Greek Fes­ti­val at An­cient Theater of Ep­i­dau­rus

Santorini Traveler - - EDITORIAL - Photo: Loukas Hap­sis Star trail & light paint­ing in An­cient Theatre of Ep­i­dau­rus

Greece’s fore­most cul­tural fes­ti­val, the Athens & Ep­i­dau­rus Fes­ti­val presents nu­mer­ous theatre, dance, and mu­sic artists, ac­claimed in Greece and world­wide, at­tract­ing large au­di­ences from around the world. His­tory of the venue

The Sanc­tu­ary of Askle­pios at Ep­i­dau­rus, within which the Ep­i­dau­rus An­cient Theatre is sit­u­ated, was one of the most ex­ten­sive sa­cred sanc­tu­ar­ies in an­cient Greece. It be­longed to Ep­i­dau­rus, a small citys­tate of the Clas­si­cal pe­riod lo­cated on the nearby western coast of the Sa­ronic Gulf, where the vil­lage of Palea Ep­i­davros (Old Ep­i­dau­rus) stands to­day. The build­ings of the Sanc­tu­ary - tem­ples, ath­let­ics fa­cil­i­ties, the theatre, baths, etc. - were built in an el­e­vated val­ley sur­rounded by moun­tains. The Sanc­tu­ary was linked to the an­cient city of Ep­i­dau­rus by an an­cient road, large parts of which sur­vive along­side the mod­ern as­phalt road lead­ing to the site. The con­struc­tion of the theatre

As Ep­i­dau­rus de­vel­oped, var­i­ous ath­letic and artis­tic con­tests, in­clud­ing the­atri­cal ones, were added to the wor­ship of god Askle­pios, through which sys­tem­atic med­i­cal care was de­vel­oped in an­tiq­uity. These con­tests at the Sanc­tu­ary (held in the theatre, the sta­dium and else­where) formed an in­te­gral part of the ac­tiv­i­ties con­ducted in hon­our of the god of medicine. Un­like other theatres of the Clas­si­cal and Hel­lenis­tic pe­ri­ods, the theatre at Ep­i­dau­rus was not mod­i­fied dur­ing Ro­man times, and thus re­tained its orig­i­nal form through­out an­tiq­uity.

The pre­vail­ing view among ex­perts is that the theatre was built in two dis­tinct phases. The first dates to the 4th cen­tury BC, a pe­riod of sig­nif­i­cant con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity at the Sanc­tu­ary. The sec­ond cor­re­sponds to the mid-2nd cen­tury BC. The orig­i­nal lay­out of the Ep­i­dau­rus Theatre stage shows that it was in­tended for the per­for­mance of dra­matic works at the level of the orches­tra. Dur­ing the sec­ond phase, ac­tors would have per­formed on a raised prosce­nium, leav­ing the orches­tra for the cho­rus.


The theatre is the best pre­served mon­u­ment of the Sanc­tu­ary of Askle­pios at Ep­i­dau­rus. It has a per­fectly ex­e­cuted tri­par­tite struc­ture char­ac­ter­is­tic of Hel­lenis­tic pe­riod theatres: au­di­to­rium, orches­tra, and stage build­ing (skene). The orches­tra is per­fectly cir­cu­lar (19.5 m in di­am­e­ter), with a floor of beaten earth bounded by a ring stones at its perime­ter. An open duct run­ning around the out­side of the orches­tra col­lects and drains the rain­wa­ter that runs off the au­di­to­rium.

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