Odeon of Herodes Atticus

About the Odeon of Herodes Atticus

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, known colloquially as the Herodeon, is a monumental edifice steeped in the rich tapestry of ancient Greek and Roman culture. Constructed in the second century AD, specifically in 161 AD, this theatre was an architectural tribute by Herodes Atticus to his wife Regilla. It stands today on the southwest slope of the Acropolis of Athens, a silent but potent testament to the grandeur of Ancient Athens.

During the Roman period, the Odeon distinguished itself as a premier venue for music and the performing arts. Pausanias, the Greek traveler and geographer, referenced the Odeon in his works, further cementing its historical significance. However, across the centuries, this iconic structure endured the vicissitudes of time, including periods of Ottoman and German occupation, where it suffered damages and neglect.

The Odeon's contemporary form owes much to the extensive restoration work commenced in the 1950s. This restoration was a meticulous labor of passion, guided by the expertise of archaeologists who endeavored to honor the original Roman design while preparing the Odeon for modern use. It is the blending of the ancient with the resilient spirit of Greek heritage that makes the Odeon an enduring symbol.

Today, Herodeon stands not only as a physical remnant of a bygone era but also as a functioning venue that continues to host a plethora of cultural events, bridging a gap of over two millennia. This ancient theatre thus maintains its functional and historical significance, continuing to attract both Greek and international attention to the foot of the Acropolis. The UNESCO World Heritage site is known for its collection of intricately decorated buildings, including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion with its Porch of Caryatids, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Theater of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

For a more comprehensive experience, make sure to visit the Acropolis Museum, which is opposite of the archeological site. If your tour does not include a stop there, Acropolis museum tickets are sold separately and can be bought in advance or on the spot.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus’ architecture and design

Structural components

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an exemplary testament to the sophistication of ancient architectural designs. Its primary elements comprise the semicircular amphitheater carved into the rock of the Acropolis and a grand stage building.

The entire venue features a notable use of Pentelic marble, a material prized for its fine grain and golden hue. The seating area or auditorium, known as the cavea, is composed of a semi-circle layout, providing optimal views for spectators. Supporting the cavea is a solid wall that delineates the theatre's perimeter.

Amphitheater complexities

This open-air theatre has a remarkable diameter of approximately 80 meters, accommodating an audience of 5,000, which attests to its substantial capacity.

Centrally located is the circular orchestra, once likely featuring a wooden roof to improve acoustics. The attention to acoustic detail is further exemplified through the selective use of black and white marble in a checkerboard pattern, aiding sound quality. The stage building, or skene, boasts finest building techniques of the era, contributing to the venue's historic use for hosting ancient Greek tragedies.

Restoration and preservation

Following its initial construction, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus experienced a period of decline. However, extensive excavation and rebuilding efforts in the 1950s restored it to grandeur, making it one of Greece's most significant archaeological sites. The restoration took care to preserve the original elements such as the marble seating, while introducing modern materials for durability. Today, the Odeon's preservation is a continued effort that maintains its status as one of the globe's most exquisite surviving structures from antiquity, capable of hosting performances that offer an experience reminiscent of its historical peak.

What should I know before visiting the Odeon of Herodes Atticus?

Tickets and tours

All Acropolis tickets include access to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, that can be found on your way up. You can also opt to take a guided tour - from self-guided experiences to group tours with professional guides - who provide deeper insights into the history of the theater.

Tickets for performances at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus can be purchased at the venue or in advance through various online platforms.

Access and facilities

The Odeon is accessible via the Dionysiou Areopagitou pedestrian street. Public transportation options include nearby bus and metro services. For individuals with mobility difficulties, including wheelchair users, the site has made efforts to improve accessibility. However, certain areas may still be challenging due to the ancient staircases and uneven surfaces. Visitors are advised to wear comfortable shoes, as the historic mosaics and stone can be difficult to walk on, especially with heels.

Rules and regulations

Photography is typically allowed for personal use, but spectators intending to use video equipment or shoot professional-quality photos should inquire beforehand about specific restrictions. Visitors with mobility difficulties should contact the venue in advance to arrange suitable seating. Since it is an open-air venue, spectators should be prepared for weather changes by bringing appropriate clothing.

What events are held at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus?

Throughout its history, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus has showcased a dazzling array of performers, becoming a beacon for global talent. Luciano Pavarotti and Maria Callas enhanced the venue's awe with their operatic brilliance. Greek tragedies, once echoing off its ancient stones, gave way to the voices of contemporary artists like Sting and Elton John, whose concerts have lent the space a modern resonance. The inclusion of celebrated figures like Nana Mouskouri, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, and Yanni have further diversified the performance schedule over the years.

The Odeon plays host to significant events that highlight its cultural importance. Every year, the Athens and Epidaurus Festival features a rich program of theatre, music, dance, and opera, showcasing both Greek and international works. The Athens State Orchestra and the Greek National Opera often headline the events, preserving and promoting the fine arts. Performances of ballets and the appearance of renowned figures like Andrea Bocelli are a testament to the Odeon's continuing appeal to high-profile international artists and ensembles.

FAQs and tips

How can I purchase tickets for an event at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus?
Where can I find the official schedule for the Odeon of Herodes Atticus events in 2024?
What is the entry fee to visit the Odeon of Herodes Atticus?
How does the Odeon of Herodes Atticus differ from the Theatre of Dionysus?
Are there guided tours available at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and how can they be booked?