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The Great Theatre, the oldest in France, built by Augustus in 15 BC and divided into 3 sections: the "cavea" (a vast shell with 25 stands leading to the pit) built on a gallery. In bad weather, a "velum" (awning) was stretched over the "cavea", tied to the backstage wall. The "cavea" had several "vomitorias" (doors leading to the stands). The "balteus" was the wall separating the Plebs from the Patricians. Finally the semi-circular pit was the most ornate part with multi-coloured geometric patterns. This was where the choir, dancers and actors performed. It is 27 m in diameter.
In the theatre's stands, blocks of white limestone give us an idea of what the monument originally looked like.
The stage supported by a wall, the "pulpitum", has been fitted with floorboards to allow use of the theatre today. It is decorated with a few columns and the statue of a woman. Each column was there to commemorate an emperor, with his ashes stored in the base. The theatre was dedicated to tragedies and comedies. It could hold 4,700 people. It was extended under Hadrian's rule to 10,700 seats in 120 AD.
The Odeon, the smaller theatre (3,000 seats) was for political or philosophical orators, music, poets and an intellectual elite. Odeons had a small seating capacity. The one in Lugdunum could only seat 2,500 people. It was built under Antoninus, Hadrian's successor in the mid-second century AD.
The Odeon stood to the west against a 6 m thick wall, supporting the roof of the "cavea", 73 m in diameter, consisting of stands leading to a pit paved with geometric designs: diamonds, squares, rectangles, circles highlighted by strips. White, pink or beige marbles, blue or grey granite, green or red porphyry were brought from Italy, Greece or Egypt.
Every summer, the Fourviere Nights Festival takes place in the antic theatres.