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The Greatest Healing Center in Ancient Greece

Another famous site in the Argolis is Epidaurus. In the hinterland of Epidavros, on a site enjoying a mild climate and plentiful water from healing springs, the Epidavrians founded the sanctuary of Asklepios, the most brilliant centre of healing in the ancient world, which flourished from the late 5th century B.C. until the end of Roman era.

The towns magnificent theatre, still almost intact, stands in a wooded hollow of a hill not far from the Archaeological Museum. The theatre, which can accommodate14000 spectators, forms a section of a circle slightly larger than a semicircle. It consists of 55 rows of seats divided by a promenade (diazoma) into an upper and a lower section.

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The seats of honor, reserved for the magistrates and the priests, were situated in the first row of the upper section and in the back and first row of the lower section, the spectators in the rest of the lower section have cushions to sit on.

 The performance could be heard and seen perfectly from every seat in the theatre as can be demonstrated today by whispering or rusting a piece of paper in the centre of the orchestra, the sound carries without distortion to the top back corner of the huge spread of terraces some 22.50m/74ft from the ground.



After three centuries of prosperity and world renown, the Asklepieion was dealt a series of major blows. The Roman general Sulla plundered its treasures in 86 BC, and a few years later it was ravaged by pirates from Kilikia. The sanctuary enjoyed a second period of prosperity in the 2nd c. AD, when new buildings were erected and the old ones repaired. In 395 AD the sanctuary was plundered by the Goths of Alaric and it finally ceased to function when the ancient cults were banned by the emperor Theodosius II in 426 AD. The ravages of time were completed by two major earthquakes in 522 and 551 AD, and the sanctuary remained silent until the excavations conducted by the Archaeological Society (1879-1928 ) uncovered its ensemble of monuments.

The prestige and reputation acquired by Asklepios as the major god of healing led to great economic prosperity for his sanctuary, which made it possible to implement a large building programmed in the 4th and 3rd c. BB, to house his cult in monumental buildings.

The peripteral Doric temple of Asklepios, erected between 380 and 375 BC, was the work of the architect Theodotos.

The pedimental sculptures were carved by Timotheos, while the chryselephantine statue of Asklepios was the work of Thrasymedes of Paros.

The tholos was built next to the temple in 360-330 BC. This circular, peristyle building was the centre of the chthonic mystery cult of Asklepios and its famous sculptures are attributed to the Argive architect and sculptor Polykleitos, who is also considered to be responsible for the theatre at Epidavros, one of the most perfect and the best preserved of the ancient Greek theatres.

To the north of the temple and the Tholos is the Avaton or Enkoimeterion, a portioned building in which the sick, having first been purified and having offered sacrifice, were required to go to sleep, so that the god could appear to them in a dream to cure them, or indicate to them the treatment to be followed. The discovery during the excavations of a large number of medical instruments affords evidence for the view that practical medical operations were also carried out in the sanctuary. Around the sacred precinct of Asklepios were erected temples to other deities (Artemis, Aphrodite and Themis), along with buildings to provide services for the hosts of pilgrims and installations for the athletic and music contests (stadium, palaestra, gymnasium, baths, Odeon and theatre).

Set apart from the sanctuary (southwest) is the theatre, the most outstanding in the ancient world owing to the beauty of its setting, its magnificent lines and harmonious proportions. It was built in the 4c by the Argive architect, Polykleitos and is set into the north slope of Mount Harani facing the valley sacred of Asklepios. In 1954 it was restored to take modern productions of the ancient repertory as well as musical recitals  at which Dimitri Mitropoulos (1896-1960) and Maria Callas have performed.



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Epidavros Festival - In summer (late June to late August at weekends) the plays of the Greek dramatics are performed in the theatre. Tel: 0753 22026 Monday-Thursday 9.00-14.00 & 17.00-20.00, Friday- Saturday 9.30-21.30 Entrance Fee: from 20 to 80 Euro.

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