The Pompey Project: the evolution, structure and legacy of the Theatre of Pompey

The first scientific study of Rome’s first permanent theatre. Comprehensive documentation of all surviving remains, supplemented by new limited excavation at specific points targeted by our initial analysis. Creation of a definitive series of site-plans, sections, elevations keyed to a complete photographic record, and measured drawings. We have prepared an extensive archaeological register recording the details of every known artefact discovered on the site of the theatre complex for the past five centuries. Analysis of a large selection of both pre and post Pompey Italian provincial theatre sites has been conducted, to enable a plausible "architectural genealogy" of the structure to be proposed. The Project has now 1) produced a highly detailed computer reconstruction of the site, and related sites; 2) linked this to the extensive textual, photographic, and graphic documentation; 3) created an integrated analysis of the original complex and documented the manner in which post-antique structure invaded and reused it; including a detailed computer 3D reconstruction of the existing state of the site, and 4) is publishing and disseminating the results of this analysis, together with the supporting material both in digital formats, as well as a series of specialist articles (describing both the innovative methodology and its results). The project is now undertaking the first excavation at the site in 150 years. A dedicated monograph on the Project is in progress. We have also modelled in 3D earlier 2D reconstructions by 19th and early 20th century scholars, to create a comparative study of earlier interpretations of the evidence, and our own.

Principal investigator
Professor Richard Beacham
Principal project staff
Professor Richard C Beacham
Start date
Friday, January 1, 1999
Source material
Sources included 1) archaeological remains 2) earlier graphic depictions 3) textual descriptions of the site 4) textual descriptions of the artefacts discovered at the site 5) historic photographs of the site and its related artefacts These materials were variously in situ, researched from literally thousands of publications, historic records; produced by ourselves and the site survey team etc. etc. The published written records were for the most part located in research libraries, including prominently, the British School at Rome; the American Academy of Rome, The German Archaeological Institute, Rome; the Society for Roman Studies Library, UCL. Photographs were from these same libraries (archives), or taken in most cases by ourselves. Unpublished materials were from the several archives in the city of Rome.

Baker, D; Beacham, R; and Blazeby, M. "Mind the Gap: Virtual Reality and Theatre History". Co-authors Drew Baker and Martin Blazeby. In Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, Vol. 27:3, 2002, 230-240.

Beacham, R, and Denard, H. "The Pompey Project: Digital Research and Virtual Reconstruction of Rome's First Theatre." Proceedings of the ACH/ALLC Conference: "Digital Media and Humanities Research"; Journal of Computers and the Humanities. Vol. 37; 1, 2003, 129-140.

Beacham, R. "Reconstructing Ancient Theatre with the Aid of Computer Simulation". Crossing the Stages: The Production, Performance and Reception of Ancient Theater, Syllecta Classica, Vol. 10, 1999, 189-208.

Beacham, R. “Playing Places: The Temporary and the Permanent”, Chapter for The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Theatre, ed. J. Michael Walton and Marianne Macdonald. (In Press).
Denard, H. “Virtuality and Performativity: Recreating Rome’s Theatre of Pompey”. Performing Arts Journal 70, Vol. 24 No.1: January 2002, 25-43.

Denard, H.‘“At the foot of Pompey’s Statue”: Reconstructing Rome’s Theatrum Lapideum’ Proceedings of the Royal Society-British Academy Joint Symposium: ‘Artefacts and Images of the Ancient World,’ 2005, 66-73.

Denard, H. ‘Virtual Archaeology: Reconceiving Rome’s Theatre of Pompey’ British Academy Review (July – December 2001), pp.22-23.

Beacham, R. "'Eke Out Our Performance With Your Mind.' Reconstructing the Theatrical Past with the Aid of Computer Simulation", in Information Technology and Scholarly Disciplines, The British Academy, ed. T. Coppock, Oxford University Press, 2000, 131-154.

Beacham, R. Virtually there: Computer-assisted Reconstruction of Theatrical Spaces". For Theatron: Studien zur Geschichte und Theorie der dramatischen Künste. Special Edition: The Colston Symposium: New Approaches to Theatre Studies marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Department of Drama, Bristol University, 2000, 143-158.