ancient epidauros tourThe most renowned Asklepieion or sanctuary of Asklepios in the Hellenic world, to which people came in hope of a cure from serious illnesses, was located 10 kilometers away from the city of Epidauros. According to myth, King Phlegyas came to Epidauros from Thessaly, in order to reconnoitre the region, with the intention of conquering it.

His daughter Koronis lay with the god Apollo and conceived Asklepios. However, because she united also with a mortal, Ischys, Apollo ordered his sister Artemis to kill Koronis and throw her into the fire Apollo snatched his son Asklepios from her vitals and handed him over to Hermes, who took the infant to Pelion, where the Centaur Cheiron undertook his upbringing and taught him the healing art. According to another mythological tradition, Asklepios originated from Boibe on the Plain of Dotios, west of northern Pelion and was the son of Koronis, daughter of King Phlegyas. He studied medicine in Cheiron's school and the settled at Trikke (Trikala), where he founded the first Asklepieion. His cult found fertile ground at Epidayuros because there, on the summit of Mount Kynortion, Maleatas, a local deity with therapeutic qualities, had been worshipped already from Mycenaean times. The two gods were amalgamated into the deity known as Apollo Maleata. From the sixth century BC, the cult was established in the well-known sanctuary on the plain.

The patients who arrived at the sanctuary of Asklepios first washed in the sacred spring and then were put on a diet. They offered a sacrifice to the god and discussed their affliction with the priests. They participated in mystical rites that prepared them for their communication with the god and then spent the night in the special dormitory known as the Abaton or Enkoimeterion. It was believed that there the god visited the sick, usually in the form of a snake, and healed them. The natural environment and the faith of the patients perhaps contributed to the success of a certain cases. However, the enormous acquired by the priests soon led them to apply more serious therapeutic methods. The ill gave money and votive offerings, and thus great wealth accumulated in the sanctuary over the years. This was used to construct splendid monuments, mainly during the fourth and third centuries BC. The sanctuary was entered through the propylaea on the north side, which were built in the fourth century BC. From there the sacred way led to the temple of Asklepios, which was constructed in the fourth century BC by the architect Theodotos. It was in the Doric order, peripteral, with 6 x11 columns, and comprised a Pronaos and a cella.

In the temple of Aesculapius stood a precious ivory statue of the god, work of the sculptor Thrasymedres, which was never found. Visible to the west of the temple are the circular foundations of the Tholos, which was the most magnificent edifice in the sanctuary. It was erected in the fourth century BC by Polykleitos the Younger, who used diverse materials in its construction -poros stone, black and white marble. It comprised a circular cella, encircled by two colonnades, an external of 26 Doric columns and an internal of 14 Corinthian. The ceiling was of marble, with carved flowers in the coffers, while the floor was paved with black and white lozenge-shaped marble tiles. The interior walls of the cella were decorated with murals painted by Pausias in the encaustic technique. Beneath the floor there was a Labyrinth, which was perhaps associated with the worship of chthonic deities. The entire north side of both the Tholos and the temple was closed by a long narrow building, The Abaton, in which the sick spent the night, awaiting the god's visitation.

The Romans respected the sanctuary, with the exception of Consul Sulla, who shared its fabulous riches with soldiers , in 86 BC. In the fifth century AD, Emperor Theodosios II issued an edict closing the ancient sanctuaries, while the final blow of destruction was dealt to the Asklepieion of Epidauros by terrible earthquakes in the sixth century AD.


The theatre of Epidauros, which dominates the southeast sector of the archaeological site, was designed by the architect Polykleitos the Younger from Argos in 370 BC. It is the best of all theaters of the ancient world, because of its excellent acoustics. Pausanias mentions that the theatre surpassed all others in beauty and harmony. It has a capacity of 14000 spectators. Its orchestra is a complete circle, while in the other theaters the orchestra is 3/4 of a circle. Consequently, the theatre follows the circle, closes more on the sides of it and creates 3 instead of 1 acoustic centers on the orchestra. We could call it the 1st stereo theatre. The center of the orchestra and of the theatre is the strongest center of the acoustics. There are 2 more centers behind it and apart, which create a imaginative triangle with a central one. Sound waves leave simultaneously of all 3 centers towards the audience until the top row and then, like if there is and investable vacuum, they all return to the middle one. This way, there is no echo at all, which was always the problem of ancient theaters, all spectators hear exactly the same sound, there are no "deaf" parts in the theatre and the quality of the sound is not altered at all. The volume and the clarity of the sound are such that on the last row one cab here the sound of a needle falling on the circular stone of the acoustic centre. That center was the god Dionysus altar as well, to whom ancient drama was dedicated. The material of the theatre is a local stone which enhances the resonance of the sound. In Germany, they wanted to import that stone for the. construction of the Wagner theatre, but they dropped the idea as the cost was too high. The theatre is divided into 2 zones: The upper one has 21 steps, which is the addition of the 6 first numbers of mathematics [1+2+3+4+5+6=21], while the lower one has 34, which is the addition of [7+8+9+10]. Total of rows 55.

It is built on the slope of Aracheon Mountain, which protects it from winds and therefore the sound does not get carried away. Sophocles the tragedian first invented a stage for the theater. He built a wall with three doors. The Middle one stood for the palace the left one for the messenger coming from the inland and the right one for the messenger coming from the sea. In between the doors he would hung paintings in order to complete the setup.



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