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The Odeon

There are no doubts about the origins of the Odeon, or little theatre. It was built directly by the Romans when Taormina became a military colony in 21 B.C., under Caesar August Octavian, first Roman emperor. Of much smaller dimension in respect of the other theatre, it is a testimony of the culture that existed in those times in Taormina. The small theatre is right behind the hill of St. Catherine of Alexandria of Egypt, next to the Corvaja Palazzo (Parliament House). It was found by pure chance on 5th June 1892.

Until that time, its existence was not even suspected. The story of its finding is unusual. It appears that a blacksmith, Antonio Bambara, was excavating his land behind the Santa Caterina church, when the pickaxe exposed a construction of red clay bricks. One year later, the real excavations began and the Odeon came to light, damaged in many areas.

The Roman Odeon is almost identical in architecture to that of the larger theatre. The orientation of the monument changes. The Greek-Roman Theatre is orientated south while the small Odeon is orientated north-east. It was built with brick material, that is to say, with large clay bricks, cemented together with lime. It follows the construction scheme of all Roman theatres and the Odeon is also divided into three main parts: stage, ‘orchestra’ and auditorium.

The stage of the Odeon consisted of the ‘stilobate’ (plinth) and the peristyle (colonnade) of a Greek temple, that some sustain is dedicated to Aphrodite, which came to light during the same excavations to “unearth” the Odeon. It is also thought that, apart from theatrical representations, this small Odeon, built right in the centre of the ‘Polis’, was also made use of for musical recitals and auditions reserved for civil, military and religious authority elders and their families or also for their guests.