The magnificent Theater At Epidaurus, the most beautiful and most perfect of Greek theaters, was planned and constructed in the last quarter of the Fourth Century B.C.
Splendidly and harmonically placed within its landscape, The Theater At Epidaurus is the world’s leading Classical amphitheater exemplar as well as the best-preserved Classical structure in Greece.
Designed by sculptor and architect Polyclitus The Younger (an attribution that has not gone unchallenged in modern times), the circular theater—hollowed out of the side of a hill—had 34 rows of seats when new. During The Roman Era, another 21 rows of seats were added, resulting in a theater that could accommodate almost 14,000 spectators. The uppermost rows on opposite sides of the seating circle are 350 feet across.
The theater is famed for more than its extravagant beauty and timeless proportions—the acoustics are miraculous. A whisper emitted from center stage may be heard throughout the entire seating area.
The special acoustical properties are the result of the limestone used for the seating. The limestone serves as filter for low frequencies while highlighting and reflecting high frequencies. Further, ridges and grooves on the limestone surfaces act as natural sound traps. The result is that audience murmur is minimized while speech from the stage is magnified and clarified. It is unknown whether the Greeks understood the scientific bases for the remarkable acoustical properties of their outdoor theaters.
The Theater At Epidaurus was in continuous use for almost 800 years. It was during the reign of Roman Emperor Theodosius, in the Fifth Century A.D., that use of The Theater At Epidaurus was discontinued.
Over succeeding centuries, the theater became covered with silt. The remains of the great structure were completely hidden from view until modern-day excavations were begun in 1881. It was not until 1963 that excavations were complete, and the theater could once again be used for performance.