Tour to the ancient theater of Epidaurus

The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus is a theater in the Greek city of Epidaurus, located on the southeast end of the sanctuary dedicated to the ancient Greek God of medicine, Asclepius.

It is built on the west side of Cynortion Mountain, near modern Lygourio, and belongs to the Epidaurus Municipality.

Constructed in late 4th century BC, it is considered to be the most perfect ancient Greek theater with regard to acoustics and aesthetics.

Because of its exceptional architecture and aesthetics, the theater was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988 along with the Temple of Asclepius.


According to Pausanias, the ancient theater was constructed at the end of the 4th century BC by the architect Polykleitos the Younger.

Pausanias praises the theater for its symmetry and beauty.

At a maximum capacity of 13,000 to 14,000 spectators, the theater hosted music, singing and dramatic games that were included in the worship of Asclepius.

It was also used as a means to heal patients, since there was a belief that the observation of dramatic shows had positive effects on mental and physical health.

Description of the monument

The monument retains the characteristic tripartite structure of a Hellenistic theater that has an theatron, orchestra, and skene.

During Roman times, the theater (unlike many Greek theaters) did not suffer any modifications.

The auditorium is divided vertically into two unequal parts, the lower hollow or theater and the upper theater or epitheater.

The two gates of the theater

The two sub-sections are separated by a horizontal corridor for the movement of spectators (width 1.82 m.), the frieze.

The lower part of the auditorium wedge is divided into 12 sections, while the upper part is divided into 22 sections.

The lower rows of the upper and lower auditoriums have a presidency form, namely places reserved for important people.

The design of the auditorium is unique and based on three marking centers. Due to this special design, the architects achieved both optimal acoustics and an opening for better viewing.

The orchestra, the euripos and the auditorium

The circular orchestra, with a diameter of 20 m., constitutes the center of the theater. In the center is a circular stone plate, the base of the altar or thymele.

The orchestra is surrounded by a special underground drainage pipeline of 1.99 m width, called the euripos. The euripos was covered by a circular stone walkway.

The lower hollow or theater and the upper theater or epitheater, separated by the frieze

Opposite the auditorium and behind the orchestra develops the stage building of the theater (skene), which was constructed in two phases: the first is placed at the end of the 4th century BC and the second in the middle of the 2nd century BC.

Walking on the frieze

The format of the skene (which is partly preserved today) is dated up to the Hellenistic period and consisted of a two-storey stage building and a proscenium in front of the stage.

There was a colonnade in front of the proscenium and on both of its sides, the two backstages slightly protruded.

East and west of the two backstages there were two small rectangular rooms for the needs of the performers.

Two ramps lead to the roof of the proscenium, the logeion, where the actors later played. Finally, the theater had two gates, which are now restored.

Enjoying the perfect acoustics of the theater

The first systematic excavation of the theater began in 1881 by the Archaeological Society, under the direction of archaeologist Panayis Kavvadias and preserved in very good condition thanks to the restorations of P. Kavvadias (1907), of A. Orlandos (1954–1963) and the Preservation Committee for Epidaurus Monuments (1988 to 2016).

With the work done, the theater has been recovered – except the stage building – almost entirely in its original form.

History of monument use

Today, the monument attracts a large number of Greek and foreign visitors and is used for the performance of ancient drama plays.

The first modern performance conducted at the theater was Sophocles’s tragedy Electra. It was played in 1938, directed by Dimitris Rontiris, starring Katina Paxinou and Eleni Papadaki.

Performances stopped due to World War II. Theatrical performances, in the framework of the organized festival, began again in 1954.

In 1955 they were established as an annual event for the presentation of ancient drama. The Epidaurus Festival continues today and is carried out during the summer months.

The theater has been sporadically used to host major musical events. In the framework of the Epidaurus Festival, well-known Greek and foreign actors have appeared, including the Greek soprano Maria Callas, who performed Norma in 1960 and Médée in 1961.


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