who had passed away. We should imagine the plays as a moment of entertainment and collective pleasure, even though the seats were assigned on the basis of each spectator's wealth. However, Ovid in his irreverent Ars Amatoria tells us that many men preferred to sit in the highest sector, destined for the plebeians, women and children, because theatres were reserved for flirting and as the poet from Sulmona writes “you can satisfy every whim there/Everything you'll find there: love and games”. During the wait before the start of the play, the atmosphere was similar to that of a contemporary concert or football match, as vendors of water and cushions walked up and down the terraces and authorities similar to today's stewards were present, engaged in keeping order and accompanying spectators to their places. After a double call on the flute, the people went back to their seats and got ready to watch the show, which was promptly announced by a crier. In Fermo unfortunately there are only a few remains of the Roman theatre which very probably managed to host about two thousand spectators. It is possible to see the semicircular curve of a part of the external perimeter in brick located next to the hill and another wall which originally must have supported the highest level of the terraces with terracotta pipes inserted in the walls to solve the problem of water infiltrating. There are two columns that almost certainly supported the entrance portal which opened into the orchestra and two vomitoria which led into the tiers of seats and were so called because at the end of the show they seemed to push the spectators out. During the various digging campaigns that have involved the area of the Roman theatre, finds have included two fired clay lamps, the remains of a number of statues, several coins minted between the time of the Emperor Nero and that of Alexander Severus and various bone and ivory hairpins used by the ornatrices to pin their matriarchs' hair when it was arranged in elaborate hairstyles.