The theatre at Epidauros is an example of how the ancient architects were masters of acoustics. You can stand right at the top of the rows of theatre seats, and if someone drops a small coin in the centre of the stage, you can hear it very clearly! If you are lucky enough to be there at the same time as Italians who can sing opera arias, and they decide to do an impromptu performance then you are especially lucky.
The theatre at Epidauros was built around 340 BC by Polykleitos the Younger of Argos in the Sanctuary of Asklepius. In Greek mythology, Asklepius was the son of Apollo and became a demi-god of healing. Apollo was also a god of healing and was jealous of his son, and he vented his wrath upon him.
The Sanctuary of Asklepius at Epidauros attracted patients with mental illnesses from all over the Mediterranean basin, and they partook of the mineral waters there (from the Sacred Well) and rested in the peaceful, tranquility of Epidauros.
Today when you visit Epidauros you pass through the entrance to the site which dates back to Mycenean times, and the second
building on the site is the Temple of Asklepius which is an example of Doric times, where the statue of Asklepius was housed. This was sculpted by Thrasymedes of Paros. There were other buildings on the
site including the houses of priests, the sanitorium, a gymnasium and stadium
(games were held there every four years) and the Temples of Artemis and Apollo.
Today the theatre is still used during the Athens and Epidauros Festival. Plays by the ancient Greek playwrights are performed at weekends (on Friday and Saturday evenings) during the summer months of July and August.
I saw “Lysistrata” (by Aristophanes) there a few years ago and it was a magical experience as you can imagine the stage and backdrop as the ancients saw it. That year (2007 I think) I saw that play twice, once at a venue in Athens with the same cast. I must say that the Epidauros experience was by far the better. The Herodian in Athens is also a wonderful venue and in summer there are various events there too.
The trees on the Epidauros site give some shade, and if you have time to wander around the site before you go to see a play, you will get an idea of the tranquility the ancients who were patients there must have experienced.
You can stay at the modern town of Epidauros on the coast, or travel from Athens or Nafplio to visit Epidauros. It’s a shame you can’t always see a play there, but when you visit the site you have an idea of what it must have been/be like.
- Nafplio, First Capital City of Greece (lynnee8.wordpress.com)
- Agamemnon’s Palace, Mycenae, Greece (lynnee8.wordpress.com)