Western Wall Theatre

By the Editors of the Madain Project

It is a Roman theatre dating to the 130 CE according to the latest coins found. Built in a classical Roman style, the theater is located under Wilson’s Arch, which serves as its roof. The discovery was made under Wilson’s Arch in Jerusalem’s ancient Old City.


The theatre is the first rediscovered example of a Roman public building in Jerusalem. Half-finished steps and guide marks on some stones suggest the arena may not have been completed at the time it was filled in. Archaeologists said they believe it was never used.

According to Uziel, the theatre was never fully finished, stairs are not fully hewn and there are rocks that have guide marks but weren’t fully carved. It is possible that the Bar Kochba Revolt in the second century CE (circa 130 CE.) interrupted its construction. This points to mounting evidence of Roman-era habitation of the site. Located eight meters below the Wilson's Arch, the structure served as an odeon (a small acoustic roofed theater) or a bouleuterion (a city council), or even perhaps both.

Structural Details

circa 130 CE

The structure also appears to be unfinished, as builders did not complete carving some of the sets of stairs, and some of the rocks have guide marks which have not been fully hewn. It is speculated that the when the revolt erupted it was underconstruction and was never completed. The structure leans against the Western Wall, Lieberman noted that the backs of the audience would face the Temple Mount, perhaps hinting at the unimportance of the site to the Roman audience.

circa 130 CE

The roofed building's relatively small size, compared to other known Roman theaters, leads experts to believe it could have been an Odeon, a playhouse used for acoustic performances, rather than a larger amphitheater. Another theory being considered is that it was a bouleuterion -- a building where the city council would meet. It is a small stage with seating for about 200 individuals, complete with an orchestral section.

Josephus Flavius

circa 130 CE

For decades, scholars have been trying to discover places mentioned in ancient and biblical texts. Prominent among them are theaters of the kind mentioned by sources such as Josephus Flavius, a Roman Jewish scholar born in the early first century.

Western Wall Masonry

circa 130 CE

Archeologists also say they have uncovered eight stone courses of the Western Wall as well, that had been buried under eight meters of earth. The Western Wall is one of the retaining walls of the compound Jews call the Temple Mount, and Muslims call the Haram al-Sharif. Site excavator Tehillah Lieberman attributes the good condition of the discovery to the lack of rain and sunlight over the past 1,700 years. It is the first rediscovered example of a Roman public building in Jerusalem.

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