What Does Amphitheater Mean in Ancient Greece?

The term “amphitheater” comes from the Greek words “amphi” meaning “on both sides” and “theatron” meaning “place for viewing.” In Ancient Greece, amphitheaters were outdoor venues used for events ranging from theatrical performances to political assemblies and athletic competitions. These structures were designed to accommodate large audiences, with tiered seating arranged in a semicircular or oval shape around a central performance area.


The first amphitheaters in Ancient Greece were built in the 6th century BCE. These early structures were typically made of wood and were simple in design, consisting of little more than a flat performance area surrounded by temporary wooden seating.

Over time, however, the design of amphitheaters became increasingly sophisticated. The Greeks began building permanent stone or marble structures with elaborate facades and ornate decorations.

One of the most famous examples of an Ancient Greek amphitheater is the Theater of Dionysus in Athens. This theater was built in the 5th century BCE and could seat up to 17,000 spectators. It was here that many of the plays written by famous Greek playwrights like Sophocles and Euripides were first performed.

Design Elements

Amphitheaters were designed with acoustics in mind. The semicircular or oval shape of the seating area allowed sound to travel easily from the performers to every part of the audience. Additionally, many amphitheaters included features like skene buildings (structures behind the stage that provided dressing rooms for actors), orchestra pits (areas in front of the stage where musicians could perform), and elaborate facades adorned with columns, statues, and other decorative elements.

Types of Performances

Amphitheaters were used for a wide variety of events beyond just theatrical performances. Some amphitheaters hosted religious ceremonies or political assemblies, while others were used for athletic competitions like chariot races or gladiatorial games. In fact, the most famous amphitheater in the world – the Colosseum in Rome – was primarily used for gladiatorial contests.

The Legacy of Amphitheaters

Despite the fact that many Ancient Greek amphitheaters have fallen into ruins, their legacy lives on. Today, modern theaters and performance venues still incorporate many design elements and features first seen in Ancient Greek amphitheaters. From the semicircular seating arrangement to the use of skene buildings and orchestra pits, these structures continue to influence the way we think about performance spaces.

  • Overall
  • Amphitheaters are a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of Ancient Greek architects and builders.
  • Today, they remain an important part of our cultural heritage and a source of inspiration for modern artists and performers.

In conclusion, amphitheaters played an important role in Ancient Greek society as places where people could come together to enjoy everything from theatrical performances to athletic competitions. These structures were designed with acoustics in mind and featured elaborate facades adorned with columns, statues, and other decorative elements. Today, their legacy lives on in modern theaters and performance venues around the world.