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Ancient theater - Asklepieon - Museum


Asklepion In the peaceful hinterland of Epidaurus, with its mild climate and abundant mineral springs, is the sanctuary of the god-physician Asklepios, the most famous healing centre of the Greek and Roman world. The sanctuary belonged to the small coastal town of Epidaurus, but its fame and recognition quickly spread beyond the limits of the Argolid. It is considered the birthplace of medicine and is thought to have had more than two hundred dependent spas in the eastern Mediterranean. Its monuments, true masterpieces of ancient Greek art, are a precious testimony to the practice of medicine in antiquity. Indeed they illustrate the development of medicine from the time when healing depended solely on the god until systematic description of cases and the gradual accumulation of knowledge and experience turned it into a science.
Continuous warfare and misery in the fourth and third centuries BC led people to seek even more the protection and help from Asklepios, the philanthropist god, making the sanctuary one of the richest of its time. Several important buildings were erected in both the mountain and plain sanctuaries during this period: the Classical temple, the altar of Apollo, the Great Stoa, the priests' residence and the Temenos of the Muses in the former; the temple of Asklepios, the Abaton, the Tholos, the theatre, the stadium, the Banqueting Hall and the hostel in the latter. The Asklepion suffered from the raids of Sulla and of Cilician pirates in the first century BC, but flourished again in Imperial times and particularly in the second half of the second century AD. Pausanias visited the sanctuary and admired its monuments, which he described in detail, during this period. In the following centuries the sanctuary was razed several times and suffered particularly under the Goths in 267 AD. In the mid-fourth century BC, the plain sanctuary was refurbished one last time and a portico connecting many of the existing buildings was constructed at its centre according to Roman fashion. Despite the 426 AD official ban on ancient pagan religions, worship continued in the sanctuary until it was abandoned following the destructive earthquakes of 522 and 551 AD.
The Asklepion of Epidaurus was first investigated by the French Scientific Expedition of the Peloponnese in 1829. P. Kavadias of the Greek Archaeological Society excavated the site in 1870-1926, uncovering the sanctuary's most important monuments.


The theater (Epidaurus)

Among the greatest monuments of Greek Antiquity, the famous theatre at the Asklepieion of Epidaurus, the finest and most renowned of its kind, combines perfect acoustics with elegance and symmetrical proportions, qualities praised already in the second century AD by traveler and geographer Pausanias. During the overall construction of the Asklepios sanctuary, the theatre was built on the west side of mount Kynortio, at the end of the classical era, in 340-330 BC. Until the third century AD, it hosted music, song and drama competitions during the Asklepian games taking place every four years in spring, after the Isthmia celebration, as well as drama performances in the worship of Asklepios. According to Pausanias, the theatre was designed by the architect Polykleitos the younger, who had also built the tholos (dome) in the same sanctuary almost fifty years earlier. This is disputed by several researchers pleading that the creator of the monument is still unknown.
Since 1954, the theatre is hosting each summer the Epidaurian festival, mainly ancient drama performances, celebrated as a major international theatrical event.

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Συντάκτης Όλγα Ψυχογυιού, Αρχαιολόγος

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