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Monuments
The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus
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The ancient theatre of Epidaurus is located 3km far from Ligourio settlement, at the east part of Argolikos bay. It is situated within the archaeological site of the Asclepius Sanctuary and is the best preserved Greek theatre. It distinguishes for its great acoustics and its architectural symmetry.

 

The Theatre’s History

The theatre was constructed between 340 and 330B.C. by Polykritos the Younger (according to Pausanias). It was used not only for entertainment purposes, but it was also a basic tool to help the sick people’s treatment since there was the strong belief that art was healing both the spirit and the body.

 

The theatre of Epidaurus is the exception among the rest Classic and Hellenistic ones, because it maintained its authentic form up to the end of the ancient times. Its construction was finalized in two stages. The first is set in the 4rth century B.C. when there was constructed and developed the general skeleton of the Sanctuary and the second was in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. Initially were constructed the Orchestra, the lower Diazoma and the Scene whereas later the cavea (Koilon) was extended upwards and the scene took its final Late-Hellenic form.

 

The monument had been entirely covered for many centuries. The excavation project began in 1870 and became more methodic in the period 1881-1926. The excavations were executed by the archaeologist P. Kavvadias undertaken by the Archaeological Society of Athens.

 

Architecture

The theatre consists of three main architectural pieces; the Cavea (Koilon), the Orchestra and the Scene (the typical skeleton of the Hellenistic theatres). The cavea nests perfectly into the natural curve on the north side of Mount Kynortio with an incline of 26 degrees. It consists of two diazomas separated by a peripheral aisle. The lower diazoma has got 13 stairways and 12 cunei with 34 rows of seats and the upper 23 stairways and 22 cunei with 21 rows of seats. The cavea has got 9 stairways and 18 rows of seats. The seats were added gradually and the most characteristic are those in the first row (called proedria) that were reserved for distinguished people. Proedria was constructed of red limestone and it was the only row of seats along with the last one in the first diazoma that had got a back stand. The cunei are 75-80cm deep and 32-35cm high. The upper diazoma (epitheatron) raised its capacity into 13000 seats and its cunei became 10cm higher to offer better acoustic and view to the audience.

 

The Orchestra was a perfect circle of 20m surrounded by a stone ring 48cm wide. Its floor was of packed earth and not of marble as in many other Greek theatres. In the middle of the Orchestra stood the circular-stone base, known as ‘Thymeli’ (Dionysus’ altar). Between the Orchestra and the front seats there is a marble aisle (2m wide) connected with a pipe network in order to remove the rainwater from the cavea.

 

The Scene is divided in two parts. The front part included an elevated stage (Proskinio), the Ionian-Order facade and two side walls (Paraskinia) projected towards the Orchestra. The back part consisted of a two-storey building. The actors entered the scene by two side ramps.

 

Short History

In 395B.C. the theatre suffered severe damage from the invasion of the Goths in Peloponnese. Around 426A.D. Theodosios the Great banned Asclepius Sanctuary and consequently the theatre stopped operating after 1000 years of active presence. In 1881 an extensive excavation project started and in 1907 they managed to restore the West aisle and the retaining wall. The second phase of the project was carried immediately after the World War II and lasted 10 years (1954-1963). The main objective was to set the theatre safe for hosting theatre performances. 1988 is the key date for the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus since the whole area with the Sanctuary was made a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. This is also the starting date of the third and most important restoration phase since for the first time the measures taken, employed strictly scientific approaches.

 

Performances-Festival

The first performance that hosted the theatre in its early history, was the Sophocles ‘Electra’ with Katina Paxinou in the homonymous role. The Festival ‘Epidavria’ has been established since 1954 presenting the works of all Ancient Classic creators by the most successful actors.

 

 

 

 

 



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© myGreece.travel photo
© myGreece.travel photo
© myGreece.travel photo
© myGreece.travel photo
© myGreece.travel photo