Epidaurus

Epidaurus, Greece

Epidaurus was a small city (polis) in ancient Greece. The sanctuary and ancient theatre were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988 because of their exemplary architecture and importance in the development and spread of healing sanctuaries and cults across the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.

Epidaurus was independent of Argos and not included in Argolis until the time of the Romans. With its supporting territory, it formed the small territory called Epidauria. It was reputed to be founded by or named for the hero Epidaurus, and to be the birthplace of Apollo's son Asclepius the healer.

Epidaurus is best known for its healing sanctuary (asclepieion) and the Sanctuary of Asclepius, with its theatre, which is still in use today. The cult of Asclepius at Epidaurus is attested in the 6th century BC, when the older hill-top sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas was no longer spacious enough. It was the most celebrated healing centre of the Classical world, the place where ill people went in the hope of being cured. To find out the right cure for their ailments, they spent a night in the enkoimeteria, a big sleeping hall. In their dreams, the god himself would advise them what they had to do to regain their health. Within the sanctuary there was a guest house (katagogion) with 160 guest rooms. There are also mineral springs in the vicinity, which may have been used in healing.

Asclepius, the most important healer god of antiquity, brought prosperity to the sanctuary, which flourished until the first half of the first century BC, when it suffered extensive damage. It was revived after a visit by Hadrian in AD 124 and enjoyed renewed prosperity in the following centuries.

In AD 395 the Goths raided the sanctuary. Even after the introduction of Christianity and the silencing of the oracles, the sanctuary at Epidaurus was still known as late as the mid 5th century as a Christian healing centre.

Other buildings

The town of Epidaurus had its own theatre which has been excavated since 1990 and found to be well-preserved. Dating from the 4th c. BC it had about 2000 seats. It has been renovated and is open to the public, as part of a scheme to conserve and enhance ancient theatres which has mapped 140 ancient arenas across Greece.

The prosperity brought by the asclepeion enabled Epidaurus to construct civic monuments, including the huge theatre that delighted Pausanias for its symmetry and beauty, used again today for dramatic performances, the ceremonial hestiatoreion (banqueting hall), and a palaestra. The ancient theatre of Epidaurus was designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century BC. The original 34 rows were extended in Roman times by another 21 rows. As is usual for Greek theatres (and as opposed to Roman ones), the view on a lush landscape behind the skênê is an integral part of the theatre itself and is not to be obscured. It seats up to 14,000 people.

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Epidaurus, Greece
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Details

Founded: 4th century BCE
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Greece

Rating

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Hanoch Ben-David (2 months ago)
Amazing place, a true wonder, don't miss it, but try to avoid the high season.
Tom Delahunty (3 months ago)
An extraordinary amphitheatre. Take your time and sit in the same place as others 2500 years ago. Stand at the centre of the stage and clap to understand the acoustics
Steve Butterfield (3 months ago)
A fabulous place, almost spiritual. The museum is small but very interesting. Highly recommended.
Dante Rossi (3 months ago)
Such a great place to visit. I was able to climb over and experience the acoustic quality of the stadium.
Jeffrey Sabo (4 months ago)
The stadium is really cool, it is well preserved and you can sit in the seats. You can hear really well in all the seats when the speaker is on the little circle in the orchestra.
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