Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Odeon of Herodes Atticus (13)

Although not open to the public for sightseeing, it is worth pausing to know more of this theatre located in the area around the Acropolis, the core of cultural life in antiquity.

The construction of this theatre, also known as the Herodeion, dates from the time of Roman Greece, specifically between 161 and 174 AD. The name? That of its sponsor, the patron, consul, philosopher and, above all, rich Tiberius Claudius Herodes Atticus. This famous character was one of the main benefactors of Athens at the time, and he built many public buildings in the city.

His wife, Apia Annia Regila, died in 160, and in her honour, the wealthy Athenian decided to build this theatre.

With a capacity of five thousand people, when it was built it was paved with mosaics and had a cedar wood roof which, it is said, must have offered splendid acoustics, as well as allowing performances twelve months a year. The semi-circular structure was a superb example of Roman civil architecture. And, for example, the structure, which was built in the rocks on the southern slope of the Acropolis, was much more vertical than the Greek amphitheatres. The great height of these tiered seats, reaching up to the 32nd level, led to the fact that the stage wall also featured an exaggerated height. This was because it had to have the same height as the tiered seating to support the weight of the roof covering all areas. Altogether the public area of the theatre was almost eighty metres in diameter.

Regarding the stage, it is noteworthy that the stage wall has a colonnade and niches which, in the past, hosted lavish ornamentation and statues of the nine Muses. 

This magnificent theatre, which now has no roof, was ravaged during the invasion of the Heruli in the 3rd century. Its comprehensive restoration was carried out in 1955, following the original project quite closely. The reconstruction allowed itself the luxury of paving the semi-circular orchestra area facing the stage with blue and white marble from the fifties.

Since the date of its reconstruction, the theatre has become the headquarters of the Athens Festival, which takes place between June and September each year. This Festival is the most important in the classical music calendar of the city. The best ballet and opera companies come, and the best orchestras and theatre groups in the world. A unique show in an unbeatable environment.

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