Mérida's most spectacular Roman monument, and the only one to once again fulfil its original function – by hosting performances during the Festival Internacional de Teatro Clásico in summer – the Teatro Romano is the city's indisputable highlight. It was built around 15 BCE to seat 6000 spectators. The adjoining (slightly less-dazzling) Anfiteatro opened in 8 BCE for gladiatorial contests and held 14,000; the gladiator-versus-lion fresco in the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano was taken from here.
The centrepiece of the theatre is the dramatic and well-preserved two-tier stage building of Corinthian columns; the stage's facade (scaenae frons) was inaugurated in CE 105. Statues of gods frame its central entryway, with the right-hand figure being interpreted as both the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis and Pluto, and the left-hand one considered to be either a muse or Proserpina.