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History of Cirencester Amphitheatre

The Cirencester amphitheatre is one of the largest known examples surviving from the Roman occupation of Britain.

It was built just outside the walls of the town (then known as Corinium) early in the 2nd century AD.

Cirencester was second only to London in size at this period, with a population of over 10,000, and was at its finest just as Roman rule was collapsing throughout the Western Empire.

In AD 408 the last contingents of the regular Roman army left Britain. Without their pay to support the local economy and maintain order, and with no central administration to maintain communications, town life rapidly declined.

Private patrons prepared to pay for the public games could not be found. No longer used for the pursuit of pleasure, the amphitheatre became a fortress in an attempt by the town leaders to safeguard their community.

Its entrances were narrowed and a ditch dug along the southern sides, and remains of timber buildings dating from the 5th century have also been found. These efforts appear to have been in vain. In AD 577 a stronghold believed to be Cirencester is reported as falling to the advancing Saxons.

The amphitheatre then remained abandoned for several centuries.

In the Middle Ages the Abbot of Cirencester enclosed it for use as a rabbit warren. Its local name, the Bull Ring, suggests that it may once have been used for bull-baiting: a return to its original purpose.

Community alliance

Anyone who attended the inaugural opening of the TIB Bank Amphitheater in Islamorada Founders Park likely will never forget it. Fifteen years ago on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006 at 5 p.m., a white Rolls Royce brought Conductor Keith Brion and Emcee John Philip Sousa IV to the stage. They joined the uniformed New Sousa Band who filed onto stage, and after the appropriate thank yous to sponsors, donors and everyone who made the free concert possible, a rousing concert filled with patriotism, marches and a professional soprano vocalist rang out across the lawn for hundreds of listeners. See the musical program here. After the concert, several minutes of fireworks enthralled the crowd who had driven from Key West to Key Largo to join Islamoradans for this grand opening.

A committee comprised of Islamorada residents Bill and Candy Parker, George and Linda Geisler, Cheri Tindall and Jill Zima led by the incomparable Candace Parker of Lower Matecumbe Key held six months of meetings to organize the event, get the word out and make the event happen. Zima, marketing director, orchestrated the publicity campaign using newspaper and radio coverage, but also chamber of commerce and school newsletter announcements. (See local coverage here and here ). Even vocalist, Soprano Lee Merrill, was noticed by The Weekly.

With any free Keys event, a committee can’t be sure whether 10 folks or a thousand will show up. To witness the happiness among the enthusiastic crowd and surprise and awe during the fireworks at the concert’s conclusion was everything the committee wished for. To hear 500 people singing in unison three George M. Cohn songs: I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, Give my Regards to Broadway, and You’re a Grand Old Flag, guided by the lyrics provided in the hand-out/program produced goosebumps in anyone given to emotion and the grandiosity of the moment. And, as ever, attendees’ applause and appreciation for the fantastic and memorable evening was all the reward the event committee needed.

Local high school band students benefited by having a music session on Nov. 1, 2006 with Conductor Keith Brion and the New Sousa Band as well. Read story here .


Amphitheater of Pompeii has a very simple structural design as compared to some of the later Roman amphitheaters. A ditch was dug out 6 m below the ground level and the soil was piled up into embankments. The ditch was used as the arena while the embankments served as the seating area. A 2m balustrade divided the spectators from the performance or event on display. The arena had room for all the social classes with three distinct groupings including the summa cavea, media, and ima that were kept for the slaves or the lowest classes, the general populace, and the nobility or the higher classes respectively. Instead of using the external stairways, the city’s elite class entered the amphitheater via the internal corridor that could be accessed using a covered walkway.

The eastern and southern sides of the amphitheater were bounded by the city walls. External staircases, initially constructed of wood, led to the seating places. The arena could be accessed via two entrances – the Porta Triumphalis used by the gladiators and Porta Libitinensis used as the way out for the dead. The amphitheater design was improved in 62 AD with the construction of new seating areas and the addition of brick buttresses for supporting the access tunnels. The arena’s balustrades exhibited brightly colored panels representing gladiator fights.

Famous Performers Throughout the Years

The first performance at the Red Rocks Amphitheater was put on by Walker in 1906 and featured a 25-piece brass band. The theater went on to feature many opera singers and military bands in the early 1900s. The Beatles performed at a memorable concert in 1964 with Jimi Hendrix following in 1968. The famous folk singer-songwriter John Denver recorded many of his live shows at Red Rocks during the 1980s, and Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks also recorded her live show at the Red Rocks in 1986. The concert venue continues to attract some of the biggest names in the music industry, including U2, the Zac Brown Band, Radiohead, and Morrissey. With spectacular scenery and energetic audiences, who wouldn’t want to play at the legendary Red Rocks?

