Aqueduct vs Theatre
January 24, 2008 4 Comments
Read this today in the TOI editorial (something interesting, for once!):
The Greeks, who had been in the area since around 1400 BC, and later the Romans, have left a lasting legacy in the form of magnificent buildings in the southern Anatolian region of Turkey.
The legend goes that in the 2nd century AD, there were two brilliant architects who aspired for the hand of Semiramis, the daughter of the king of Aspendos, a satrap of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The king laid down the condition that the one who created the most remarkable public monument should marry the princess.
One of the suitors, whose name has unfortunately been lost to history, decided to build an aqueduct, for surely nothing was more important than a good water supply for any city. It turned out to be one of the most outstanding water conveyance systems in the world, and even the ruins impress the modern traveller (sic).
Our knowledgeable guide told us that aqueducts had to have very precise measurements of angle, calculation of flow of water, resting chambers at certain intervals where the speed had to drop, or else the tremendous force of the water could have flooded the entire city.
Zenon, the other architect, decided to build a grand theatre, with 40 tiers of seats, divided in 10 sections. There were 59 massive arches at the top, and 12,000 people could watch the entertainment on the magnificent stage below.
Behind the stage rose a two-storey building, 30 metres high, called the scena, meant for the actors to change and relax in between acts. This was exactly as high as the auditorium, and joined to it on both sides, which was the secret of the amazing acoustics Zenon had achieved.
The king had almost decided that the aqueduct would be the winner. But when he stood on the top-most tier to inspect the theatre, he heard a whisper, “Semiramis must be mine”, and looked around but could see no one.
Finally, he glanced down at the stage, where he saw Zenon, and knew that he had to change his mind; for although the aqueduct was impressive, this monument seemed the embodiment of perfection. The marriage of Zenon and Semiramis was solemnised in the theatre.
The aqueduct was used for over 500 years before it fell into disuse. But the theatre, although somewhat battered after several earthquakes over the centuries, remains intact, and is used to this day because of its still perfect acoustics — on account of which Zenon had won his princess.
Now, that’s an interesting story!
(PS: I think the correct spelling is traveler but not completely sure. If anybody knows for sure, let me know)