The Great Theatre was built on the foot of Panayir mountain and its façade faced the Harbour street, in the first century AD and later on it was renovated by several Roman Emperors. It is considered to be the most imposing and the most impressive structure of Ephesus city. It could host up to 25,000 spectators.
Its cavea consisted of 66 rows of stone seats which were divided into three horizontal sections by two diazomas. The seats at the bottom of the cave had marble backs and they were used by the most important personalities of the city. Its skene has been preserved in a good condition nowadays. It consisted of three stories with the second of them having been decorated with pillars, statues and carving by the Emperor Nero, in the 1st century. The third storey was built by Septimus Severus in late 2nd century AD. The ground floor consisted of a long corridor with eight rooms. The semi-circular constructure between the cavea and the skene, known as the orchestra, has also survived in a pretty good condition and it was the place on which the choruses were singing.
Columns with niches, statues and windows adorned the façade inside the theatre (opposite the spectators) and there were five openings, the middle one wider than the others, to the orchestra, which made the skene looking imposing.
There is a street on the upper part of the theatre which connects it with Curetes street.
A great part of the theatre seats was removed and used for the construction of other buildings.
The Great Theatre of Ephesus was destroyed due to an earthquake in the 4th century AD and only a part of it was repaired. In the 8th century AD it had been incorporated into the defense system of the city.
Apart from the theatrical plays and the music performances that took place in the theatre, political and religious events were carried out in it as well. Among the most important of them is the conflict between Christians and the followers of Artemis during which Saint Paul was judged and sent to prison as he was accused of hurting Artemis.