Fast forward into the future&hellip

In 1965, St. Augustine celebrated the 400th Anniversary of Menendez&rsquos founding of St. Augustine and the community pulled out all the stops to prepare, including revamping the historic core of the city, renovating the Cathedral Basilica and restoring the City Gate.

The plans also included constructing two key monuments that would live well beyond the city&rsquos birthday party. One was the Great Cross at the Mission Nombre de Dios, and the other was the St. Augustine Amphitheatre.

Although, The Amp is now best known as a world-class music venue, it was constructed for a singular purpose &mdash as the stage and setting for a symphonic outdoor drama by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright, Paul Green. The play, titled &ldquoCross and Sword,&rdquo was a retelling of the arrival of Menedez and the founding of St. Augustine.

The original building of The Amp was a true community project, and still to this very day, The Amp brings the people of St. Johns County together, unifying and offering experiences everyone can share. Now back to where it all began, the original site was secured in 1960 by W.I. Drysdale when a 40-acre tract of land in Anastasia State Park was leased to the Board of Directors of Cross and Sword, Inc. from the State Board of Parks and Historical Memorials on behalf of St. Augustine&rsquos 400th Anniversary Corporation. Additional approval was given by U.S. Department of the Interior, the original owner of the land. Something of this scale required quite a bit of money, but that was an obstacle that was overcome with the determination and support of the entire community.

Big changes began in 1988 for The Amp, while the 24th season of Cross and Sword ran from June 17th to August 27th that year, for the first time there was a huge push to fill up the calendar with other events during the off season. In the decade that followed, the stage hosted a number of other theatrical productions including &ldquoPirates of Penzance,&rdquo &ldquoTom Sawyer,&rdquo &ldquoA Christmas Carol&rdquo as well as musical events.

In 1997, after a 32-year run, &ldquoCross and Sword&rdquo had its final curtain call. The Amp was in poor shape with a leaky roof, holes in floors, damaged seats, peeling paint and more. In June of 1999, facing $3 million of necessary repairs to the space, the Board of Directors of Cross and Sword asked St. Johns County to assume control of the site. By December, a seven-member Board of Directors was established, with the Board of County Commissioners appointing five members, and the Tourist Development Council and the St. Johns County Recreation Advisory Committee each appointing a member as well.

On October 26, 1999 the St. Johns Board of County Commissioners approved a 30-year lease with the State&rsquos Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. With the signing of the new lease, the County also committed to a 5-year, multi-million dollar renovation and fundraising campaign that hit the ground running in 2000. In October of 2001, a master plan for The Amp produced by Fred Halback and Les Thomas was approved. After five years of construction, The Amp re-opened with a new capacity of 4,100 music fans, four concession stands, a large plaza and an elaborate arboretum with walking trails.

Today The Amp is a state of the art, internationally known performing arts venue consistently ranked among Pollstar Magazine&rsquos Top 50 Amphitheatre Venues Worldwide. Musical icons including Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, John Legend, Robert Plant, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and hundreds more have taken the stage.

How a venue built on a city dump became a Bay Area icon

Atmosphere at Lollapalooza 1992 at Shoreline Amphitheatre on July 18, 1992, in Mountain View.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images Show More Show Less

Tupac Shakur backstage with Brother Spice at KMEL Summer Jam 1992 at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View on Aug. 1, 1992.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images Show More Show Less

Two fans enjoy the atmosphere as The Grateful Dead perform at Shoreline Amphitheatre on Oct. 5, 1989, in Mountain View.

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Natalie Cole performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on July 9, 1992, in Mountain View.

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Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead performs at Shoreline Amphitheatre on May 12, 1991, in Mountain View.

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The Shoreline Amphitheatre crowd was just livening up when Doobie Brothers frontman Tom Johnston stepped to the mic for a little in-between-songs chatter.

&ldquoWe've played about 20 gigs so far,&rdquo he said of their 1987 tour. &ldquoWe&rsquove had a gas and the audience has had a gas and we hope you will, too.&rdquo

When the crowd began laughing, Johnston seemed confused. He was, apparently, the only person in Shoreline who hadn&rsquot heard about the methane fires.

There are Bay Area concert venues that are more historic, more beautiful or more legendary. But few have touched the memories of so many Bay Area teens and young adults as Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. Since its opening in 1986, countless locals have spent summer nights on that lawn, taking in some of the biggest acts in the world. It&rsquos seen The Grateful Dead, Elton John, Madonna, Springsteen &mdash just to name a few &mdash and been a stop on the very first Lollapalooza tour, as well as hosting Neil Young&rsquos annual Bridge School Benefit since 1986.

