Ancient Greek Theatre

«Amphitheatrical», means: in the shape of a theatre.

Theatres in Athens served as places where plays were performed, religious rituals and music or poetry competitions, parliament or city council gatherings, and even served as a forum. A typical example of an ancient Greek theatre with an “orchestra”, “koilon” and “skene” is that of Dionysus, located next to the Acropolis.

The first theatrical dialogues were heard during festivities in honour of Dionysus who according to Euripides: “reigns in banquets, among wreaths of flowers, joyous dancing to the sound of pipes and laughter, where he keeps away sad thoughts…” Dionysus inspired the creators of theatrical art. Plato said: “lyrical poets resemble Corybants who dance only when they are furious; they can’t find their beautiful verses in sobriety. Their soul needs to be intoxicated by harmony and proportion… their strength is exhausted in their delirium…”.

Theatrical evolution began with the “dithyramb”, a devotional hymn to Dionysus sung by a group of men and boys accompanied by pipes. With time it evolved into a special kind of art which combined lyricism and dancing to express the people’s need for higher political, social and economic ranking against aristocracy, which lead to the appearance of tragic play. In Attica, during the “Great Dionysia” festivities, the leading role belonged to all cheerful performances where the chorus comprised 50 satyrs (Dionysus’ followers) such as the dithyramb, tragic plays, comedies and satiric dramas.

During Athens’ Golden Age, performing arts reached their pick in regard to artistic expression, chosen themes, set construction and arrangement, and organizing events. All citizens had access to the shows while the expenses were covered by the wealthy castes, the “Horegoi” (Sponsors). The state was responsible for organizing events in the form of performing competitions. The actors were all men in masks and costumes to suit the story. In time, we have the appearance of professional actors and the construction of new bigger theatres outside Attica, as in Epidaurus and Ephesus. Later during the Hellenistic era with Alexander’s conquests, the ancient Greek theatre expands. Plays made by the great Greek playwrights, revealing secrets of every human soul and telling truths for all mankind, influenced the later Roman theater as well as that of the Renaissance and the Enlightenme