Theatre of Epidaurus Panorama

Theatre of Epidaurus Panorama


According to Pausanias, the ancient theatre was constructed at the end of the 4th century BC [2] by the architect Polykleitos the Younger. [3] Pausanias praises the theatre for its symmetry and beauty. [4] At a maximum capacity of 13,000 to 14,000 spectators, the theatre hosted music, singing and dramatic games that were included in the worship of Asclepius. It was also used as a means to heal patients, since there was a belief that the observation of dramatic shows had positive effects on mental and physical health.

Today, the monument attracts a large number of Greek and foreign visitors and is used for the performance of ancient drama plays. [5] The first modern performance conducted at the theatre was Sophocles's tragedy Electra. It was played in 1938, directed by Dimitris Rontiris, starring Katina Paxinou and Eleni Papadaki. [6]

Performances stopped due to World War II. Theatrical performances, in the framework of the organized festival, began again in 1954. In 1955 they were established as an annual event for the presentation of ancient drama. The Epidaurus Festival continues today and is carried out during the summer months.

The theatre has been sporadically used to host major musical events. In the framework of the Epidaurus Festival, well-known Greek and foreign actors have appeared, including the Greek soprano Maria Callas, who performed Norma in 1960 and Médée in 1961.

The monument retains the characteristic tripartite structure of a Hellenistic theatre that has an theatron, orchestra, and skene. During Roman times, the theatre (unlike many Greek theatres) did not suffer any modifications.

The auditorium is divided vertically into two unequal parts, the lower hollow or theatre and the upper theatre or epitheatre. The two sub-sections are separated by a horizontal corridor for the movement of spectators (width 1.82 m.), the frieze. The lower part of the auditorium wedge is divided into 12 sections, while the upper part is divided into 22 sections. The lower rows of the upper and lower auditoriums have a presidency form, namely places reserved for important people. The design of the auditorium is unique and based on three marking centres. Due to this special design, the architects achieved both optimal acoustics and an opening for better viewing.

The circular orchestra, with a diameter of 20 m, constitutes the centre of the theatre. In the centre is a circular stone plate, the base of the altar or thymele. The orchestra is surrounded by a special underground drainage pipeline of 1.99 m width, called the euripos. The euripos was covered by a circular stone walkway.

Opposite the auditorium and behind the orchestra develops the stage building of the theatre (skene), which was constructed in two phases: [7] the first is placed at the end of the 4th century BCE and the second in the middle of the 2nd century BCE. The format of the skene (which is partly preserved today) is dated up to the Hellenistic period and consisted of a two-storey stage building and a proscenium in front of the stage. There was a colonnade in front of the proscenium and on both of its sides, the two backstages slightly protruded. East and west of the two backstages there were two small rectangular rooms for the needs of the performers. Two ramps lead to the roof of the proscenium, the logeion, where the actors later played. Finally, the theatre had two gates, which are now restored.

The first systematic excavation of the theatre began in 1881 by the Archaeological Society, under the direction of archaeologist Panayis Kavvadias [8] and preserved in very good condition thanks to the restorations [9] of P. Kavvadias (1907), of A. Orlandos (1954–1963) and the Preservation Committee for Epidaurus Monuments [10] (1988 to 2016). With the work done, the theatre has been recovered – except the stage building – almost entirely in its original form.


A Very Brief History Of Epidaurus Ancient Theater, Greece

Probably the most beautiful and best preserved of its kind, the theater of Epidaurus was built in the 4th century BC by Polykleitos the Younger. Due to its excellent acoustics and condition, the ancient theater is still used today, most notably under the framework of the annual Epidaurus Festival. Here is a brief introduction to the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus.

Located on the fertile plain of Argolida, in the eastern part of Peloponnese, the Sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus was an important sacred healing center during ancient times. Asclepius, also spelled Asklepios, was believed to possess healing powers that he learned from his father, Apollo. Therefore, the area attracted people from all over Greece who came to be treated by the resident priests. And with time, and as the center developed, prosperity increased, which the priests used to build an impressive complex of facilities, including temples, baths, athletic venues, and the theater.

