2000 years ago

Inaugurated in 55BC by the triumphant general Pompey, more than a century before the Colosseum, the building was Rome's first permanent and largest theatre, with an auditorium almost 152 metres in diameter, and a three-storey 35-meters-high facade.

The theatre, intended to revive the general's waning popularity, was an integrated leisure complex with enclosed colonnades, galleries and gardens.

Though Caesar bested Pompey politically, the old general still got the last laugh: it was in Pompey's portico, built to surround his sumptuous theater, that Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 BC.

Throughout its 500 years long history it was one of the great showplaces of the city as well as the venue for many of its most momentous events. Emperors used it to bolster their rule by staging spectacles. Among those who appeared on stage was Nero, playing the lead in Oedipus and the Madness of Hercules, his opera about Troy.

By the 6th century AD, the theatre had decayed, but Cassiodorus, the Roman chancellor to King Theodoric, was still in awe: "One would have thought it more likely for mountains to subside, than this strong building be shaken."

By the 20th century, the largest theatre ever built, with a 100-meters-wide stage and 35,000 seats had disappeared into or beneath Rome's Campo dei Fiori, Largo Argentina and Campo Marzio.