A Review of Memoria del futuro: I teatri antichi greci e romani:
and I teatri greci e romani

By Thomas A. Pallen
Austin Peavy State University

I. Rossetto, Paola Ciancio, and Giuseppina Pisani Sartorio, eds.
Memoria del futuro: I teatri antichi greci e romani: censimento Rome:
Edizione GRAF-ROMA, [1992?].

This slim paperbound booklet appeared in conjunction with the Esposizione Universale di Siviglia in 1992. Translated, its title reads, Memory of the Future: The Ancient Greek and Roman Theatres: Census. Its 64 unnumbered pages contain four signed essays, 32 illustrations of ancient theatres (11 in color), and a censimento (census) of known ancient theatre sites, a total of 751 locations with recognizable ruins and many more with doubtful ruins or where only a literary trail indicates the presence of a structure. Finally, there are diagrams and explanations of the four basic types of ancient theatres included in the census: Greek, Roman, Odeon, and Gallo-Roman.

The essays, although not scholarly in the full sense of that term, offer interesting comments about the origin of the census project, the importance of ancient theatre sites, ancient performance conditions, and the significance of theatre structures in ancient culture. The Italian-only text renders these essays inaccessible to many readers. Even for me, a reader and speaker of Italian, this publication's most intriguing feature was the promise that appeared on the back cover, of 'another volume containing an ample photographic documentation and all of the technical characteristics, history, and modern usage of Greek and Roman theatres.'

II.Rossetto, Paola Ciancio, and Giuseppina Pisani Sartorio, eds. Teatri Greci e Romani: alle origini del linguaggio rappresentato [Greek and Roman Theatres: at the Roots of Acted Language]. 3 vols. Rome: SEAT-- Divisione STET, 1994-6.

Unlike the earlier publication, this three-volume, large-format (31 x 26.5 cm) set presents all of its text in four languages: Italian, French, English, and German. Here and there, the translations into English become embarrassingly inaccurate and peculiar spellings crop up now and again, even in pieces originally written in English. Such errors, however, though quite evident, amount to little in the long run.

Like the earlier single volume, this set begins with a series of essays, several of which also appeared in its precursor. Jean Duvignaud's 'A Sea of Theatres' compresses the history of theatre around the Mediterranean Sea into a few pages of general, rather poetically romanticized images. Maurizio Scapparo's 'Future Memories' describes the genesis of the census project. Giusto Monaco's 'In the Open Air' praises the idea of roofless entertainment spaces, repeating the erroneous notion that roofed theatres first appeared in the 17th century. In 'Future Traces,' Antonio Gala emphasizes the importance of ancient theatre. Edmond Frezouls' 'An Essential Scientific Tool' emphasizes the importance of this census. 'Theatre and Theatres,' an introductory essay by the editors, thoroughly discusses the various types of structures included in the census. Hans Peter Isler offers a generalized but useful synthesis of the history of theatre buildings in 'Ancient Theatre Architecture.'

Appropriately but abruptly, attention shifts to Vitruvius through a reprinting of the portion of De architectura specifically devoted to Greek and Roman theatre typology. It appears first in Latin and later in translations. These are separated by a series of detailed descriptions of Greek, Roman, and Gallo- Roman theatres and Odeons, accompanied by finely rendered cut-away drawings of each type. Franco Corni, whose exquisite graphic images are known to readers of Bell'Italia, is responsible for these illustrations. Each drawing is also reduced to a line image keyed with important terminology. The editors have chosen, quite sensibly, given the vast variety of actual configurations, to present the Greek theatre here only in its late and extremely elaborate Hellenistic form, a structure completely unknown by playwrights such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

This section of the work concludes with a scholarly comment by Frank Sear, 'Vitruvius and the Roman Theatre.'

The remainder of the first volume and the whole of volumes two and three contain the census itself, a survey in words and images of the remains, reports, and rumors of nearly eight hundred theatres and odeons. They are arranged alphabetically by modern countries (in Italian spelling) and modern cities or site names. The numerous full-page maps serve as little more than decoration; while the sites are carefully indicated and labeled, neither modern nor ancient borders appear. For each site, as many of the following items as could be ascertained are reported: 1) location by ancient and modern names; 2) type of structure, placement, and orientation; 3) narrative description of construction methods and materials, configuration, and distinctive features; 4) state of preservation; 5) measurements; 6) original capacity; 7) current utilization; 8) bibliography. In nearly every case, the editors have included a brief essay describing the site and its history by a scholar associated with it. Wherever possible, drawings, plans, or photographs complement the description. Although earlier scholars have discussed and depicted many of these sites --Margarite Bieber, Aldo Neppi- Modona, and E. R. Fiechter, to name only a representative few--this is the first complete survey of all known sites. Doubtless, objections and quibbles will arise regarding the presentation of particular structures, but the
achievement here lies in the collection itself.

Lavish color reproductions of theatre-related details from ancient frescoes, mosaics, and vase paintings generously decorate all three volumes, their bindings, and the slipcase. The third volume concludes with several very useful indices and glossaries of theatrical and construction terms.

Although seldom mentioned in book reviews, price is a matter for note here, for exactly the opposite reason that might be expected. A combination of UNESCO support and the generosity of SEAT, the printer, makes this valuable work remarkably affordable. The publisher's list price in Italy is 230,000 lire, which translates into approximately $150 in U.S. funds, for example. SEAT, best known as the printer of all Italian telephone directories, must have absorbed nearly the whole cost of producing these impressive volumes. Scholars and theatrophiles the world over would do well to express their gratitude to both SEAT and UNESCO.

Thomas A. Pallen
Austin Peavy State University

(Thomas A. Pallen is a professor of theatre history at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, U.S.A. He earned a doctoral degree from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and a masters from the University of Missouri.)