In the peaceful land of Argolis, in an area with mild climate and abundant mineral springs, is the sanctuary of the god-physician Asclepios, the most famous healing center of the Greek and Roman world. The sanctuary belonged to the small coastal town of Epidavros, in the Peloponnese, today a half-hour drive from Nafplio and approximately two hours from Athens, but its fame and recognition quickly spread throughout the ancient Greek world. It is considered the birthplace of medicine and is thought to have had more than two hundred dependent spas in the eastern Mediterranean. Its monuments, true masterpieces of ancient Greek art, are a precious testimony to the practice of medicine in antiquity. They illustrate the development of medicine from the time when healing depended solely on the god until systematic description of cases and the gradual accumulation of knowledge and experience turned it into a science.
It is evident that the area was devoted to the cult of healing deities since Prehistory. A Mycenaean sanctuary dedicated to a healing goddess stands on the Kynortion hill, northeast of the theater, founded in the 16th century BC over the remains of a settlement of the Early and Middle Bronze Age (2800-1800 BC), and functioned until the 11th c. BC. Unlike other sanctuaries of this period, it is unusually large. It was replaced circa 800 BC by another, dedicated to Apollo, a god with healing abilities, worshiped here as Apollo Maleatas. The worship of Asclepios, the sanctuary's main healing god, traditionally considered as the indigenous son of Apollo and Koronis, granddaughter of Malos, king of Epidavros, was established in the 6th century BC. Asclepios, protector of human health and personal happiness, was a very popular deity with an ever-increasing number of worshipers.
The theater seats around 14,000. The elongated stage-building adjoining the orchestra, closing it off end to end on its north side, consisted of two parts. At the front was the raised proscenium, with a façade in the Ionian order and projecting side-walls which faced the orchestra. At the back stood the two-floor stage building. The façade of the second floor bore wide openings, which would have housed painted backdrops. Two ramps, one on either side, led up to the level of the proscenium. Ionian pilasters flanking the two gates architecturally linked the stage to the retaining walls of the auditorium.
In 1881, the Archaeological Society began methodical excavations at the site, and although the stage-building was no more, the auditorium was revealed to be in good condition, with only its retaining walls missing. The theater soon became famous once more, attracting the attention of the general public. The re-emergence of the well-preserved theater was closely linked to the revival of ancient drama. Pressing demands to put ancient theaters to cultural and commercial use led to a rushed and erroneous restoration of the auditorium. In 1907, the western aisle and retaining wall were repaired.
After the end of the WWI, calls for the revival of ancient drama gradually began to be realized: the Professional Theater School company was formed (1924); Angelos and Eva Palmer-Sikelianos organized the Delphic Festival for an international audience (1927, 1930); the National Theater was founded (1932); and systematic research was carried out into the staging of ancient theatrical works. In 1936, the Metaxas regime established annual festival seasons with performances of ancient drama in open-air theaters. Leading playwrights and musicians visited the Ancient Theater of Epidavros to stage one-off daytime musical and theatrical performances, experimenting with the site’s potential and exploring the extent to which their ideas could be implemented. In 1935, maestro Dimitris Mitropoulos gave a concert there with the Athens Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, while in 1938, Dimitris Rondiris and the National Theater presented Sophocles’ Electra, with Katina Paxinou in the title role and Eleni Papadaki as Clytemnestra.
€70 p.p. offered by Keytours
Epidavros Theater (Upper Tier non-numbered seats) at an ancient Greek Drama or Comedy performance and Transportation by luxury air-conditioned coach. Performance starts at 21:00 and you will return back to Athens at around 02:00. The itinerary for 2018 will be available on a later date.
| Mycenae and Epidavros Day Trip from Athens |
Day trip from Athens to Mycenae and Epidavros, from Viator. Explore the remains of the ancient city of Mycenae a major center of Greek civilization from 1600 BC to 1100 BC. See the ancient ruins and the tomb of Agamemnon.