The Theater of Epidaurus

July 07, 2023

Teatro antico di Epidauro (1)
Photographer: Emanuele Nifosì  

Summary Author: Emanuele Nifosì  

Famous throughout the world, since ancient times, for its "perfect acoustics" the Theater of Epidaurus was built around the middle of the 4th century BCE on the south-west side of Mount Kynortio, Greece, by Polykleitos the Younger. Its capacity is about 14,000, and at the center of the scene is a circular stone altar dedicated to Dionysius, protector of Greek tragedy. From this central point, any sound (such as the jingle of a coin or a whisper) spreads throughout the theatre, from the proscenium to the highest stairways, without the aid of any acoustic amplification.

Even today it remains somewhat of a mystery how this extraordinary result was achieved. It was once believed that the wind carried the sounds, then it was thought that the slight slope of the hill on which the theater was built prevented sound waves from being noticeably attenuated. Currently, credit is given to the properties of the limestone with which the stairways were built. By absorbing the low frequencies of the actors' voices, the limestone helps determine the "virtual pitch" effect (the human brain would therefore reproduce the missing frequencies). Whatever the solution, the Theater of Epidaurus is a marvel of the union between nature and man.

The Theater has always been praised by travelers of all ages: by Pausanias, a scholar and geographer of the second century BCE, to the American writer Henry Miller around the middle of the twentieth century, who noted: "In Epidaurus, in the quiet, in the great peace that descended upon me, I felt the heart of the world beating." Photo taken on March 19, 2023


Greece, Epidaurus, Greece Coordinates: 37.596125, 23.079265

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