Theatre Dionysos

Theatre Dionysos (14)

The first theatre in the history of mankind. This is the honourable title that the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens has. And the remains that you see on this southern slope of the Acropolis, hold the memory of the works of Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes.

You will enjoy strolling among the archaeological remains while getting to know the history of the development of theatre as a spectacle, a fact that led to the building of theatres for performances. As in most cases, it was the worship of a god that was a pretext for the birth of the theatre. And faith can move mountains, or at least, it can have theatres built into them.

It is known that Greek drama emerged from the ritual games that were held in the Festival of Dionysus, in honour of the god of wine and debauchery. The first performances were held outdoors, and we know their characteristics from the depictions on Athenian urns that, over the centuries, have been recovered. The Dithyramb, a musical verse accompanied by dance or mime, is the starting point of Greek theatre. These representations became more complex, they adopted costumes, there were individual actors who not only danced but recited, and finally there were dramatic roles and more complex plots. During the Festival of Dionysus, held annually, the authors competed in well-known drama competitions.

In Athens in the 6th century BC, the Theatre of Dionysus was excavated on the southern slope of the Acropolis. While all religious and spiritual activity in ancient Greece was concentrated at the top of the rock, the surroundings were engaged in intellectual and artistic activities such as politics or the theatre.

It was the tyrant Peisistratos who, in the 6th century BC, brought the cult of Dionysus to Athens, and raised a small temple in this place, with a statue of the deity made of wood and, to the north, a kind of circular stage for dances which were held in his honour during the Festival of Dionysus.

However, in about 420 BC, the theatre and the temple, which moved south, separated.

It was between 342 and 326 BC when Lycurgus made a dramatic restructuring of the temple, placing more than 60 rows of bleachers, all made of stone.

Architecturally speaking, the building of the Theatre of Dionysus was carried out using the natural shape of the slope of the Acropolis, so the stands were converging on the circular area of the orchestra. The stage was behind, preceded by a portico with columns.

The archaeological remains that can be visited at present belong to the theatre of Lycurgus and the refurbishments introduced by the Romans in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. By then, the theatre provided seating for 17,000 people, the orchestra was covered with marble, and around it, there was a small pit, protected by a marble balustrade and a metal gate. And it is the case that, under Roman rule, intellectual dramatic performances were set aside to make way for gladiator fights

The reliefs that can be seen behind the stage, in which scenes from the life of Dionysus are depicted, are also from the time of Nero.

Near the theatre, the remains of a related monument: two Corinthian columns from the building where the victory of the winning team from the festivals was celebrated.

Attic tragedy and comedy, with names like Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophanes or Euripides not only laid the foundations of the theatre, but created texts and plots that have stood the test of the centuries, and are still some of the masterpieces of history. If you are moved, have thought, laughed or been surprised by their texts, you will be fascinated to see the place where centuries ago they were performed for the first time.

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