Discover UNESCO: Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
Thought of as the birthplace of Apollo’s son, the famous healer Asclepius with his serpent entwined rod, Epidaurus once used to be the highest regarded hospital of the world. After the original hill-top sanctuary of the 6th century BC had become too small, an extensive healing center was erected at the current location. Unfortunately all the buildings were destroyed over time and only the Epidaurus Theater remains preserved in place today. In fact, it is not only almost entirely intact, but also considered one of the purest masterpieces of ancient Greek architecture.
- Epidaurus is an archaeological site, covering the ruins of an ancient healing center, temples and a limestone theater.
- This UNESCO site is located in Argolis, in the eastern part of the former peninsula of Peloponnese in Greece.
- The Temple of Asklepios and the ancient theater date as far back as the 4th century BC and the UNESCO inscription happened in 1988.
- Inscribed by UNESCO is this vast site including the remains of temples, hospital buildings and the well-preserved theater.
- Epidaurus is open from 7.45am to 6.45pm daily from April to October and from November to end of March the times are 8am to 5pm.
- The entrance fee to the Epidaurus area, including museum and theater costs 6 euros for adults and 3 euros on reduced rate.
The ancient Theater of Epidaurus
Why this is a UNESCO Site
The archeological site of Epidaurus, covering the remains of what used to be the most famous healing center of the ancient world is truly one of its kind. The ruins of 160 bedrooms, baths, temples, a gymnasium, a stadium and a well-preserved theater remind of the miraculous healings that once happened here with the help of the ancient gods. Out of the 4th century ensemble of buildings, it is especially the theater, built by Polycletes the Younger of Argos, that is considered an architectural masterpiece. The original Greek, but Roman extended structure is perfected in terms of proportions and performance, transferring unamplified sounds up to last row of spectators.
Thoughts and Observations
Visiting the ruined healing center of Epidaurus and learning about its ancient history was great, but experiencing the acoustics of the limestone theater was definitely unparalleled. Almost entirely preserved, only the single storey stage building called skene missing, it still functioned as well as it did during its time of construction during the 4th century BC. Even from the last row of the seating area it was possible to hear a little whisper on stage, the strike of a match, or the drop of a coin.
This was especially remarkable because the original 34 Greek rows of the theater had been extended by another 21 during Roman times. Until today, the supreme performance of the Epidaurus Theater was tested and enjoyed during select performances with up to 15,000 spectators. Contrary to later Roman theaters with tall stage walls, here is was actually possible, and part of the design concept, that spectators could also enjoy the views of the surrounding landscape.
In this regard, the views enhanced the performances on stage equally as the theater itself enhanced the healing process of the sick. And still today, the preserved theater with its exceptional acoustics and great views definitely enhanced every visit to Epidaurus. For me personally, as someone who is not the biggest fan of archaeological sites with only traces of foundation walls on the ground, the theater was definitely the highlight of the entire trip.
What else to see in Epidaurus
Between Athens and Epidaurus
Tips and Recommendations
- Bring enough time with you to see this extensive archaeological site of the sanctuary with all its ruined buildings.
- Stop by the small museum to see ancient surgical tools recovered from the site as well as a statue of Asclepius with his serpent entwined rod and an early Corinthian capital.
- Try to stop by the Corinth Canal between Athens and Epidaurus. This 6.5 km long canal with only 22 meters in width was started to be hand carved in the 7th century BC and not finished until 1893.
- Go right now
- Definitely go soon!
- Go if you are around
- Stop by if you are bored
- Consider missing it
The sanctuary of Epidaurus really was an interesting place to visit, especially due to the impressive structure of the ancient theater. Experiencing the acoustics of the theater alone seemed already worth the entire visit.
Epidaurus is located about two hours away from Athens and is best reached by car while crossing the Corinth Canal along the way. Alternatively, there are public buses leaving from Nafplio, the former Greek capital which is also worth a visit, and tour operators like Key Tours offer convenient day trips directly from Athens.
Can you imagine that this ancient theater works perfectly without any amplifier?