Theatre of Herodes Atticus | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Theatre of Herodes Atticus

Attica, Attica, Greece

Lucy Davidson

14 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Theatre of Herodes Atticus

The Theatre of Herodes Atticus, also known as the Odeon, is a Greco-Roman theatre built in 161 AD.

It is named after an affluent Greek-born Roman senator, Herodes Atticus, who constructed it in commemoration of his wife, Regilia.

Able to seat up to 5,000 people, the Theatre of Herodes Atticus was mostly used for music shows and festivals, a function which the now restored structure still performs today.

History of Theatre of Herodes Atticus

The theatre is located on the southwest slope of the Acropolis of Athens, in Greece. It was built in 161 AD by Greco-Roman politician and senator Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife Aspasia Annia Regilla.

It was the third Odeon to be built in Athens and was distinctively Roman in contrast to the nearby Theatre of Dionysus, with its Roman-style arches and three-story stage building.

Originally, the structure would have been a steep-sloped theatre with a three-story stone front wall and a wooden roof made of expensive cedar and Lebanon timber, and would have been decorated with marble sculptures and ceramic pieces.

Indeed, when Greek traveller and geographer from the second century AD Pausanias visited the Theatre of Herodes Atticus, he described it as ‘the finest building of its type.’

The theatre remained intact until it was destroyed by the invasion of the Heruli – early Germanic people – in 267 AD, which left it in ruins.

It became slowly more ruined for a long time – particularly during the Ottoman occupation. Some restoration took place in the years 1898, 1900, and 1922.

It only really began to be used as it had originally been built during the German occupation of 1941-1944, where it was used to host performances by the Athens State Orchestra and the Greek National Opera. This spurred the city on to begin restoration work in 1950, with the grand opening in 1955 marking it as a prime location for the Athens and Epidaurus Festival.

Now, the circular orchestra has become a semi-circle, paved with black and white marble.

Theatre of Herodes Atticus Today

Today you can attend the Athens Art Festival, musical concerts, and classical tragedies under the beautiful night sky. All events are held from May to early October. Frank Sinatra, Pavarotti, Sting, Elton John, and Bocelli are just a few of the stars who have performed there.

Getting to Theatre of Herodes Atticus

The Theatre of Herodes Atticus is reachable in around 14 minutes from the city centre by car, via Stadiou and EO91. By foot, it is a scenic 25 minute walk through the streets of Athens, mainly along the Athinas road. There are number of buses – the 035, 227, and 1 – which depart every 8 minutes from the centre, and take around 25 minutes to reach the theatre.

The Theatre of Herodes Atticus is situated on the Dionysiou Areopagitou Pedestrian Street, right under the Acropolis.

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