Built in 340 BC, the theater seats about 13,000 spectators. It was built in two phases – one during the 4th century BC and the second in the mid-2nd century – and divided into two parts: one for citizens and one for priests and authorities.

The acoustics in the theater are incredible indeed, spectators in the back rows have been known to hear comedians on stage without any amplification. And in 2007, the mystery of the excellent acoustic quality of the theater was resolved. At first, it was believed that the structure’s location was the cause – it was built on the slope of Mount Kynortio at an incline of 26 degrees. But researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that while this is partially true, the real reason is the seats themselves. The steps act as ‘acoustic traps,’ filtering any background noise while creating a phenomenon called ‘virtual pitch,’ which allows for a higher clarity of sound, making it easier for spectators in the back row to hear what’s happening on stage.

In use for several centuries, the theater was destroyed in 395 AD as the Goths invaded the Peloponnese. Later in 426 AD, Theodosius II closed the Sanctuary, banning all pagan activities throughout Greece, while the site was permanently out of order following a series of earthquakes.

The impressive monument remained covered until 1881 when excavations took place under the guidance of the Greek Archaeological Society. And while their work found that the stage-building no longer existed, they uncovered the auditorium, which was still in good condition. The news quickly got around, attracting the attention of the general public.

The discovery of the ancient theater was closely linked to the persistent demands to use ancient facilities for cultural and commercial purposes. And so in 1907, repairs were made to the western aisle and retaining wall. Restoration resumed soon after WWII and focused on making the monument safe and suitable for performances. Since 1938, hundreds of theatrical plays have been performed, and in 1954, the famous Epidaurus Festival, now called the Athens-Epidaurus Festival, was launched. Held every summer, the event features both acclaimed dramas from the past and contemporary plays that are performed not only in Athens but also the ancient theater. Throughout the years, the festival has gained popularity in Greece and abroad.


Facebook

The ancient theatre of Epidaurus, Greece
Probably the most beautiful and best preserved of its kind, the theater of Epidaurus was built in the 4th century BC by Polykleitos the Younger.
Due to its excellent acoustics and condition, the ancient theater is still used today, most notably under the framework of the annual Epidaurus Festival.
Located on the fertile plain of Argolida, in the eastern part of Peloponnese, the Sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus was an important sacred healing center during ancient times.
Asclepius, also spelled Asklepios, was believed to possess healing powers that he learned from his father, Apollo. Therefore, the area attracted people from all over Greece who came to be treated by the resident priests.
And with time, and as the center developed, prosperity increased, which the priests used to build an impressive complex of facilities, including temples, baths, athletic venues, and the theater.
Built in 340 BC, the theater seats about 13,000 spectators. It was built in two phases – one during the 4th century BC and the second in the mid-2nd century – and divided into two parts: one for citizens and one for priests and authorities.
The acoustics in the theater are incredible indeed, spectators in the back rows have been known to hear comedians on stage without any amplification.
And in 2007, the mystery of the excellent acoustic quality of the theater was resolved.
At first, it was believed that the structure’s location was the cause – it was built on the slope of Mount Kynortio at an incline of 26 degrees.
But researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that while this is partially true, the real reason is the seats themselves.
The steps act as ‘acoustic traps,’ filtering any background noise while creating a phenomenon called ‘virtual pitch,’ which allows for a higher clarity of sound, making it easier for spectators in the back row to hear what’s happening on stage.
In use for several centuries, the theater was destroyed in 395 AD as the Goths invaded the Peloponnese.
Later in 426 AD, Theodosius II closed the Sanctuary, banning all pagan activities throughout Greece, while the site was permanently out of order following a series of earthquakes.
The impressive monument remained covered until 1881 when excavations took place under the guidance of the Greek Archaeological Society. And while their work found that the stage-building no longer existed, they uncovered the auditorium, which was still in good condition. The news quickly got around, attracting the attention of the general public.
The discovery of the ancient theater was closely linked to the persistent demands to use ancient facilities for cultural and commercial purposes.
And so in 1907, repairs were made to the western aisle and retaining wall. Restoration resumed soon after WWII and focused on making the monument safe and suitable for performances.
Since 1938, hundreds of theatrical plays have been performed, and in 1954, the famous Epidaurus Festival, now called the Athens-Epidaurus Festival, was launched. Held every summer, the event features both acclaimed dramas from the past and contemporary plays that are performed not only in Athens but also the ancient theater. Throughout the years, the festival has gained popularity in Greece and abroad.
Source: https://theculturetrip.com/europe/greece/articles/a-very-brief-history-of-epidaurus-ancient-theater-greece/
Fb Cultural heritage: https://www.facebook.com/CulturalheritageIRSiE/
Fb Cultural heritage group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2665757243671033/
LinkedIn Cultural Heritage: https://www.linkedin.com/company/heritage/
Cultural heritage LinkedIn group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8875453/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cultural_heritage_irsie/

