Roman Theatre at Bosra

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Roman Theatre at Bosra (المسرح الروماني ببصرى‎), is a large Ancient Roman theatre in Bosra, in the district of Dar'a in south-western Syria. The Roman theatre of the early third century CE provides visual evidence of the grandeur of the city in classical antiquity as well as the importance of Bosra throughout the Muslim period. Bosra was once one of the main cities of the powerful Nabatean Kingdom, whose abandoned city of Petra is world-famous.

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It was built in either the second quarter or the second half of the second century CE, and is constructed of black basalt. It is likely that the theatre was built during the reign of Trajan. The original theatre, which has been miraculously preserved, seats up to 15 000 with perfect acoustics and its stage is 45 meters in length and 8 meters in depth.

Brief History

circa 900 CE

The interior of the Bosra Threatre was almost completely covered by a three stories tall structure, filling the area of the theatre. Though these interior structures were cleared away (inspect) from 1946 onwards in a long program of restoration aimed at the restitution of the Roman theatre, the citadel remains one of the best preserved medieval examples of Islamic military architecture.


circa 900 CE

It served a city that once had 80,000 inhabitants. It is also one of the best preserved both in Syria and across the Roman empire. It was substantially restored between 1947 and 1970, before which it contained large quantities of sand, which may have helped to protect the interior. The exceptional state of preservation of the theatre is the result of its secondary use as citadel and palatial residence in the middle ages.

circa 900 CE

The theatre is 102 metres across and has seating for about 15,000 people; it is thus among the largest of the Ancient Roman civilisation. As of July 2018, the site is still on the UNESCO's list of World Heritage in Danger. The theatre was added to the list in 2013. The site has been damaged (inspect) in the Syrian Civil War by various military activities conducted nearby. For instance, snipers have been active at the site.

circa 900 CE

The theater was mainly used for artistic plays, including Greek and Roman dramas and musical productions. It would have romanticized the region after it had been wrested from the control of the Nabateans. During the Byzantine era, the building fell into disuse as the Christian Church disapproved of dramas and public performances. The theater is an outstanding example of a Roman design yet distinctive as it was built out of local basalt rock and the dark coloring of the structure is rare outside this part of Syria. The building also used a great deal of concrete and masonry.

circa 900 CE

The theatre was originally built outside the walls of the town, but was later completely enclosed by an Ayyūbid fortress. The city of Bosra had its fortifications expanded between 481 and 1251 CE. When later integrated into the fortifications, its role was to serve as a citadel and to guard a road leading to Damascus. The exterior of the building was protected by a complex defense system of a total of eleven strongly fortified towers, for which many of the ancient monuments of the city were quarried for building materials.

circa 900 CE

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