The Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, renowned for its acoustics, its symmetry and its complete harmony with the natural landscape, has been described as the largest and most beautiful "stone speaker" in the world. Located in the northeast Peloponnese, less than a two-hour drive from Athens, this world-class attraction makes a rewarding day trip. Every summer, lovers of the theater visit the extraordinary open-air amphitheater to enjoy live dance performances, concerts, operas and the incomparable works of great tragic and comic poets.
The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
When passing through the entrance of the UNESCO-listed Sanctuary of Asclepius, the greatest holistic healing centre of the ancient Greek and Roman world on your rewarding day trip from Athens, and walking in the footsteps of the great poets, you will find the 2,300-year-old theater of Epidaurus, the best preserved of all the ancient theaters, amphitheatrically built on the west side of Mount Kynortio.
“The road to Epidaurus is like the road to creation. One stops searching. One grows silent, stilled by the hush of mysterious beginnings…. I never knew the meaning of peace until I arrived at Epidaurus.” – Henry Miller
This theater was built around 340-330 BC by the great architect Polykleitos the Younger and was originally intended for music, song and ancient drama performances in the context of the worship of Apollo's son Asclepius and to entertain the patients of Asclepius Hospital, since the relationship between theatre and health was something the ancients recognized. In the middle of the 2nd century BC, the main theater (cavea) was expanded and its capacity reached about 14,000 seats. In the following centuries, its form did not change, unlike other theaters which underwent radical changes during the Roman years, but continued to operate normally.
In 395 AD the Goths caused great damage to the site while in 426 AD Theodosius II banned the operation of Asclepius, so the sanctuary was permanently closed. However, after nearly 15 centuries, this great creation came to light by the excavations of the archaeologist Panagis Kavvadias and the Archaeological Company, which began in 1881. Later, in the 20th century, restoration began in order to preserve this magnificent monument.
Today, the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus awakens the visitor on a day trip from Athens, and thrills with excitement because of its architectural integrity, its complete harmony with the natural landscape and its perfect acoustics. After all, it is not by chance considered the world's finest and largest "stone speaker". Here one meets the well-known tripartite structure of the ancient Greek theater in its most perfect expression. The main theater consists of 55 tiers of seats divided into two sections: 21 rows of seats for the people and 34 for the priests and lords. The orchestra retains its wonderful circular shape while only the foundations from the stage have been preserved. On the sides are Ionic-style pillars that connect the stage to the cavea.
The Legendary Acoustics of the Theater of Epidaurus
Like other amphitheaters of the period, the Theater of Epidaurus is supposed to have legendary acoustics. However, of all the ancient theaters, Epidaurus's theater is rightly the most famous. It is said that from its last stand you can easily hear the sound of a coin if you drop it at the center of the stage. There’s still much that remains unknown about the ways the ancient Greeks projected sound. The placement of additional objects, such as empty containers, around the theater would have helped project sound farther.
So, when on your Athens day trip to the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, try testing its acoustics by throwing a coin in the center of the marble stage and see if the person at the very top will hear it loud and clear. You can also sing your favorite tune or whisper to your loved one and see if it has the same effect.
The Athens & Epidaurus Festival: A Unique Life Experience
Attending performances at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus combines the classic and timeless words of ancient poets with the incomparable beauty of the landscape and the incomparable acoustics of the ancient architectural masterpiece of Polykleitos. Until 1975, the shows were exclusively productions of the National Theater. Since then, however, the Athens & Epidaurus Theater has hosted plays by other theatrical organizations from Greece and abroad, including works of Shakespeare, ancient dramas, ballet, and opera. Every summer, strong memories are born here for Greek and foreign visitors alike.
Experience a Most Rewarding Day Trip from Athens to the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus
Experiencing a most rewarding day trip from Athens to the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus or attending a live performance at this world-class attraction is a unique life experience never to be forgotten. Discover even more ancient theaters and temples, heavenly monasteries, medieval castles, lush landscapes and stunning coastlines on one, or even several, of these top 10 day trips from Athens.
- The Highlights of Nafplio - Ancient Mycenae & the Epidauros Theater (6h)
- Nafplio - Mycenae - Epidauros & Photo Stop at Corinth Canal (8h)
- Nafplio on Foot & Palamidi Fortress - A Walking Tour (3-4h)
- Nafplio with a Visit to Ancient Mycenae (4h)
- Ancient Corinth & Corinth Canal Photo Stop
- Cape Sounion & Athenian Riviera Beach Escape
- Delphi, the Oracle of Apollo – The Navel of the Earth (full day)
- Meteora Full Day Tour from Athens - Columns in the Sky
- Achaia Clauss Winery & Church of Agios Andreas in Patras (full day)
- Kalavryta & Monastery of Mega Spilaio (full day)
- Ancient Olympia Private Day Tour from Athens