Ancient World History

The location of the tomb of Alexander the Great is one of the greatest mysteries in history. Theories abound, with the most consistent being that the King of Macedonia is buried in Alexandria, the city in Egypt that he founded.
Now a Cambridge University history professor says that the tomb of Alexander the Great is definitely buried there, dismissing multiple theories that the remains of the great general had been transferred elsewhere.


The Theatre of Epidaurus

It was built on the slope of the mountain northeast from the Sanctuary of Asklepios, god of Medicine, and it became famous since that time for being the prettiest of all the Greek theatres, known also for its almost perfect acoustics.

The circular orchestra has a centre altar of Dionysus. The cavea has the shape of a fan, with 34 rows of setas, divided into 12 sectors by stairs.

© Photo credits by Olecorre under CC-BY-SA 3.0

Beyond the semicircular corridor (diazoma), at a later period, there were added 21 new rows of seats: the cavea has a capacity of 20,000 spectators.

The first and the last row of the lower part and the first of the upper part had seats with backs and these seats were reserved for distinguished citizens.

Do you want to know more about Epidaurus and the history of Greece?

Check out our guidebook to Ancient Greece, with detailed history and Past & Present images of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Epidaurus and all the greatest historical and archaeological sites of Ancient Greece.


How big is the Epidaurus Theater?

The theater consists of the circular orchestra, the place where the actors and the dance played, and the 'koilon', the semicircular part around the orchestra -named after the dance that sang and danced- where the seats for the spectators are located. The 'koilon' is divided into two moldings, the upper with 21 rows of seats for the people and the lower with 34 rows of seats for priests and lords. The orchestra has a diameter of 20 meters and is surrounded by a special underground sewer, 1.99m wide to remove rainwater flowing from the 'koilon'.

A lot has been said and written about the supreme form of art of ancient Greek theater over the centuries, but one thing is for sure: ancient drama touches your soul, teaching you invaluable lessons for human nature. So, if you consider yourself a theater lover, visiting is the ancient theater of Epidauros isn’t optional, it’s mandatory for your cultural health. A treat for both body and soul.

Grab the opportunity for a day trip to Argolis and experience first-hand the ancient theater of Epidauros, the site closely related to the birth of the drama in ancient Greece. Top tip: if you’re traveling with kids, take a Percy Jackson-inspired tour around ancient Corinth and Epidaurus, and keep your little one entertained with the mythical adventures of their favorite book hero!

If you’d like to watch a performance in the great theatre of Epidaurus, you can find the schedule of the Epidaurus Festival for 2019 and more info here.


Epidaurus - Theater of Epidaurus - Panorama Front

The theatre of the Asklepieion of Epidaurus is the ideal specimen of the achievements and experience of the ancient Greeks on theatre construction. It was already praised in antiquity by Pausanias for its symmetry and beauty.

It has the typical Hellenistic structure with the three basic parts: the cavea, the orchestra and the stage-building (skene). The longest radius of the cavea is 58 m. while the diameter of the orchestra is about 20 m. The lower of the two diazomata (sections) is divided with 13 stairways into 12 cunei (with 34 rows of benches) and the upper with 23 stairways into 22 cunei (with 21 rows of benches).

