Scaenae Fons: Water-Displays in the Roman Theater

On 1 December, I gave the talk, “Scaenae Fons: Water-Displays in the Roman Theater,” for the Roman and Late Roman World Seminar Series at the University of Edinburgh. Here is the abstract:

Focusing on an under-studied aspect of water-display, this paper addresses the use of water in and around the Roman theater. Predicated on entertainment value and practicality, the Romans successfully employed water in their theatrical spaces. Water was used in the Roman theater for a variety of purposes, including the necessary drinking water for spectators, its ability to cool spaces, and as a liquid sparsio (a perfumed ‘scattering’ of water). This study presents water-displays in the following contexts: on the frons pulpiti and in the orchestra (thus integrating water within the main viewing area of the theater); in the postscaenium and its porticus, in areas large enough to accommodate large audiences during various periods connected to theatrical productions, such as intermissions; aquatic spectacle, such as the use of the kolymbethra, or swimming pool, a late development of the Roman theater. Further, regional trends in Roman- and Greek-style theaters illustrates how spaces in different parts of the Empire were used differently, particularly in terms of water-displays.


Theater at Augusta Emerita (modern Mérida, Spain).



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