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Ancient Epidaurus Walking Tour on the best preserved ancient theatre in Greece. Tickets - Visiting Hours Practical Info.

Welcome, fellow explorers, to an unforgettable journey through the mesmerizing Sanctuary of the Asclepieion of Epidaurus! Today, we're going to delve into the rich history of this ancient Greek center. Get ready to be captivated by its awe-inspiring ruins, learn how to get here, the visiting hours, and the cost of this incredible experience. Let's embark on our walking tour of a lifetime!

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Where Is It

Nestled in the heart of the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece, the Asclepieion of
Epidaurus is a historical gem. Located about 140 kilometers southwest of
Athens, this site is easily accessible by car.
How To Get There

To reach this archaeological wonder from Athens, it should take you a bit more
than 2 hours to drive there. Keep in mind the route includes tolls. A good idea
would be to stop for some minutes and admire the Corinth Canal.

As you approach Epidaurus, you'll find a spacious tarmac parking area right before
the entrance.
Visiting Hours

During the winter months, you can explore from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with extended hours
until 6:00 PM starting from March 1, 2023. The site comes alive in the summer with longer hours: from April to August, it's open from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. 
From September until October the closing hours will differ, gradually decreasing 
from 19:30 PM to 18:00 PM. 
1st September-15th September : 08:00-19:30 
16th September-30th September : 08:00-19:00 
1st October-15th October: 08:00-18:30 
16th October-31th October : 08:00-18:00 
Be aware that on Good Friday and Holy Saturday,the site has special hours – so plan accordingly! 
Good Friday: 12.00-17.00 Holy Saturday: 08.30-15.30
Ticket Prices

Prices vary depending on the season. From November to March, tickets cost €6, while
from April to October, they are €12. The ticket package offers access to both
the archaeological site and the museum.
The Museum

The museum noted for its reconstructions of temples and its columns and inscriptions,
was established in 1902 and opened in 1909 to display artifacts unearthed in
the ancient site of Epidaurus in the surrounding area. The museum is not large
and is just a short walk across the Ancient Theater.

Ancient Theater

Undoubtedly, one of the tour's most captivating highlights is the ancient theater at Epidaurus. This remarkable structure is celebrated for its awe-inspiring acoustics and breathtaking architecture, serving as a testament to the extraordinary engineering skills of the ancient Greeks. Picture yourself transported back in time, seated among the spectators of centuries past, and be prepared to marvel at the magnificent performances that once graced this revered stage.

Historical records, as documented by Pausanias, reveal that the construction of this ancient theater took place at the close of the 4th century BC, specifically between 340-300 BCE. The brilliant architect behind this masterpiece was none other than Polykleitos the Younger. In his writings, Pausanias lauds the theater for its impeccable symmetry and sheer beauty. With an impressive seating capacity of 13,000 to 14,000 spectators, this theater was not just a venue for entertainment but an integral part of the worship of Asclepius, the god of healing.

Remarkably, the theater also served as a means of healing in itself, as it was believed that the observation of dramatic performances held therapeutic benefits for mental and physical well-being.

Today, this monument continues to draw a multitude of Greek and international visitors, hosting performances of ancient drama plays. The modern era saw a revival of theatrical events at this historic venue, with the first contemporary performance being Sophocles's tragedy "Electra" in 1938. Directed by Dimitris Rontiris and featuring notable actors such as Katina Paxinou and Eleni Papadaki, this production marked a significant moment in the theater's modern history.

Although World War II temporarily halted performances, theatrical productions made a triumphant return in 1954, within the framework of an organized festival. Subsequently, in 1955, the theater became the annual stage for the presentation of ancient drama, an event now known as the Epidaurus Festival, which continues to captivate audiences during the summer months. 

In addition to hosting theatrical performances, the theater has occasionally been used to host major musical events. Notable Greek and international actors have graced its stage as part of the Epidaurus Festival, including the legendary Greek soprano Maria Callas, who delivered unforgettable performances of "Norma" in 1960 and "Médée" in 1961. 

The theater's unique design divides the auditorium vertically into two unequal parts: the lower hollow, known as the "theatre," and the upper theater, referred to as the "epitheatre." These sections are separated by a horizontal corridor, measuring 1.82 meters in width, known as the frieze. The lower section of the auditorium is divided into 12 sections, while the upper part is further subdivided into 22 sections. Special seating arrangements in both the upper and lower auditoriums included reserved areas for VIPs. The auditorium's design is exceptional, centered around three distinct focal points, achieving both optimal acoustics and unobstructed views for the audience.

At the heart of the theater lies the circular orchestra, boasting a diameter of 20 meters and serving as the centerpiece of this grand structure. In its center rests a circular stone plate, the foundation of the altar or "thymele." Encircling the orchestra is a unique underground drainage pipeline, measuring 1.99 meters in width, known as the "euripos," which was elegantly covered by a circular stone walkway. 

The ancient theater at Epidaurus is a living testament to the ingenuity of the past, where history, art, and science converged to create an enduring marvel that continues to captivate and inspire generations to this day.

The Archaeological Site

As you meander through the vast expanse of this archaeological wonderland, you'll encounter a breathtaking tapestry of ancient ruins, encompassing temples, sanctuaries, and healing facilities. Allow yourself to be enveloped by the palpable essence of bygone eras as you traverse the hallowed grounds where pilgrims once sought solace, healing, and divine intervention. The Sanctuary of Asklepios is a realm where history reawakens, and you are on the cusp of experiencing it firsthand.

The veneration of Asclepius in Epidaurus traces its roots back to the 6th century BC, a time when the prior hilltop sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas could no longer accommodate the growing needs of the faithful. It emerged as the most renowned healing center in the Classical world, a sacred haven where the ailing placed their hopes for recovery. To discern the path to healing, they embarked on a night's sojourn within the enkoimeteria, an expansive sleeping hall where, in their dreams, the god himself would impart guidance on their journey to renewed health. Within the sanctuary's embrace, a guest house known as the katagogion provided respite, boasting a staggering 160 guest rooms. In the vicinity, mineral springs offered the potential for therapeutic rejuvenation.

Asclepius, the preeminent deity of healing in antiquity, ushered prosperity to this sacred enclave, which thrived until the early years of the first century BC, enduring extensive damage. Its revival came about following a visit by Hadrian in AD 124, breathing new life into its storied legacy, and leading to renewed prosperity in the ensuing centuries.

In the annals of history, AD 395 marked a turning point when the sanctuary faced adversity in the form of a Gothic raid. Remarkably, even as the tides of Christianity swept over the land and oracles fell silent, the sanctuary in Epidaurus continued to be recognized as a Christian healing center as late as the mid-5th century. It stands as a testament to its enduring significance and enduring impact on the lives of those who sought solace and healing within its sacred precincts.

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