The amphitheater was the brainchild of legendary promoter Bill Graham, who saw a chance to expand his empire in the mid-1980s. "There is a need for entertainment here in the South Bay," he said. "We think it's the right site."

It was also in the interests of the city of Mountain View, which was desperately seeking an entertainment hub after just losing out to Vallejo in the bid for Marine World. In 1985, the city council secured a deal with Graham to lease the huge lot along the Stevens Creek Shoreline. There was one issue, though: The lot was a literal dump.

For decades, the site was a repository for San Francisco residents&rsquo garbage. So Mountain View nicely asked the city to find a new home for its trash while they redeveloped the area for commercial use. It was impossible to relocate every scrap of trash, however, so everything was sealed underneath a four-foot-thick layer of clay and soil just to be safe.

On Aug. 17, 1986, it became clear this hadn&rsquot worked perfectly. A fan sitting on the lawn moved to light up a cigarette. The spark didn&rsquot just ignite their smoke &mdash it started a fire.

Luckily, no one was injured and the fire was quickly smothered by bystanders. It seemed like an odd one-off, but a few weeks later, it happened again. Shoreline officials confirmed the cause in short order: Methane gas created by decomposing trash was seeping out of the ground.

"We dug up a section of the lawn and found this bit of refuse that somehow &mdash don't ask me how &mdash got into the clay covering," general manager Bob Dagitz told the San Francisco Examiner. "It was just a small amount of garbage it could have fit into the back of a station wagon."

The city of Mountain View hired a company to measure methane leaks in the lawn twice daily on concert days and install an alarm for the fire department should methane levels spike. It seemed the problem was resolved until late September, when two women smoking on the lawn received minor burns from another methane-fed flare-up. They were treated by venue medics and happily returned to watch the rest of the Steve Winwood concert.

Shoreline&rsquos first season ended a week later and Graham sent a team of engineers to the lawn to figure out why methane leaks kept happening. After an assessment, they added wells to safely extract any seeping methane. It would also "eliminate the odor of garbage that's still noticeable on the grounds," the Examiner noted.

Willie Nelson and Neil Young perform during the 30th Annual Bridge School Benefit at Shoreline Amphitheatre on Oct. 23, 2016, in Mountain View.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

By the time the Doobie Brothers took the stage in June 1987, the methane problem was solved forever. Since then, Shoreline has seen a visit from the Dalai Lama, the resolution of one of the biggest manhunts in Bay Area history and millions of happy California concertgoers.

For those worrying about its fate in the pandemic world &mdash especially given the news that many nightlife spots around the Bay Area are threatened by permanent closure &mdash any fears can be put to rest. Shoreline, though shuttered now, has no concerns about reopening once the state gives the go-ahead to concert venues. Bound by state and county guidelines, Shoreline has no timetable for reopening, but it likely has an easier path than most to being pandemic-safe once it does.

"We expect to have a robust outdoor summer concert season next year, and until then, we&rsquoll work with local officials to determine the best plan for reopening," Live Nation said in a statement to SFGATE. "Shoreline is a staple among the community, contributing greatly to the local economy and providing jobs to a number of workers, so we will all benefit once we are able to return once again."

Ancient Greek Amphitheater: Why You Can Hear From Back Row

As the ancient Greeks were placing the last few stones on the magnificent theater at Epidaurus in the fourth century B.C., they couldn&rsquot have known that they had unwittingly created a sophisticated acoustic filter. But when audiences in the back row were able to hear music and voices with amazing clarity (well before any theater had the luxury of a sound system), the Greeks must have known that they had done something very right because they made many attempts to duplicate Epidaurus&rsquo design, but never with the same success.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have pinpointed the elusive factor that makes the ancient amphitheater an acoustic marvel. It&rsquos not the slope, or the wind &mdash it&rsquos the seats. The rows of limestone seats at Epidaurus form an efficient acoustics filter that hushes low-frequency background noises like the murmur of a crowd and reflects the high-frequency noises of the performers on stage off the seats and back toward the seated audience member, carrying an actor&rsquos voice all the way to the back rows of the theater.

The research, done by acoustician and ultrasonics expert Nico Declercq, an assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech Lorraine in France, and Cindy Dekeyser, an engineer who is fascinated by the history of ancient Greece, appears in the April issue of the Journal of the Acoustics Society of America.

While many experts speculated on the possible causes for Epidaurus&rsquo acoustics, few guessed that the seats themselves were the secret of its acoustics success. There were theories that the site&rsquos wind &mdash which blows primarily from the stage to the audience &mdash was the cause, while others credited masks that may have acted as primitive loudspeakers or the rhythm of Greek speech. Other more technical theories took into account the slope of the seat rows.

