The theatre of Dionysus in the spring

In our digital journey there are no constraints of time or distance; we’ll simply go where free association will take us.

Our first stop will be the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, on the south slope of the Acropolis of Athens.

theatre of Dionysus

Theatre of Dionysus seen from the upper part of the seating (5th century BCE with Roman period additions).

Dionysus is known to most as the god of wine, but he was also the god of nature’s fertility (including that of animals and humans). He was one of ancient Greeks’ favorite gods and Athenians were no exception. Athens had no less than three shrines of his, the most important of which was this, near the Acropolis.

This was the place where the festival of the Great Dionysia took place, once a year, around the end of March or the beginning of April. An important part of the festival was the drama contest, for which a great number of plays were written by poets such as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. The contest was held in this very theatre, which saw the premieres of all those great plays of which, alas, only a handful survived.

In its heyday, the theatre could seat about 19.000 people. Today only the round “orchestra” (where the chorus danced and sang), the lower part of the koilon (the seats) and a part of the scene (where the actors performed) remain.

I chose this picture of spring vegetation covering most of the seats because it fits not only the season but the spirit of Dionysus’ grand festival as well.

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