The stage-building included a main room with four pillars along the central axis, and one square room at each end. The proskenium had a facade with 14 half-columns against pillars. Two ramps on either side led to the stage while monumental double gates stood at the two entrances.

The theatre was built in two stages. During the first, at the end of the 4th century B.C., the orchestra, the lower diazoma and the stage-building (in its "pre-hellenistic" phase) were constructed. During the second, at the middle of the 2nd century B.C., the cavea was enlarged at the top, and the stage building was given its "late-hellenistic" shape. The theatre was used for musical and poetical contests and theatrical performances.

For centuries the monument remained covered by thick layers of earth. Systematic excavations started in 1881 under the direction of P. Kavvadias. The cavea was brought to light quite well preserved apart from the tiers at the edges and the retaining walls. On the contrary, the stage was found in ruins levelled to the ground.

At the beginning of the 20th century the gate of the western entrance and the contiguous retaining-wall were restored. Large-scale works were undertaken from 1954 to 1963 for the reconstruction of the destroyed sections and partial restoration of the monument.

The monument attracts a large number of visitors. Theatrical performances during a Festival started in 1954 and were established the following year as an institution of ancient drama.

In 1988, the Comittee for the Preservation of the Epidaurus Monuments, including scientists of the Ministry of Culture and Universities, started a program of conservation works at the theatre to solve a series of specific problems concerning the wear caused by the thousands of visitors. For an effective protection of the stage-building from the contemporary skenic structures, the place will be covered by an accessible shelter.


Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus

In a small valley in the Peloponnesus, the shrine of Asklepios, the god of medicine, developed out of a much earlier cult of Apollo (Maleatas), during the 6th century BC at the latest, as the official cult of the city state of Epidaurus. Its principal monuments, particularly the temple of Asklepios, the Tholos and the Theatre - considered one of the purest masterpieces of Greek architecture &ndash date from the 4th century. The vast site, with its temples and hospital buildings devoted to its healing gods, provides valuable insight into the healing cults of Greek and Roman times.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Sanctuaire d'Asclépios en Epidaure

Dans une petite vallée du Péloponnèse, le sanctuaire d&rsquoAsclépios, le dieu de la médecine, issu du culte d&rsquoApollon (Maléatas), prit forme au plus tard au VIe siècle avant notre ère et devint le culte officiel de la cité-état d&rsquoEpidaure. Ses principaux monuments, dont le temple d&rsquoAsclépios, le Tholos et le Théâtre - considéré comme l'un des plus purs chefs-d'&oeliguvre de l'architecture grecque - datent du IVe siècle. L'ensemble du sanctuaire, avec ses temples et ses installations hospitalières consacrés aux dieux guérisseurs, offre un témoignage exceptionnel des cultes thérapeutiques du monde hellénique et romain.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

موقع إبيدوريس الأثري

يندرج موقع إبيدوريس على مستويات عدة في تلة بيلوبونيز الصغيرة. وبدأت عبادة إله الطب أسكليبيوس في القرن السادس قبل الميلاد. إلا أنّ النصب الرئيسة تعود إلى القرن التاسع، لاسيما المسرح منها الذي اعتُبر أحد أبرز مآثر الهندسة اليونانية. ويوفّر الموقع بمجمله شهادةً رائعة على المراكز العلاجية في العالم الإغريقي-الروماني، بمعابده ومنشاءاته الاستشفائية المخصّصة للآلهة الشافية للأمراض.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

埃皮达鲁斯考古遗址

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Археологические памятники Эпидавра

В небольшой долине на полуострове Пелопоннес на нескольких уровнях расположены памятники Эпидавра. Культ Асклепия впервые сложился здесь в VI в. до н.э. Но основные памятники, и, прежде всего театр, считающийся одним из подлинных шедевров древнегреческой архитектуры, датируются IV в. до н.э. Обширная территория, где располагаются посвященные богам храмы и здания больниц, имеет отношение к культам врачевания древнегреческой и древнеримской эпох.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Santuario de Esculapio en Epidauro

