Humanities › History & Culture The Role of Theatron in Greek Theatre Share Flipboard Email Print Ventura Carmona / Getty Images History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Greece Figures & Events Ancient Languages Egypt Asia Rome Mythology & Religion American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated January 27, 2019 The theatron (plural theatra) is the word referring to the seating area section of an ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine theater. The theatron is one of the earliest and most pronounced parts of ancient theaters. In fact, some scholars argue it is the most significant part of Greek and Roman theatrical structures, the part that defines them. Theatra in Classical Greek and Roman theaters are spectacular forms of architecture, built of circular or semi-circular rows of seating in stone or marble, each row increasing in height. The earliest Greek theaters date to the 6th to 5th centuries CE, and they included theatra in rectangular sections of seating made of wooden bleachers called ikria. Even in this rudimentary state, the theatron was a crucial part of a theater, drawing attention to the audience and providing a place where many people could be housed to be addressed or entertained. The Greek playwright Aristophanes mentions the theatron in each of his extant plays, particularly when the actors address the audience directly. Other Meanings of Theatron Other definitions of theatron include the people themselves. Like the word "church," which can refer to both an architectural structure or the people who use it, the theatron can mean both the seats and the seated. The word theatron also refers to seating or standing areas built over springs or cisterns, so spectators could come and view the waters and watch the mysterious vapors rise. Whether or not you consider the theatron a defining part of a theater, the seating area is certainly why those ancient theaters are so recognizable to every one of us today. Sources Bosher K. 2009. To Dance in the Orchestra: A Circular Argument. Illinois Classical Studies(33-34):1-24.Chowen RH. 1956. The Nature of Hadrian's Theatron at Daphne. American Journal of Archaeology 60(3):275-277.Dilke OAW. 1948. The Greek Theatre Cavea. The Annual of the British School at Athens 43:125-192.Marciniak P. 2007. Byzantine Theatron - A Place of Performance? In: Grünbart M, editor. Theatron: Rhetorische Kultur in Spätantike und Mittelalter / Rhetorical Culture in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. p 277-286.