Visit Epidaurus/ Epidavros, Asclepios sanctuary and theater. Do not miss...
Another famous site in the Argolis is Epidaurus. In the hinterland of Epidavros, on a site enjoying a mild climate and plentiful water from healing springs, the Epidavrians founded the sanctuary of Asklepios, the most brilliant center of healing in the ancient world, which flourished from the late 5th century B.C. until the end of Roman era. The towns magnificent theater, still almost intact, stands in a wooded hollow of a hill not far from the Archaeological Museum.
The prestige and reputation acquired by Asklepios as the major god of healing led to great economic prosperity for his sanctuary, which made it possible to implement a large building programmed in the 4th and 3rd C. BC, to house his cult in monumental buildings. The peripteral Doric temple of Asklepios, erected between 380 and 375 BC, was the work of the architect Theodotos. The pedimental sculptures were carved by Timotheos, while the chryselephantine statue of Asklepios was the work of Thrasymedes of Paros. The tholos was built next to the temple in 360-330 BC. This circular, peristyle building was the center of the chthonic mystery cult of Asklepios and its famous sculptures are attributed to the Argive architect and sculptor Polykleitos, who is also considered to be responsible for the theater at Epidavros, one of the most perfect and the best preserved of the ancient Greek theaters.
The theater, which can accommodate 14000 spectators, forms a section of a circle slightly larger than a semicircle. It consists of 55 rows of seats divided by a promenade (diazoma) into an upper and a lower section. The seats of honor, reserved for the magistrates and the priests, were situated in the first row of the upper section and in the back and first row of the lower section, the spectators in the rest of the lower section have cushions to sit on. The performance could be heard and seen perfectly from every seat in the theater as can be demonstrated today by whispering or rustling a piece of paper in the centre of the orchestra, the sound carries without distortion to the top back corner of the huge spread of terraces some 22.50m/74ft from the ground.
The Roman general Sulla plundered its treasures in 86 BC, and a few years later it was ravaged by pirates from Kilikia. The sanctuary enjoyed a second period of prosperity in the 2nd C. AD, when new buildings were erected and the old ones repaired. In 395 AD the sanctuary was plundered by the Goths of Alaric and it finally ceased to function when the ancient cults were banned by the emperor Theodosius II in 426 AD. The ravages of time were completed by two major earthquakes in 522 and 551 AD, and the sanctuary remained silent until the excavations conducted by the Archaeological Society (1879-1928 ) uncovered its ensemble of monuments. To the north of the temple and the Tholos is the Avaton or Enkoimeterion, a portioned building in which the sick, having first been purified and having offered a sacrifice, were required to go to sleep, so that the god could appear to them in a dream to cure them, or indicate to them the treatment to be followed. The discovery during the excavations of a large number of medical instruments affords evidence for the view that practical medical operations were also carried out in the sanctuary.
Around the sacred precinct of Asklepios were erected temples to other deities (Artemis, Aphrodite and Themis), along with buildings to provide services for the hosts of pilgrims and installations for the athletic and music contests (stadium, palaestra, gymnasium, baths, Odeon and theater). The stadium (181 m long), built in the 4th century BC, held athletic games every four years at the sanctuary of Asklepios, Epidaurus. Still visible are the starting pillars and a huge number of the stone benches for spectators, plaus the crypt (Athletes entrance)
Epidavros theater was built in the 4th C. by the Argive architect, Polykleitos and is set into the north slope of Mount Harani facing the valley sacred of Asklepios.The theater is admired for its exceptional acoustics, which permit almost perfect intelligibility of amplified spoken words from the proscenium or skene to all 14,000 spectators, regardless of their seating. Famously, tour guides have their groups scattered in the stands and show them how they can easily hear the sound of a match struck at center-stage. In 1954 it was restored to take modern productions of the ancient repertory as well as musical recitals at which Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960) and Maria Callas have performed.
Epidaurus Festival - In summer (late June to late August at weekends) the plays of the Greek dramatics are performed in the theater and famous international writers...
Tel: 27530 22026 Entrance Fee: from 20 to 80 Euro.
Ancient Greek drama is staged at the Epidaurus Ancient Theater, a 2 hour drive SW of Athens. Enjoy a performance as the ancient Greeks would do in this outstanding architectural monument known for its unique acoustics. Thanks to this festival the Epidaurus Theater has seen the rebirth of Ancient drama more than half a century ago. Performances are in Greek but in the programmer you will find summaries in other languages too and English surtitles for the Festival’s productions.
Epidaurus Festival promises you magical summer nights, full of music, theatre and dance! Over the last 50 years, the Festival has hosted some of the leading lights of music - such as Mitropoulos, Callas, Rostropovich, Pavarotti, Leonidas Kavakos and Dimitris Sgouros, Koun, Streller, Peter Hall, the Peking Opera and dance - Balanchine, Pina Bausch, Nureyev, Fonteyn, Martha Graham and Alicia Alonso. It’s one of those places you need to visit while in Greece!