jg CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS ;
the loss of life was so serious, that it was necessary to accommodate the people'with more
durable edifices. The name of iEschylus is immortalized as well by his mechanical
as his literary genius; he not only fixed the drama by the composition of forty regular
plays, in which the characters were dressed in suitable costume, but he gave his representations in a regular and permanent edifice, the arrangement of which was the model
on which all others were afterwards built.
The building was a semicircle whose extremities were limited by a right line;
this was divided into three parts, each having its own appropriation. The theatre, properly so called, from whence the spectators "saw" the exhibition, filled the semicircle,
where the people were accommodated with benches rising one above the other. The
upper were allocated to females. The seats were confined to a particular number in
each row, in all theatres ; they were eighteen inches high and three feet broad, so that the
people sat at their ease, the feet of those above never incommoding those below. Behind
each row were galleries, formed in the walls, by which the spectators entered from without, and, from the crowds that issued from them, they were called ''vomitories;" from
them were passages through the seats in a right line tending to a common centre, and,
from the shape of the enclosed spaces, broad above and narrow below, the portions
into which the benches were divided, were called " wedges." As the actor's voice would
be insufficient to fill the vast space enclosed by some theatres, which contained 40,000
people, the sound was augmented, and rendered distinct, by hollow vessels of copper,
dispersed under the seats in such a way as to reverberate the words distinctly to the ear
of every individual.
The right line, in front, was occupied by the orchestra, so called because it was
originally intended for the exhibition of " mimes and dancers;" it afterwards admitted
other exhibitions. In one of its compartments, the chorus acted, which from its square
form was called thymele, or "the altar;" another received a band of music, and, from its
position at the bottom of the theatre, was named "hyposcene;" behind this was the
stage, divided also into three parts; the largest, properly called the "scene," extended
across the theatre. Here was suspended the large curtain, which fell, not rose, when the
exhibition commenced; the next was the proscene, or "pulpit," where the performance
was carried on; and the last the parascene, or green room, the place '* behind the stage,"
where the performers retired to dress, and the machines were kept and prepared.
The bland and beautiful climate of the country inhabited by the Greeks, require for
the greater part of the year no shelter. The theatre, therefore, had no roof, and all the
exhibitions were in the open air; when a passing shower required it, there were porticoes
to which the audience retired in winter; in summer, the rays of the sun were to be
guarded against in a warm climate, and machinery was provided, by which canvass
awnings were drawn across over the theatre. The degree of sultriness which this caused
among a crowd in confined air, was mitigated by an artificial rain. Reservoirs of scented
water were formed above the porticoes, from whence it descended to the statues and other
sculptured ornaments, and was suffered to exude through certain pores in the marble,
and filled the covered space not only with grateful coolness but fragrant exhalation.