Emplazado en un pequeño valle del Peloponeso, este sitio comprende un santuario dedicado al dios de la medicina Esculapio. Su culto, emanado del rendido antiguamente a Apolo Maleatas, cobró forma como muy tarde en el siglo VI a.C. y llegó ser el culto oficial de la ciudad-estado de Epidauro. Los principales monumentos del sitio, construidos en el siglo IV a.C., son el templo de Esculapio, el tholos y el teatro, que se considera una de las más puras obras maestras de la arquitectura griega. Con sus hospitales y templos consagrados a los dioses curadores, el conjunto del sitio aporta un testimonio excepcional sobre los cultos terapéuticos la Antigüedad grecorromana.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

アスクレピオスの聖地エピダウロス
Heiligdom van Asklepios in Epidaurus

Het heiligdom van Asklepios, de god van de geneeskunde, ligt in een kleine vallei in de Peloponnesos. Het ontwikkelde zich vanuit een veel vroegere cultus van Apollo (Maleatas) tot de officiële cultus van de stadstaat Epidaurus in de 6e tot de laatste eeuw voor Christus. De belangrijkste monumenten dateren uit de 4e eeuw. Vooral de tempel van Asklepios, de Tholos en het Theater worden beschouwd als voorbeelden van de meest zuivere meesterwerken van de Griekse architectuur. Het uitgestrekte gebied met zijn tempels en hospitalen gewijd aan de genezende goden, geeft een waardevol inzicht in de genezingscultus van de Griekse en Romeinse tijd.

  • English
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Dutch

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus is a remarkable testament to the healing cults of the Ancient World and witness to the emergence of scientific medicine. Situated in the Peloponnese, in the Regional unit of Argolis, the site comprises a series of ancient monuments spread over two terraces and surrounded by a preserved natural landscape. Among the monuments of the Sanctuary is the striking Theatre of Epidaurus, which is renowned for its perfect architectural proportions and exemplary acoustics. The Theatre, together with the Temples of Artemis and Asklepios, the Tholos, the Enkoimeterion and the Propylaia, comprise a coherent assembly of monuments that illustrate the significance and power of the healing gods of the Hellenic and Roman worlds.

The Sanctuary is the earliest organized sanatorium and is significant for its association with the history of medicine, providing evidence of the transition from belief in divine healing to the science of medicine. Initially, in the 2nd millennium BCE it was a site of ceremonial healing practices with curative associations that were later enriched through the cults of Apollo Maleatas in the 8th century BCE and then by Asklepios in the 6th century BCE. The Sanctuary of the two gods was developed into the single most important therapeutic center of the ancient world. These practices were subsequently spread to the rest of the Greco-Roman world and the Sanctuary thus became the cradle of medicine.

Among the facilities of the classical period are buildings that represent all the functions of the Sanctuary, including healing cults and rituals, library, baths, sports, accommodation, hospital and theatre.

The site is one of the most complete ancient Greek sanctuaries of Antiquity and is significant for its architectural brilliance and influence. The Sanctuary of Epidaurus (with the Theatre, the Temples of Artemis and Asklepios, the Tholos, the Enkoimeterion, the Propylaia, the Banqueting Hall, the baths as well as the sport and hospital facilities) is an eminent example of a Hellenic architectural ensemble of the 4th century BCE. The form of its buildings has exerted great influence on the evolution of Hellenistic and Roman architecture. Tholos influenced the development of Greek and Roman architecture, particularly the Corinthian order, while the Enkoimeterion stoa and the Propylaia introduced forms that evolved further in Hellenistic architecture. In addition, the complicated hydraulic system of the Sanctuary is an excellent example of a large-scale water supply and sewerage system that illustrates the significant engineering knowledge of ancient societies. The exquisitely preserved Theatre continues to be used for ancient drama performances and familiarizes the audience with ancient Greek thought.

Criterion (i): The Theatre of Epidaurus is an architectural masterpiece designed by the architect from Argos, Polykleitos the Younger, and represents a unique artistic achievement through its admirable integration into the site as well as the perfection of its proportions and acoustics. The Theatre has been revived thanks to an annual festival held there since 1955.

