ASKLEPIEION OF EPIDAURUS

This short video starts out with a photo & and some video I took of the theater; the best preserved monument in the sanctuary. The stadium, along with the Tholos according to Pausanias, were the works of the architect, Polykleitos. The theater was closely associated with the cult of Asklepius.

Musical & dramatic contests took place in the theater, many of which were almost certainly were deeply-rooted cult ceremonies in honor of the god. I didn’t record myself doing this, but if you stand center ‘stage’ and speak (or sing if you wish!), your voice easily carries clearly to every seat in the theater.

The incredible acoustics are realized by design; the circular shape of the cavea was based on 3 centers. The 8 central cunei corresponded to a circumference which had as center the center of the orchestra. The two lateral cunei were designed with different centers, which lay further away from the center of the orchestra, providing thus a larger radius and consequently a larger circle. This “opening” on the edges of the cavea not only contributed to improved acoustics, but also provided a better view to those sitting in the lateral cunei.

Spectators entered the theater through two impressive gates situated on both sides of what was a stage building. From there they proceeded to their limestone-carved seats via any 1 of 13 radiating staircases leading to seats in 12 wedge-shaped sections. The seats nearest the stage were seats of honor (prohedriae), and included backrests carved into the limestone. In its heyday, the theater is believed to have been able to accomodate 12,000 spectators. The theater is once again used for theatrical plays during Greece’s summer Epidaurus Festival.

Next is the stadium. Constructed in a natural depression in the ground, the stadium hosted athletic games in honor of the Epidaurian Asklepius. If you look carefully, you can see a limestone conduit around the stadium floor. This served not only for drainage purposes during rains, but also as a way of delivering fresh water to contestants and spectators alike. For races, a starting signal called a hysplex was used.

Next is what remains of the Propylon; the monumental entrance to the ceremonial Hestiatorion. The Romans later converted the Propylon into a temple dedicated to Hygeia. The Hestiatorion complex (banquet hall of sorts), is where sacrificial meals dedicated to Asklepius were ‘served’. The smoke from cooking was what was meant for the god; the food itself was given to those in attendance. The Romans erected the Odeum in the peristyle courtyard of the Hestiatorion in the 2nd or 3rd century CE.

Adjacent the Propylon are the ruins of a building for the mystical cult of Egyptian gods; that is to say, the local deities (Asklepius & Hygeia) were identified with Osiris and Ist (Isis) respectively.

Then I pan over to an area full of ruins that include the remains of an altar to Asklepius, the sacred squrae, a library (from Roman times), the stoa of Kotys, among other things. Next are the remains of a bath house.

Next is the is a circular building with an ornate astronomical floor design; this building is the Tholos. It was, along with the temple of Asklepius, and the stoa of Abaton, the main buildings of the cult in the center of the classical Sanctuary.

The video ends with shots of the Abaton of Epidaurus, and a photo I took of the god, Asklepius which is kept in the museum on site. The video is rather short, because I just didn’t feel like filming this day. I was really enjoying just being there.