When Declercq set out to solve the acoustic mystery, he too had the wrong idea about how Epidaurus carries performance sounds so well. He suspected that the corrugated, or ridged, material of the theater&rsquos limestone structure was acting as a filter for sound waves at certain frequencies, but he didn&rsquot anticipate how well it was controlling background noise.

&ldquoWhen I first tackled this problem, I thought that the effect of the splendid acoustics was due to surface waves climbing the theater with almost no damping,&rdquo Declercq said. &ldquoWhile the voices of the performers were being carried, I didn&rsquot anticipate that the low frequencies of speech were also filtered out to some extent.&rdquo

But as Declercq&rsquos team experimented with ultrasonic waves and numerical simulations of the theater&rsquos acoustics, they discovered that frequencies up to 500 Hz were held back while frequencies above 500 Hz were allowed to ring out. The corrugated surface of the seats was creating an effect similar to the ridged acoustics padding on walls or insulation in a parking garage.

So, how did the audience hear the lower frequencies of an actor&rsquos voice if they were being suppressed with other background low frequencies? There&rsquos a simple answer, said Declercq. The human brain is capable of reconstructing the missing frequencies through a phenomenon called virtual pitch. Virtual pitch helps us appreciate the incomplete sound coming from small loudspeakers (in a laptop or a telephone), even though the low (bass) frequencies aren&rsquot generated by a small speaker.

The Greeks&rsquo misunderstanding about the role the limestone seats played in Epidaurus&rsquo acoustics likely kept them from being able to duplicate the effect. Later theaters included different bench and seat materials, including wood, which may have played a large role in the gradual abandonment of Epidaurus&rsquo design over the years by the Greeks and Romans, Declercq said.


The International Amphitheatre was erected after a fire destroyed the old horse auction barn at the Union Stock Yards in 1934. While the International Livestock Exposition was its centerpiece show, many other major events were staged there, from auto shows to the 1964 Chicago debut of the Beatles. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

The Amphitheatre hosted many big shows and sporting events, but its proximity to the Union Stockyards served its original function. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

Learn More

After a fire destroyed the old horse auction barn at Chicago’s Union Stockyards in 1934, a huge amphitheater was erected to replace it. The new building hosted the International Livestock Exposition, which showcased the very best horses, cattle, and sheep and put them literally on parade.

For decades, the International Amphitheatre was also the place for car shows, circuses, sporting events, flower shows, political conventions (including the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention) – if it was big, it was in the International Amphitheatre.

It also played host to big stars. Internationally known entertainers, from Elvis to the Beatles to Michael Jackson, all played the International Amphitheatre.

But every star must wane. The International Amphitheatre struggled after the stockyards closed in 1971, and as convention and big event business moved to other, shinier new venues on the lakefront and in Rosemont.

The building was demolished in 1999.

At the Stock Yard Inn, cattlemen and wannabes alike could order a steak with their initials branded on it before taking in a show. Photo Credit: Art Institute of Chicago

The building’s massive size made it ideal for all kinds of events, from flower and auto shows to political conventions to rock concerts. But its later days saw it hosting lesser events. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum

The original stars of the International Amphitheatre left when the stockyards closed in 1971, and horse and cattle shows were held elsewhere. The Amphitheatre struggled as competition for other types of entertainment and sporting events arose at McCormick Place and in other venues. The building was demolished in 1999. Photo Credit: Public Domain

Further Reading

Boon, GC, Silchester: The Roman Town of Calleva (David and Charles, 1974)

Clarke, A, Fulford, M and Mathews, M, Silchester Insula IX: The Town Life Project – The First Six Years 1997–2002 (University of Reading, 2002)

Fulford, M, ‘City of the dead: Calleva Atrebatum’, BBC History [accessed 9 Sept 2014]

Fulford, M, A Guide to Silchester: The Roman Town of Calleva Atrebatum (Stroud, 2002)

Fulford, M and Clarke, A, Silchester: City in Transition – The Mid-Roman Occupation of Insula IX c. AD 125–250/300: A Report on Excavations Undertaken since 1997, Britannia Monograph Series 25 (2011)

Fulford, M, Clarke, A and Eckardt, H, Life and Labour in Late Roman Silchester: Excavations in Insula IX since 1997, Britannia Monograph series 22 (2006)

Silchester Roman Town [Reading University website includes links to The Town Life Project, 1997–2002, and The City in Transition, which explores the archaeology of the mid-Roman period at Silchester, and includes a bibliography]

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