The Birth of Theater

About the route

3-4 hours

Theater was an important civic and religious activity in ancient Athens. Drama was produced at the Great Dionysia festival in honor of the god Dionysus and attracted thousands of spectators at a theater nested on the southern slopes of the Acropolis. Men, women, children, slaves, foreigners and resident aliens paid the admission and spent whole days watching the plays of the great tragedians and comedians. The Athenians valued theater so much that they even subsidized tickets for the poor.

This tour invites the participants to discover the ancient theatre of Dionysus and the origins of drama through a truly original workshop headed by an actor. The stone theater we see today is not the structure Sophocles or Euripides knew. In classical Athens, the audience sat on wooden benches arranged on the hillside, while the chorus performed on an orchestra floor of packed earth. It was only in the 320s BCE that Lykourgos, a prominent Athenian statesman rebuilt the theater in stone, while the Romans further altered its original appearance (and purpose) by transforming it into an arena for naval battles.

And yet, this theater remains a sacred site, a place where the three great tragedians of antiquity (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides) taught their masterpieces in honor of the god Dionysus. Follow us on a journey from the birth of tragedy (when Thespis decided to address for the first time a group of dancers) to the glorious classical dramas that defined the essence of what it means to be human.