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Theater of Dionysus

It’s the 6th Century BC. The sun is setting in ancient Greece, and we are in a grand outdoor theater built into the hillside. We are one of the first in the world to be in a permanent theater such as this. The view of the performance area as well as the city of Athens couldn’t be better. We share this unique experience with 16,000 other excited patrons awaiting to participate in a religious festival to Dionysus, our God of wine and plays, and the newest play by Sophocles.

Seeing these ruins first-hand prompted me to imagine the thrill of attending events in a stadium such as this when it originally was built. The tiered rows of seats allowed everyone to view the activities rather than only the few who were up front. Attendees were also able to sit rather than stand the entire time.

The ruins of the Theater of Dionysus are located on the south slope of the Acropolis hill where the sanctuary of Dionysus once stood. The theater was built from stone with wooden benches. The wood no longer remains. An orchestra terrace was later added.

Dionysus is the Greek mythological god of theatre, religious ecstasy, wine, and fertility. He was honored in several annual festivals in ancient Greece. The most important was held in the City Dionysia, which hosted a five-day festival devoted to drama.

Dionysus is often depicted with a thyrsus, a scepter, which sometimes was wound with ivy dripping with honey. Much like his scepter, Dionysus’ association with wine has contrasting characteristics.

This god used his scepter as a wand to bestow gifts upon the lucky ones and a weapon against those who opposed him. Wine also has its pros and cons as it may be used for medicinal or pleasurable reasons, yet it also intoxicates causing erratic behavior and delusional thoughts. Some scholars state that ancient Greeks believed that anywhere grapevines could be found, and wine was cultivated, Dionysus had once visited.

Dionysus is the son of Zeus and Zeus’ mortal mistress, Semele. Zeus’ angry wife convinced the Titans to kill Dionysus, but they weren’t fully successful. Dionysus’ heart continued beating after the attack which Zeus was able to use to resurrect him and give his son another life. Dionysus was then raised and protected by nymphs. Dionysus later married Ariadne, and the couple had nine children.

This is my sixth post on the beautiful country of Greece and its rich history. (See also: Grecian Get-Away, The Ancient City of Athens, Greece, Athens Central Market, The Athenian Acropolis, and Temples of Athena and Poseidon.) I hope you are enjoying these posts as much as I am enjoying sharing my adventure with you.

Learn more about the Theater of Dionysus by going to the National Geographic and sites for more information.

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