The ‘birthplace of drama’ – the Theatre of Dionysus, located on the south slope of the Acropolis – is to be partially restored in a 6 million project that is set for completion in 2015. The ancient open-air theatre in Athens saw the premire of many of the great dramatic works written during the ‘golden age’ of Greek Tragedy.
Famous ancient playwrights – such as Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles and Aristophanes – took part in competitions staged twice yearly at the Dionysus theatre; the City Dionysia festival during the spring and the Lenaia in wintertime.
The limestone and marble version of the theatre – built in the 4th century BC – seated an estimated 14,000 to 17,000 spectators.
Scholars still differ in opinion concerning the architecture of the first Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus in Athens. The size, shape and even the precise location of the original orchestra and of the seating benches that once surrounded it have all been disputed. Some suggest circles for the theatre’s original structure, others suggest trapezoid forms of differing shapes and sizes.
Only a small section of the stone theatre – restored and redesigned by Roman emperor Nero – was excavated in the 19th century and is still visible today. The restoration works will gradually add several tiers to these, using a combination of new stone and recovered ancient fragments, while strengthening retaining walls and other parts of the building.
The restoration of the Theatre of Dionysus is part of a larger project to restore and protect the entire Acropolis area; other examples are the construction of the New Acropolis Museum which opened this year and the rebuilding of the 5th century BCTemple of Athena Nike (parts of which are in the British Museum).