The Great Theatre of Epidaurus
In a canyon, in 340 BC, an Argos architect Polykleitos the Younger, built, according to Pausanias, the theatre of Epidaurus.
In a canyon, in 340 BC, an Argos architect Polykleitos the Younger, built, according to Pausanias, the theatre of Epidaurus. Among all the ancient theatres, Epidaurus theatre is the most beautiful and best preserved. Destined for the fun of the patients of Asklipieio, it had a capacity of 13,000 spectators. It was divided into two parts: A 21-rows of seats part, aimed for the citizens and a 34-rows of seats part aimed for the priests and rulers. The superb acoustics as well as the very well preserved construction, contributed to the creation of Epidaurus Festival S.A., an institution that contributed to the cultural revival of the theatre. Great actors have acted at such as Alexis Minotis, Thanos Kotsopoulos, Anna Synodinou, Thanasis Vengos and the famous Greek soprano Maria Kallas.
The little theatre of Ancient Epidaurus
The small theater of Ancient Epidaurus was established in the Acropolis of the ancient city of Epidaurus at the South-Western slope, before the period of Asklepios.
It was used mainly for the events of the Dionysian cult, so it was dedicated to the god Dionysus. From the dedicatory inscriptions, it can be concluded that the construction of the theatre was held during the 4th cent., with the sponsorship of prominent rulers and upper class people. A remarkable characteristic of the theatre are the inscriptions, which consist a real – living museum. This is why it is called “the theatre that speaks”. After 23 centuries of silence, the excavation began in 1971. Every July, significant musical and theatrical events take place in this small theatre. The most important is the program “Musical July”.
The Arcadian Bridge, also known as bridge of Kazarma, is the Mycenaean bridge near the village Arkadiko.It is considered as the oldest preserved bridge in Europe and the oldest single-arch bridge still in use today. The bridge was built by the Mycenaeans in the 13th or 14th century BC and was part of the road network. The bridge is made of giant boulders, characteristic of Mycenaean cyclopean structures. Its length is 22 meters, width 5.6 meters and a height of 4 meters. Apart from the Mycenaean bridge, four similar bridges survive in the region.
The Castle of Kazarma
The Acropolis of Kazarma is a relatively small fortified building located on the ancient road which connects Argos, Nafplio and Epidaurus. Probably built by Argos, it was a quite visible border between the cities – states of Argos and Epidaurus. The Acropolis is built on a hill of 28 m. The walls (width 2.50 m, preserved height 5.20 m) constructed according to the polygonal system are probably dating from the 4th century. The Acropolis has four circular towers. The main entrance is located to the west and there is a gate to the east. It has been rebuilt during the Byzantine period. Visitors can visit the castle of Kazarma from the eastern side of the hill, where a road has been constructed. There have been no excavations.
The Monument of the First Assembly
During the period between 20th December 1821 and 16th January 1822, the First National Assembly of the Greeks took place at Piada.59 representatives from most of the rebellious areas attended the Assembly and voted for the proclamation of the First Assembly, while they appointed the blue and white colours of the Greek flag.
New Castle of Epidaurus
The Castle in New Epidaurus is an important attraction which came to the possession of Venice in 1205, after the Byzantine period when its walls were reinforced.
Some of the most important monumental attractions are the seven vaulted Mycenaean tombs at the foot of Mountain Katarachi. The traveller can reach those tombs from the upper side of the village at the area “Nero”.
From whichever direction one wishes to approach the area of Epidauros, either from the north following the captivating coastline from Corinth, or from Nauplio via Lygourio, you will be utterly impressed by the natural beauty which has brought both men and gods to this place. On the ridges of Mount Akra with pine trees descending from its sides all the way down to the waters of Epidauros’s bay, the city of Ancient Epidauros is built where the actual ancient civilization of Epidauros flourished, not far away from the Sanctuary of Asklipios and the well-known ancient theatre.
As Kores, Ionians and Dorians passed from the city, it gradually became an important center while it held its own colonies. Here was the Sanctuary of Asklipios, a temple dedicated to Dionysus, a grove dedicated to goddess Artemis and the Sanctuary of goddess Aphrodite, while in the area of the peninsula which protectively embraces the waters of the harbor, the excavations of the Sanctuary of Hera brought to light chamber- like Mycenean graves, a cemetery with engraved tomb stones and a vast variety of statues and inscriptions.
The Small theatre of Epidauros with its 6,000 seats, hosts high quality cultural and artistic events and celebrations and was discovered in the same area of the peninsula in a well preserved condition.
All of these unique findings combined with the area’s natural beauty and mild climate, have transformed Ancient Epidauros into the perfect holiday resort. It is an ideal place for swimming, sea sports, trecking and having lots of fun since it is very developed and organized tourist-wise, having many hotels, rooms to rent, camping, fresh fish taverns, cafes, bars and clubs.
