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Circle Circumference

C = πd; C = 2πr

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Greek Theater

Credit: Tyler Bell
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tylerbell/2686508251/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Did you know that the first plays were performed in ancient Greece? The Greeks were the first to bring tragedy and comedy to the stage, and drama became a key part of their culture. Performances were held in specially designed theaters, which could seat thousands of spectators—some of the largest could hold an audience of 14,000. Pictured above are the ruins of the ancient theater at Delphi, which was built in the 4th century BCE and could seat around 5,000 people. 

Why It Matters

The special structure of ancient Greek theaters ensured that everyone in the audience could hear the performance. By looking at the diagram below, you can see that the theaters were built around a circle. That central circle, called the "orchestra," served as the main stage. It was where the action of the play occurred. 

Credit: Leftezi
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ancient_greek_theater_(en).svg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Because of the way sound waves travel, the fact that the Greeks built their theaters around a circle ensured that their theaters would have excellent acoustics—an ancient version of "surround sound"! Even the audience members sitting in the very back row would have been able to hear what was going on in the orchestra, thanks to the circular design.

See for yourself: http://www.sciencechannel.com/tv-shows/what-the-ancients-knew/videos/what-the-ancients-knew-ancient-greeks-acoustics-and.htm

Explore More

Watch the following video to learn more about the famous theater at Epidaurus and then answer the question below.


The orchestra of the theater at Epidaurus has a diameter of approximately 66 feet. Can you calculate the circumference of the orchestra?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Tyler Bell; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tylerbell/2686508251/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Leftezi; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ancient_greek_theater_(en).svg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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