Criterion (ii): The Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus exerted an influence on all the Asklepieia in the Hellenic world, and later, on all the Roman sanctuaries of Esculape.

Criterion (iii): The group of buildings comprising the Sanctuary of Epidaurus bears exceptional testimony to the healing cults of the Hellenic and Roman worlds. The temples and the hospital facilities dedicated to the healing gods constitute a coherent and complete ensemble. Excavations led by Cavvadias, Papadimitriou and other archaeologists have greatly contributed to our knowledge of this ensemble.

Criterion (iv): The Theatre, the Temples of Artemis and Asklepios, the Tholos, the Enkoimeterion and the Propylaia make the Sanctuary of Epidaurus an eminent example of a Hellenic architectural ensemble of the 4th century BCE.

Criterion (vi): The emergence of modern medicine in a sanctuary originally reputed for the psychically-based miraculous healing of supposedly incurable patients is directly and tangibly illustrated by the functional evolution of the Sanctuary of Epidaurus and is strikingly described by the engraved inscriptions on the remarkable stelai preserved in the Museum.

The World Heritage property contains within its boundaries all the key attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the Sanctuary. The facilities that have been discovered in the Sanctuary represent all its functions during the entire duration of its use up until Early Christian times. These include the acts of worship, the procedure of healing with a dream-like state of induced sleep known as enkoimesis through the preparation of the patients, the facilitating of healing with exercise and the conduct of official games. Since 1984, the Sanctuary has been designated as a zone of absolute protection in which no building activities are permitted. This zone of 1398.8 hectares coincides with the core zone of the property and is surrounded by the property’s buffer zone, which has controlled building activities and covers an area of 1992,6 hectares. These protective zones have almost entirely preserved the whole natural landscape as seen from the Sanctuary.

Authenticity

The form and material of Epidaurus’ Theatre characterize it as one of the most authentic among the known theatres of the ancient world. The Stadium preserves almost 90% of its ancient form and material. The other numerous monuments of the Sanctuary have preserved many elements of their design and material in such a way that construction can be ascertained according to their ancient form. The interventions in some of the most significant structures have been made in accordance with the international principles of restoration with respect to the legibility of the edifices and to the principle of reversibility. The Sanctuary’s location and setting has been almost entirely preserved so that visitors are still able to experience the spiritual character of the site.

Protection and management requirements

The Sanctuary of Asklepios and Apollo Maleatas is protected under the provisions of Law No 3028/2002 on the “Protection of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage in general”. Since 1984 it has been incorporated in a zone of absolute protection, in which no building activity is permitted (Presidential Decree 18.11.1983). This zone is surrounded by a wider zone with obligatory controls for the issue of building or construction permits. In 2012, there was an expansion of the designated area of the archaeological site (Ministerial Decision in Government Gazette: 220/ AAP/ 15-6-2012), covering the broader area beyond the Sanctuary, thus extending the monitoring. The greater part of the area in which the Sanctuary was developed during the Antiquity belongs to the Greek state.

The property is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs through the Ephorate of Antiquities of Argolis, its competent Regional Service which systematically supervises the area for any acts of illegal excavations and quarrying as well as the monitoring and intervention for cases in which antiquities are revealed during the course of digging works. In 1984 the Committee for the Conservation of Epidaurus Monuments was founded as the responsible body for conservation and restoration works as well as for the enhancement of the Sanctuary.

The financial resources for the site are derived by state budget as well as funds from European Union. The conservation and enhancement project involves interventions on important monuments of the site as well as enhancement works of the Sanctuary’s surroundings and upgrading of the services provided to visitors. Future plans aim to protect and enhance monuments which are not yet included at this stage in the restoration program and also aim to construct shelters for the protection of vulnerable monuments from adverse weather conditions.

The Sanctuary, with management that is considered successful, receives more than 250.000 visitors annually. Special facilities exist for the management of the audience attending the annual performances at the ancient Theatre.

