While you may be traveling for art, culture, and history, some ancient Greek theatres are worth your time. You will be fascinated to know that some of them can be still visited for shows or sightseeing.
Greece holds on to massive ruins including some of the most popular ancient theatres and amphitheaters. This is certainly an indicator of the fact that the ancient Greeks were much addicted to entertainment and public spectacle at that time as they are now interested in movies and drama.
In ancient Greece, all of the cities and most of the large towns had at least one theatre. Many of them were in fact, big enough to seat over 15000 people. However, with changing time, theatres and their significance kept taking a more developed form.
Most of these theatres remained buried under various landscapes until the late 18th and 19th centuries when they were rediscovered. Archeological surveys and discoveries like this continue even today. Some of these theatres and amphitheaters have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites while many more are added to the pending list.
A handful of these historic theatres have been returned to modern use for musical performances and drama. Since they are fragile and open to different elements that would affect them, they are used only on special occasions and festivals. While you plan to explore one of these Greek theatres, plan accordingly.
Ancient Greek Theatres You Can Still Visit
1. The Great Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus
Situated at the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is one of the major venues for the annual Athens and Epidaurus Festival. It was built as a part of this sanctuary that was dedicated to Asclepius, the God of Medicine.
At this place, various poetry, music, and athletic contests were known to be conducted in the honor of God. To the west of a mountain near Lygourio, this theatre was built into a natural hollow and had the capacity of seating around 14,000 people.
It is considered to be one of the best-preserved ancient Greek theatres. There was no change made by the Romans. The magnificent acoustics here are also popular. While you visit during the day when there are no performances, you can check out a few of them.
Get astounded by the sound effect from the circular orchestra pit as you whisper to your friend sitting in the upper tier. It will be absolutely clear.
What To See?
Various musical performances and theatre drama shows are held here. This is being done since the end of World War II. Apart from classical Greek plays, you can expect various other plays including Shakespeare.
2. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus
This is counted among the most significant sacred sites in Athens. This used to be the gathering place in ancient times where all the rituals were held. The south slope has three ancient theatres and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is the only one that’s open to performances. Among locals, it’s known as the Herodian.
It is said to be built in the Roman era between 160 and 174 AD and disappeared under the earth. Later, it was rediscovered and restored in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was in fact, used for various drama and music festivals during War days even before its restorations. It was totally restored and reconstructed in the 1950s.
What To See?
The main music performances for the annual Athens and Epidaurus Festival that starts from the first day of June and continues till the end of July. This Greek theatre offers seats to 4,500 people at a time. You can get the tickets in advance that are on sale from mid-winter to spring.
3. The Ancient Theatre of Philippi
Situated in the extreme corner of Northeastern Greece, The Ancient Theatre of Philippi was founded by King Philippi II the father of Alexander the Great. It then turned into an early Christian settlement and an important Roman city.
In 49 or 50 AD, St. Paul used to preach the Philippians. This theatre is a part of a major UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located about 16 kilometers from the city Kavala.
What To See?
The annual Philippi Festival is an alluring event here with dance, music, visual arts, and poetry performances that are held throughout July and August. Along with the ancient theatre, several other locations from Kavala are included as festival venues.
It is often known as Philippi and Thassos Festival when an ancient theatre from the island Thassos also participates in it. The programs are published in English translations during spring. However, they are often hard to find.
4. The Ancient Theatre of Thassos
This theatre is situated on the island of Thassos in the Northern Aegean Sea. It is said to date back to the 5th century BC. Most of the time, it’s still under excavation and repair and not open to the public always.
However, it is used for smaller events like the Philipi and Thassos Festival. Next to the island’s acropolis in the town of Limenaria, you will have to cross a steep climb above the island harbor to reach here.
What To See?
When the theatre is included in the Philippi Festival, there are various small events including music and poetry. Some events are also held during the annual carnival at Thassos.
5. The Theatre of Ancient Dion
This theatre is situated on the outskirts of the town Dion near Thessaloniki. Although it was discovered in the 19th century, the systematic excavations started here during the 1970s. This ancient Greek theatre is a part of the Dion Archeological Park that holds on to ancient ruins, dating centuries back.
The University of Thessaloniki has been conducting various excavations here since 1982. Not only the theatre but there are also shrines to Demeter, Zeus, Olympian Zeus, and Isis. To the southwest, you would find Mount Olympus.
What To See?
The theatre has been the venue for The Olympus Festival for more than 40 years. You can catch up with contemporary theatre and music performances during the months of July and August.
These ancient Greek theatres are open occasionally. Therefore, it is very important that you plan your visit carefully while exploring Greece.