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Ancient Greek Theatre, A Symbol of Art, Architecure, and History

- Kathryn

The Theater at Epidaurus is often considered a feat of architectural mastery. Molded into a natural mountain slope, the theater seats around 14,000 spectators who can marvel the performance, perfect acoustics, and the scenic backdrop at the same time. The theater’s staggering acoustics that let viewers enjoy shows without a sound system are a result of its geometric perfection. Some singers from our group tested this. From the very top, I could hear them harmonizing! But, what makes this theater even more spectacular is that over 2,000 years later it is still being used as an amazing open-air theater.

From its completion in 4th century BC, citizens would flock to the theater at Epidaurus to watch Greek dramas by playwrights such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes. Where you sat indicated your status in society. The front row that was created to be a continuous throne was reserved for state officials and priests. The rows farthest in the back were for the lowest classes.

Since 400BC, the theater has changed a lot. During the Roman era, 21 more rows were added to allow 14,000 spectators. Later in 4th century AD, Theodosios the Great banned all activities of the sanctuary. This resulted in over a thousand years of neglect. It was looted and forgotten.

Throughout the creation and destruction of empires, holy crusades, spread of epidemics, and horrors of world wars, this theater still survived. In 1881, excavations revealed that the auditorium was still in good condition even though the stage-buildings had crumbled away. Since the theater’s rediscovery, it has been refurbished and made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Epidaurus Festival officially opened in 1955. Over the 53 years of this festival, countless ancient dramas have been performed in the renowned ancient theater in front of audiences who get to enjoy the dramas just as the ancient Greeks did. More recently, the Theater of Epidaurus is occasionally used for opera, dance, and musical performances.

When you go visit the theater, it’s not like going to visit a museum or any other historical monument. In a museum, you can look at items of ancient cultures and maybe snap a few good pictures. At the Theater of Epidaurus, you get to have the full experience of what it would have been like in ancient Greece, watching dramas of the great playwrights. That is why this theater is so amazing.

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