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December 11, 2007

Theatre of Dionysus

Theatre of Dionysus as viewed from the Acropolis.
Theatre of Dionysus as viewed from the Acropolis.

The Theatre of Dionysus was a major open air theatre in ancient Greece, built at the foot of the Athenian Acropolis and forming part of the temenos of "Dionysus Eleuthereus". Dedicated to Dionysus, the god of plays and wine (among other things), the theatre could seat as many as 17,000 people, making it an ideal location for ancient Athens' biggest theatrical celebration, the Dionysia. It became the prototype for all Theatres of ancient Greece.

It was the first stone theatre ever built — cut into the southern cliff face of the Acropolis — and the birthplace of Greek tragedy. The remains of a restored and redesigned Roman version can still be seen at the site today.

In Classical Athens, when the theatre was the venue for the Greater Dionysia , competitions were held between Greek dramatists as part of the occasion. The categories that could be entered were Greek Tragedy, Comedy and Satyr play. The plays were performed by a Chorus, and the audience served as judges. Amongst those to have competed are all the renowned dramatists of the Classical era, such as Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes and Aeschylus.

In the mid 4th century BC, racked stone tiers were constructed (where wooden benches probably resided before) in order to allow more seating. After this the theatre fell into disuse and little is recorded until 61AD where there is evidence of major renovations done by the emperor Nero.

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