Odeon of Lyon - History and Facts | History Hit

Odeon of Lyon

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

The Odeon of Lyon is a well-restored Ancient Roman theatre and part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Peta Stamper

20 May 2021

About Odeon of Lyon

The Odeon of Lyon is the smaller of 2 ancient theatres built in what was the Roman city of Lugdunum in today’s France.

It is unclear as to when exactly the Odeon of Lyon was constructed, some dating it back to the mid-1st or 2nd century AD. Nevertheless, the beautifully restored 3,000-seater Odeon of Lyon, which once played host to grand musical and theatrical performances, is well worth seeing alongside its larger counterpart, the Grand Roman Theatre of Lyon.

The Odeon of Lyon is particularly famous for its distinctive flooring, which is decoratively tiled to form geometric shapes. In 1998, Lyon’s historic centre which includes the Odeon, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Odeon of Lyon history

The Odeon was built in the early to mid 2nd century AD near the summit of the Fourvière Hill, likely during the same period that the theatre during Emperor Hadrian‘s reign. When finished, the Odeon of Lyon had a 73 metre diameter and could hold an audience of 3,000.

Odeons were different to theatres or amphitheatres, showcasing musical activities such as singing or spoken word competitions, which were commonly less popular that theatre performances. Odeons were built smaller than Greek and Roman theatres and featured a roof to help acoustics. Occasionally, the space was used as a meeting room for city notables.

By the 16th century, the ruins were still visible although were incorrectly assumed to be the amphitheatre where the persecution in Lyon happened in 177 AD (when Christians in Gaul were persecuted under Emperor Marcus Aurelius).

Odeon of Lyon today

Today, visitors to the Odeon should start at the Gallo-Roman Museum to gain a comprehensive understanding of Roman Lyon. Then, wander over to the theatre which can provide fantastic views of the surrounding area, including a look over at the well-preserved Odeon.

Nestled within Lyon’s ancient heart, the Odeon forms an essential part of the wider picture of Gallo-Roman life and culture. Without charge for entry, it is a must-see on any historic tour of Lyon.

Getting to the Odeon of Lyon

To get to the ancient ruins on Street rue Cléberg, take the Fourvière funicular or the metro to Vieux Lyons on line D, from where it’s about a 15-minute walk to the theatre. For those driving, the Parc St Just is located a 5 minute walk away on the opposite side of the Place des Minimes.

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