The Epidavros Theater: An ancient Greek acoustic miracle
Architectural perfection, complete harmonization with the natural environment and perfect acoustics -which allow excellent intelligibility of unamplified spoken words from the skênê to all 15,000 spectators- are the unique characteristics of the Epidavros Theater, the best preserved ancient theater in Greece.
According to Pausanias, the theater of Epidaurus was built in 340 BC by an Argos architect Polykleitos the Younger and is situated within the archaeological site of the Sanctuary of Asklepios. Until the third century AD, it hosted music, song and drama competitions and performances during the Asklepian games which took place every four years in spring.
The patients were allowed to attend the performances since drama was part of the healing process.
Let’s see how Pausanias describes the Epidavros Theater:
…[2.27.5] The Epidaurians have a theater within the sanctuary, in my opinion very well worth seeing. For while the Roman theaters are far superior to those anywhere else in their splendor, and the Arcadian theater at Megalopolis is unequalled for size, what architect could seriously rival Polycleitus in symmetry and beauty? For it was Polycleitus54 who built both this theater and the circular building. Within the grove are a temple of Artemis, an image of Epione, a sanctuary of Aphrodite and Themis, a race-course consisting, like most Greek race-courses, of a bank of earth, and a fountain worth seeing for its roof and general splendour…
Today, the Athens and Epidavros Festival at the theater in Epidavros offers memorable performances from late June through August. Do not miss the experience…
The Greatest Epidavros Theater
The tour guides usually perform a simple experiment to prove the extraordinary acoustics of the theater. See what:
Epidaurus – Asclepieion: the birthplace of medicine
In a valley surrounded by mountains, healing springs, green scenery, deep blue waters nearby, there is one of the oldest alternative medicine healing centers of the world with the best preserved theater -15.000 seats- of ancient Greece and Unesco’s world heritage sites, we are describing the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus.
Let’s allow Pausanias guide us to the Asclepieion and the Epidaurus village
…The sacred grove of Asclepius is surrounded on all sides by boundary marks. No death or birth takes place within the enclosure and the same custom prevails also in the island of Delos. All the offerings, whether the giver is one of the Epidaurians themselves or a stranger, are entirely consumed within the bounds. At Titane too, I know, there is the same rule too…
Asklepieion: a holistic cure high quality medical center
Asklepieion -considered to be the birthplace of medicine- was one of the most extensive sacred sanctuaries and celebrated healing centres of the Classical world. It was an impressive complex of buildings –temples, athletic facilities, the theater, baths, a guest house for 160 guests, stoas, gymnasia, stadium, tholos (a 14 Corinthian columned cella and a mysterious underground labyrinth), a ceremonial Hestiatoreion (banqueting hall) etc.
The beauty and the tranquility of the landscape, the abundant waters, the way the building had been constructed and arranged, played an important role in the psychology of the patients, who received high-quality medical services.
A striking fact is that the Asclepieia adopted a holistic approach to the treatment of patients, emphasizing the therapeutic qualities of the natural environment as well as recognizing the importance of psychological and emotional factors in the healing process and the activation of the innate healing mechanisms in every human being.
In order to receive the appropriate cure, the patient -after having been cleaned and been given special herbs to make him fall asleep- had to spend a night in the enkoimeteria (sleeping Hall) near the waters of the well (incubation). Then, the god would appear in his dreams and either reveal the cure, or heal him himself. The enkoimesis emulated the periodical death and rebirth of divine powers after they returned inside the earth – the source of life.
Since snakes were sacred to Asclepius, non venomous ones were left on the floor in dormitories where the patients slept. The following morning the patient reported the dream to a priest who would prescribe the cure. In reality, the healing centres had personnel with medical knowledge, who carried out the healing process with herbs or concoctions, or even performed operations. Many surgical tools that can be seen in the Epidaurus Archaeological Museum prove that the Asclepieion was a high level medical center.
Watch this interesting video about Epidaurus and the Asclepieion
Today Epidaurus is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Peloponnese and the most visited archaeological site in Argolida.
The site is closed on the following days:
- January 1st
- March 25th (National Holiday)
- Orthodox Easter Sunday
- May 1st (Labor Day)
- December 25th & 26th
The best hour to visit the site is either early in the morning or late in the afternoon so that you can avoid the exposure to high temperatures in the summer.
You can take a day guided tour in the site and the museum while being in Athens or combine a pleasant stay to the picturesque city of Nafplio and a visit to Mycenae and Tiryns.