While staying at Ancient Epidauros the visitor can go to the sea-side town of Nea Epidauros with the house in which the First National Assembly took place from the 21st of December 1821 until the 15th of January 1822. After the completion of its activities the first Constitution of Greece was voted and its declaration of independence was announced. The visitor can also travel to the castle of Nea Epidauros where the sacred Monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos( 1710 AD) is located in which saint Leonidis skull is preserved, patron saint of Epidauros.
You can also visit the Mycenean graves at Palaiohori, Agia Marina, Katholiki and Limnes as well as the beautiful scenery of Gallos with the Acropolis and the Cyclopean Walls.
Asklipio of Epidauros was considered the birthplace of medicine which was practiced as power and was given to humans as knowledge of God. The rituals of worships in Epidauros date back to the 6th century BC. On the hill Kynortio, beside the theatre, an unusually big for that time sanctuary was created. The water which gushed from the springs played a crucial role in the worship rituals. The catharsis with water and the communion were considered to ensure a life of health and happiness.
After the fall of the Mycenean world the sanctuary comes back to life around 800 BC during the period that city-states were created. Worship is now under the protection of god Apollo.
According to the legend, on Mount Kynortio the king of Epidauros, Malos founded Apollo’s temple Maleata near which his granddaughter Koronis, brought in the world Apollo’s son , Asklipios. With the development of the urban character of ancient cities since the 6th century BC and on, human health and personal happiness gain greater importance in the lives of people. The fame of Epidauros’ sanctuary is gradually increasing and so is the number of pilgrims. This is the reason that the sanctuary had to be transferred and in the middle of the 6th century in the spacious valley, approximately 1000 meters northwest of the old center of worship the famous to the world sanctuary of Asklipios is founded once more.
Water continues to be worshipped and it is transported to the new place from the most ancient mountainous spring via a big aqueduct dug in the ground which appeared as a sacred well.
In this new place Apollo’s worship begins to slowly fade while the worship of his son , Asklipios strenghtens. The great era of the sanctuary of Epidauros were the 3rd and 4th centuries BC. At that time, the treasures that the city gathered in the temple allowed its systematic and monumental development. : the temple of Asklipios, the Cyclic Tholos, Avato, the Gymnasium, Katagogio, the sanctuary’s ornament and the Ancient Theatre were some of the most important structures of the sanctuary.
During early Romeocracy, in the 1st century BC, the sanctuary suffered important damages. In the 2nd century AD, the sanctuary flourished once again and the worship continued until the official restriction of ancient worships in 426 AD.
Excavations were made at the end of the previous century by the archaeologist Panagi Kavvadia. During 1954-1963 the theatre was restored by A. Orlando, while since 1984 the Working Team continues to look after the preservation and conservation of Epidauros’ monuments under the supervision of archaeologists Labrinoudaki, Parlama and Spathari.
The excavations, which started in 1880 and were completed with restorations in the 20th century, revealed the most consistent world-wide, perfect sample of ancient Greek theatre. It has 55 rows of seats – which are divided in 12 tiers at the lower landing and 22 on the upper one- which guest an audience of more than 20 thousand viewers. From its stage room proscenium, only the foundations have survived. On the contrary, its orchestra gives us a wonderful picture of the cyclic -20 meters diameter- orchestra of authentic Greek rhythm. The hollow rests on a natural hillside and is rotated northwest, almost a unique orientation to ancient theatrical rules.
Kalamaki is located in the Ancient Epidaurus Bay. One can reach the beach on foot, through Vagiona beach within 5 minutes. Kalamaki is an isolated beach with calm water.
Polemarcha is located in Ancient Epidaurus and consist of two wonderful beaches and a pine forest shading the whole place. The beaches are not organized.
Gialasi is located in the southern part of Ancient Epidaurus. It has white purbbles and very clean waters.
Aliotou beach in New Epidaurus is reachable through citrus trees. It is a pebbles beach with deap waters.
The climbers association organizes hiking excursions throughout the summer and until October. Contact: 7th Mavrokordatou st., Athens, Tel 0030 210 3807093 and 0030 210 3806924.
The bike paths leading to one of the many beaches or any archaeological site is a wonderful activity in nature of Epidaurus.
In recent years more and more frequent the appearance Hang gliders in the sky of Epidaurus. Athletes of this activity can enjoy their favourite sport, from the nearby hillsides reaching more often to a nearby beach.
The very well organized camps of the area offer an alternative touristic solution for those who want to spend their vacation enjoying the beauty of landscape.
Useful Phone Numbers
Health Center: Tel. 0030 27530 22222
Museum of Epidavros: Tel. 0030 27530 22009
Police in Ancient Epidavros: Tel. 0030 27530 41203
Bus Service to Epidavros: Tel. 0030 27520 28555
Official website: www.epidavros.gr
Sources: epidavros.gr, epidavros-land.gr, pocket-guide.gr