The safety of the site is ensured with an adequate and qualified security staff. An upgraded fire protection system has been developed, using both conventional and modern instruments. During the restoration works all the necessary measures for ensuring the stability of the monuments are being implemented and thus the findings in the museum and its depots are adequately protected from earthquake hazards.

The close and fruitful cooperation with the local community is further promoted by lectures, educational programs and guided tours, especially for the schools. Moreover, the Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs, in cooperation with the local municipality, concluded an agreement for the remodeling of the broader Sanctuary’s access area.

The long-term goal is to offer to the public a legible and understandable monumental complex that will reveal the operation of the Sanctuary during ancient times. Through constant care and gradual enhancement of all its monuments, the site will provide a natural, cultural and archaeological park with high level visitor services.


Study shows Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is world’s most perfect in terms of aesthetics and acoustics

The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is the most perfect theatre in the world in terms of aesthetics and acoustics,” stated the University of Patras in its most recent study.

The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is the crown of cultural activity in Greece during the summer months and remains to this day one of the most important and globally recognizable monuments of antiquity.

Carved into the side of Mount Kynortio and dominating the southeastern end of the sanctuary, which was dedicated to Asclepius – the God and Creator of Medicine in Greek Mythology – the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus has been characterized as the birth place of the art of theatre, and the genres of comedy, tragedy and drama.

A team of six professors from the University of Patras conducted extensive research on the ancient theatre and concluded that “the measurements confirm the theatre’s excellent acoustics and speech intelligibility, for all the typical listener positions tested.”

The study showed that in whichever seat someone sits within the theatre, either at the very front or at the last seat at the top of the theatre hill, they will be able to clearly hear the actors speak – who of course, never use microphones or any kind of sound boost equipment during plays.

The awe that someone feels once they enter the theatre is remarkable.

The natural echo of one’s voice can be heard from one end of the theatre to the other, a phenomenon that has long attracted the admiration of scientists, and even more so due to the fact that the Theatre of Epidaurus was built almost 2,500 years ago – a time when knowledge and technology were much more limited.

Playing at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus today is considered an incredible honour and career highlight, an achievement that is high on the bucket list of not just Greek actors but of the the most talented actors actors all around the world.

The theatre hosts mostly ancient Greek-style plays as well as contemporary adaptions of old plays and some musical events.

The performances can be in modern Greek, Ancient Greek or a mix of both, while there are very limited plays in different languages.

Some of the most famous and prestigious Greek movie stars have played in Epidaurus over the years, such as Melina Mercouri, Katina Paxinou, Alekos Alexandrakis, Manos Katrakis, Anna Synodinou, Kostas Kazakos, and of course the “national Greek star” Aliki Vougiouklaki.

Foreign directors of international acclaim, like American Robert Wilson and Belgian comedy-tragedy movie maker Ivo Van Hove have said that creating plays for the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus was a “life goal”.

Since 1988, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, along with all findings in the archaeological site of the sanctuary of Asclepius, have been added to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO due to their significant influence and value to the world’s cultures and arts.

According to Greek traveller and geographer, Pausanias however, the story of the Epidaurus Theatre stars long before that during the 4 th century BC.

Way back then, Pausanias praised the ancient theatre for its harmony and beauty, and attributed the creation of the largest dome pavilion theatre of classical antiquity to its architect, Polykleitos, who also designed the whole of Asclepius sanctuary.

The construction of the theatre was completed in two main construction phases and its capacity was initially for 13,000 – 14,000 people, making it the largest theatre at the time.

Musical and dramatic competitions were held in the monument, as part of the cult of Asclepius. Their goal was to create mental uplift as a means of healing for the people, who very much emphasized the importance of mental health, as a result of the combination of a healthy body and a healthy mind.

The archaeological sites of Epidaurus were damaged over the years by ‘barbaric tribes’, as Ancient Greeks used to call them, such as the Goths, but they were also harmed during the Byzantine times and the Ottoman Rule.

However, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is still considered to this day the best-preserved theatre of antiquity.

A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology makes the observation that “the elusive factor that makes the ancient amphitheatre an acoustic marvel, is not the slope, or the wind — it’s the seats.”

