Dear Dr. Boli: We know that the theater was a favorite amusement in the fourth and fifth centuries in big cities like Antioch or Rome. Why have no Greek or Latin dramas survived from late antiquity, or indeed—with the exception of Seneca’s—from Roman imperial times at all? —Sincerely, Antigone Johnson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Drama, Duck Hollow University.

Dear Madam: Because, as archaeology confirms, the plays were really bad. We quote from A Short History of Antioch by Edmund Spenser Bouchier: “The theatre, which was in three stories, attributed respectively to Caesar, Agrippa, and Titus, standing below the Acropolis on the Silpian Hill, still shows traces of the stage and vomitories.”


  1. I didn’t know they had Gallagher comedy shows, complete with “splash zone”, way back in Roman times.

  2. Daniel says:

    Eew. So that’s what Arstotle meant by catharsis of pity and fear.

  3. markm says:

    I get the impression that Romans considered the theater merely a device to relieve them of the social necessity of interrupting their overeating to converse.

    By contrast, Athenian theater was part of their religious rites. Not paying attention would have been blasphemous, so they put in a effort to make it worth watching.

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