Slightly larger than life-size, this menacing face, with hollowed out eyes, furrowed brow and gaping mouth, is one of dozens of stone-carved theatrical masks that adorn the façade of the theater of ancient Myra in the town of Demre in southern Turkey. The second-century C.E. theater, richly decorated both inside and out with evocative masks and friezes of mythological scenes, hosted the most popular plays of Roman antiquity as well as bloody gladiatorial competitions.
Such carvings no doubt helped advertise the range of performances and competitions that Myra’s cosmopolitan residents could enjoy at the venue. Throughout its Roman history, Myra was one of the largest and most diverse cities along the southern coast of Asia Minor and, by late antiquity, was home to significant numbers of both Christians and Jews, the latter evidenced by the recent discovery of a fifth-century synagogue.a