By: Max Cardillo, 10/20/2012
One of the notable visits in the IIRPS – Athens Program was to the south slope of the Acropolis, led by Manolis Korres. It included the complex of the sanctuary and theater of Dionysus Eleuthereus, the Odeon of Pericles, and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Dr. Korres, besides working on the buildings of the Acropolis, was also involved with the restoration of the theater of Dionysus from 1980 to 1983. He is intimately familiar with all aspects of this complex: the evolution and how all the various phases of construction overlap and joined together. Among many interesting aspects of the visit, he pointed out a series of geometrical patterns carved into the floor of the orchestra. Its function is not completely clear, but one theory is that, in the late empire, those patterns were used by masons or carpenters to make or lay out architectural pieces or build stage sets.
Dr. Korres also highlighted the importance of theater productions to the religious and intellectual life of Athens. Theatrical dramas, comedies, and satires were usually part of the Dionysia, a religious spring festival dedicated to Dionysus, god of wine, wine harvest, fertility, personal liberation, theater, intoxication, and ecstasy. The playwrights staged their plays in competition during the festival’s five days, and a large portion of the citizenry attended the performances. This was a unique situation in human history, a society that regularly exposed, through their religious rituals, a large percentage of its population to the sophisticated ethical and intellectual discourse presented by the classical Greek theater. This could perhaps be one of the reasons that the world of classical Greece, in its artistic, scientific, and other intellectual pursuits, seems consistently to be, in quality, a step above its neighbors and many other of the world’s societies.