DAY 6 THE SITES AND SIGHTS OF EPIDAVROS
Last year when I was here, I only got to the big Ancient Ampitheatre, so this year I’ve set out to specifically explore the Little Ancient Theatre and The Sanctuary of Asklepius. Hence the reason for staying in this little piece of paradise. This whole area is steeped in the myths and legends of antiquity which come to life in the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and the comedies of Aristophanes. The very gulf I am viewing as I write, has its own mythical origins and gods as do the surrounding mountains and plateaux. It is a very magical place. I keep looking out to sea for the dolphin that transported Arion, the creator of the first dithyrambs.
Of course the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is the most famous theatre in the world and it originated in the mid 4 century BC as an adjunct to the Asklipieio to house the performances dedicated to Asklepius worship. The Asklipieio is a healing sanctuary and theatre dedicated to Asklepius (the god of the healing arts) was in itself regarded as a healing art form.
The site is huge, the theatre alone which seats up to 14,000 people overlooks the valleys below and the sanctuary is an entire healing city perched on an acropolis high in the Peloponnese. Another of the healing arts is evidenced in the huge athletics stadium as well as the fountains, the bathhouse, the dormitory, the communal eating house, an infectious diseases sanitarium, temples to Artemis, goddess of the hunt, healing and death, and Themis, goddess of divine justice, order and customs, as well as to Asklepius and Apollo (god of music, healing, poetry and more.)
What a highly sophisticated expression of 4th and 3rd century human well being.
Sadly the natural history museum in the little village of Lygourio was closed by the time I arrived. It is reputed to have one of the finest collections of 3-5 million year old fossils from Greece and other parts of Europe. Once more I was interested in exploring how the minerals and other artefacts are represented in dramatic literature. There is so much to see and digest.
Finally (and I actually did this first, because it is just along the road from Hotel Hellini) there is the Small Theatre of Epidavros. Discovered as recently as 1971, with seating for up to 2000 people it was built in the 4th century BC in honour of Dionysis. It is considered yet another example of th e Ancient Greek belief of the perfection in life and art: harmony, balance. During the Roman period the names of donors and officials were inscribed into the benches,giving rise to the term ‘talking theatre’. A Roman statue unearthed near the small theatre in 2011, enlivens the notion of the continuation of Greek culture into the Roman period which is also present in the Asklipieio.
This was another big day fortified by ice cream by day and ouzo at night in the village where a local art and craft market occurs every weekend in July. Very beautiful artefacts as well as jams and olive oil and plants.
Another good day in this rural idyll.