Hey ya’ll! Welcome back to my Site Sunday series. Last week, we talked about the Acropolis in Athens. This week, we’ll be talking about the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus, which is also in Athens, Greece. The Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus sits at the base of the Acropolis and premiered some of the most famous plays in existence!
The Theatre of Dionysus of Eleuthereus has entertained visitors since the 6th century BCE. The Cult of Dionysus built the structure as a space for religious ceremonies. This space evolved into a theatre, where performances of Greek comedies and tragedies occurred. It’s likely that this theatre was the first theatre in Greece, as the invention of Greek theatre was taking place at this time.
The theatre showed works by major players of Greek theatre from the 5th century BC on. Writers like Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus would submit their plays in competitions at the theatre. These competitions were part of a celebration of Dionysus, who symbolically watched the plays through a stone statue in the front row.
The theatre has undergone many renovations over the years. The first renovation, an expansion, was the addition of stone seats to the performance area in the 5th century BC.
Next, the theatre capacity expanded to hold 16,000-17,000 people in 330 BC, with 67 marble thrones added to the front row and additional limestone seats for the general public. Bronze statues of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles were added to the theatre during this expansion.
The final renovation of the theatre was an expansion and restoration. This final stage took place in the 1st century CE by the Roman Emperor Nero. Nero added more seating, changed the stage to the semi-circular shape in place today, and added marble statues of Silenos.
Excavations of the theatre began in 1838 and continued until 1880s. Additional excavations took place in the 1980s, when restoration of the site began (and still continues!).
Visit the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus
Be sure to check back each week for a new Site Sunday post!
PS: Check out my Guide to the Mainland and Cyclades if you’re headed to Greece!