How remains of a Roman theater were found in Verona, Italy.

The inhabitants of the thirty buildings which stood near the river were somewhat vexed, to say the least, when the archeologist Andrea Monga bought them out in the 1830s. Neither they nor the rest of Verona understood how someone could buy up and destroy a whole area of the town just to bring to light the ruins of a two thousand year old building.

Verona+-+Teatro+RomanoSebastiano Serlio, an architect of the 15th-16th century during the height of classical studies, mantained that so much rubble had been deposited on the top of the ancient building over the centuries that it was impossible to believe that anything worthwhile remained.

In the 18th century this opinion was shared by Scipione Maffei who doubted that there was anything left on the hillside worth salvaging, mantinaing that the various reconstructions proposed in the 16th century were just “idealistic fantasies and mere inventions… because the convent built beside it and the houses built over it have long covered and destroyed all the ancient remains.” (Verona Illustrata, IV, 63-67).

Andrea Monga however bought the houses adjacent to the theater and those he believed to be built on top of it, sent the tenants away and for ten years between 1834 and 1844, excavated under them, while the town looked on in anger or indifference. This amateur archeologist had a precise goal in this mind and was driven on by unfailing enthusiasm and considerable funds, his only public support coming from a young man, Gaetano Pinali, who shared his own passion for antiquity.

It was in this hostile climate that the excavations of the Roman Theater in Verona began. Its is the best preserved Roman thater in northern Italy, one of the oldest of the Roma Empire and one of the easiest to reconstruct from the remains of its original structure (which seems to follow exactly the dictates of the Veronese architect Vitruvius Pollione who completed his work De Architectura at the same time as the construction of the theatre).

It was not until Andrea Monga started work in 1834 that metodical, carefully planned and diligent studied excavations were carried out. The whole operation, which included frequent and lenghty interruptions, lasted almost to the present day (the last report on the excatvations was in the Eighties): by the end of the first decade of the twetieth century most of the work had been complted and the theater looked very much like it does today.

[Verona, a town of enterteinment, Francesco Butturini, pag. 111, 1990, Arnoldo Mondadori editore.]

 

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