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Written by Nigilesh on May 22, 2020 Share on

Theatre of Dionysus: The first theatre in Greece

Hollywood movies and Broadway plays probably come to your mind when you hear the word ‘theatre’. The Theatre of Dionysus is located in the south-eastern slopes of Acropolis. The structure dates back to the 6th century BC and is believed to be the first theatre ever constructed. Not just the first but also the largest theatre to be built in Athens, which can accommodate 17,000 people. It was originally developed as a site for religious practices and festivals dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine and plays. The theatre then eventually became the birthplace of the Greek tragedy.

What does it look like?

Originally, the audience sat on wooden seats in a semi-circular area called the theatron. Later on, they were replaced with limestone seatings. The VIP’s, like a priest or government officials, were reserved the front row seats, with their names inscribed in the marble. In front of the theatre was the orchestra, where the chorus sang, danced, and set the tone for the play. Of course, there’s a grand seating for Dionysus in the middle of the circular space. Either side of the stage were the passages for entry and exit the stage. The paintings depicting the reign of Dionysus and the cult are carved on the stage.

Aerial view of the theatre
Image source: Wikipedia

The Myth of Dionysus

According to the myth, Zeus –  the God of Sky, is said to have many affairs and Dionysus was another kid born from one such affair. When Dionysus was in the womb, Zeus’s jealous wife tried to assassinate the pregnant lover. Dionysus was fortunate enough to be saved by his father Zeus. After his birth, he was sent to live with the creatures called satyrs. These are mythical creatures with half-goat and half-human body. After his growth, he discovered grape wine and spread the same to others as well. Thus, he became the god of Wine.

The Plays

Both Comedies and tragedies were performed at the theatre. The plays were most often written in the form of poetry and presented to the audience in the form of a song with or without music. The most peculiar norm of the theatre is that the women are not allowed to take any role. Even if the play requires a female character, it will be done by a male, dressed as a female. Some notable Greek plays were first performed in this theatre, including tragedies by Sophocles, Aristophanes, and Aeschylus. People use to sit in the theatre from morning till evening on certain occasions. This was free of cost at the beginning and as it became more and more popular, a small entrance fee was collected.

At present

Today, the arena looks undistinguished, when compared to the other theatre on the slopes of the Acropolis, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, one which is better preserved.  What remains of the theatre is the marble VIP seats and a few rows of tiered seating.  Imagine sitting on its grandstand, exactly where Dionysus used to sit and watch the play. Since this is located in the middle of the theatre, you get to experience a 360-degree view of the massive theatre around you. This is sure to send chills down your spine!

the theatre amidst the sunset
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Alright then! Get set for a pure historic experience. You sure won’t regret visiting this marvel in your next Greece vacation. We at Pickyourtrail assist travellers with personalized itineraries based on your requirements. Check out some of the best deals and let us help you plan your vacation! Happy planning!

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