Theatre of Dionysus - History and Facts | History Hit

Theatre of Dionysus

Attica, Attica, Greece

The Theatre of Dionysus was one of the most important theatres in Ancient Greece.

Peta Stamper

31 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Theatre of Dionysus

The Theatre of Dionysus in Athens was one of the most important theatres in Ancient Greece. Initially built of timber in the 6th century BC, the theatre was named in honour of the Greek deity of wine and theatre: Dionysus.

The theatre soon became a focal point of Ancient Greek social life, offering plays, festivals and competitions. In fact, the Theatre of Dionysus played host to masterpieces by some of the most important playwrights of the time, including Sophocles and Euripides.

Theatre of Dionysus history

The Theatre of Dionysus’ first orchestra was built on the southern slope of the Acropolis hill, the site of a sanctuary to Dionysus the Liberator. Its orchestra was built between the mid to late 6th century BC, quickly after becoming the host of Athens’ Dionysia festival in honour of the deity.

The festival saw performances or tragedies and comedies, accompanied by opening and closing processions making offerings to Dionysus of bread and wine. The City Dionysia also allowed those working the rest of the year a central, annual event to celebrate at incase they missed their local festival.

Under Lycurgus, a leading figure in Greek politics during the 4th century BC, the theatre was expanded to a capacity of 17,000. It remained in continual use until the Roman period, whose theatrical culture was largely built upon Greek theatre. The Theatre of Dionysus fell into disrepair under the Byzantines and was not excavated until the 19th century.

Theatre of Dionysus today

Although not fully restored, the Theatre of Dionysus remains an important part of any visit to the Acropolis slopes. The lower levels of seating are complete and allow you to get a feel for how the once-crowded theatre would have looked almost 2,500 years ago.

A model for all subsequent theatres, the Theatre of Dionysus is open to stroll around or a nice spot to sit and appreciate the construction and theatrical legacy of the site.

Getting to the Theatre of Dionysus

The theatre is located in the heart of ancient Athens, and so is within 4 minutes walking distance of the Akropoli and Neos Kosmos metro stops on line M2. Buses 040, 230, A2 and trolley buses 1, 5 and 15 all stop along the Leof Andrea Siggrou main road, a 9 minute walk from the theatre.

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