Originally built under Hellenistic King Lysimachus, the Great Theatre was reconstructed by the Romans between AD 41 and 117 and it is thought St Paul preached here. However, they incorporated original design elements, including the ingenious shape of the cavea (seating area), part of which was under cover. Seating rows are pitched slightly steeper as they ascend, meaning that upper-row spectators still enjoyed good views and acoustics – useful, considering that the theatre could hold an estimated 25,000 people.
Indeed, Ephesus' estimated peak population (250,000) is supported by the archaeologists' method of estimation: simply multiply theatre capacity by 10. Climb the stairs for a glimpse of the Aegean from the upper seats. Renovation work is ongoing to stabilise the structure.
The theatre is still used for live musical performances and has a seating capacity of 8000.