The research adds that, “as the ancient Greeks were placing the last few stones on the magnificent theatre at Epidaurus, they couldn’t have known that they had unwittingly created a sophisticated acoustic filter.

“While many experts speculated on the possible causes for Epidaurus’ acoustics, few guessed that the seats themselves were the secret of its acoustics success, where audiences in the back row were able to hear music and voices with amazing clarity, unlike any other theatre.

The architecture of the Epidaurus Theatre is not much different to that of most ancient Greek theatres, which are seen today as characteristic creations of Ancient Greek art.

The vast majority of ancient theatres are built on the slope of a hill, so that the slope of the ground favours the amphitheatre configuration of the space.

In Epidaurus, we can also find the characteristic three-part structure that Greeks used to build for its ideal appearance: the concave, the orchestra and the stage building.

The choice of location was a crucial element and, in addition to aesthetic enjoyment, it allowed the viewer not only to admire the natural environment, but it also was meant to serve worship or therapeutic purposes.

Georgia Tech experimented with ultrasonic waves and numerical simulations at the Epidaurus Theatre several times between 2013 and 2019, and discovered that “frequencies up to 500 Hz were held back while frequencies above 500 Hz were allowed to ring out. The corrugated surface of the seats was creating an effect similar to the ridged acoustics padding on walls or insulation in a parking garage.”

Leader of the study, professor Nico Declercq, explained that the audience could hear the lower frequencies of an actor’s voice “simply because the human brain is capable of reconstructing the missing frequencies through a phenomenon called virtual pitch.”

“Virtual pitch helps us appreciate the incomplete sound coming from small loudspeakers (in a laptop or a telephone), even though the low (bass) frequencies are not generated by a speaker.”

The first systematic excavation in the theatre began in 1881 by the Archaeological Society of Greece, and it took several years to complete, since the whole area of the hill was densely wooded and inaccessible.

Later, with the First and Second World Wars, all plans for the restoration of the theatre were cancelled, and it was not until the early 1950s that the Epidaurus Theatre came to life again.

The participation of the local community in the excavation program for the ancient theatre was equally crucial, as the inhabitants of Lygourio village in Epidaurus, gave up their estates, where the ancient monuments were located, so that the theatre could be resurrected.

Residents in the area also donated acres of fields so that a new road could be built to connect the sanctuary in Epidaurus with the first capital of Greece, Nafplio.

Apart from the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, the archaeological site of the area includes many more monuments of great importance, such as the Stadion – where sports events and competitions took place, the Gymnasium – the building where teenagers gathered to exercise, the Odeon – a place for mental and physical relaxation through music, called the first “rehab centre”, by many archaeologists today, along with the Epidaurus museum.

* The Stadion (stadium) where some of the first running competitions took place, similar to the modern Olympics

* The Gymnasium (gym) where Greek youth trained

*The Odeon where Ancient Greeks believed that “music can heal the soul”

The city of Epidaurus itself is equally important, as it has become a popular tourist destinantion over the last few years due to its coastal location and numerous tourist attractions.

Earlier in 2020, Epidaurus was also praised by global media as the town that “beat COVID-19” since it reported zero cases of the novel coronavirus, and thus it continues every day to leave its significant mark on the world map, for a plethora of reasons.


Modern Greece and the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus

The ancient theater was uncovered after excavation performed by archaeologist P. Kavvadias, during 1881-83 and continued under the care of the Athenian Archaeological until 1926. A few years later, in 1938, the first play was staged in the ancient theater of Epidavros. The play was the tragedy “Electra” by Sofokles, starring Katina Paksinou and Eleni Papadaki. Following that, the plays ceased due to World War II, but in the early 50s, reconstruction took place, so that a large number of spectators can be seated, while in 1955, the Festival of Epidavros was inaugurated, where plays are staged every summer. For the Festival of Epidavros, some of the greatest Greek and foreign actors have appeared in Epidaurus, as well as the famous Greek soprano, Maria Kallas.


Watch the video: Ancient Theater performance: Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus EPIDAURUS