• Laura Sesana

Epidaurus: ancient Greek theater and acoustic marvel

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

Scientists thought for decades that the theater’s amazing acoustics were due to sound being carried by the wind. However, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2007 revealed that not only is the theater built in a way that amplifies high frequency sound coming from the stage, but the limestone seats also act as natural acoustic traps that filter out low frequency sound, minimizing noise from the crowd.

EPIDAURUS, Greece— The Ancient Greek theater at Epidaurus is a marvel of acoustics and aesthetics. Built in the fourth century B.C., the theater remained buried until excavation began in 1870. Today, the perfectly preserved theater is a popular tourist attraction and the setting from several traditional and modern productions.


Built by Polykleitos the Younger, the theater at Epidaurus is a marvel of acoustics, where spectators can literally hear a pin drop on the stage from 55 rows up. The theater holds between 13,000 and 15,000 spectators, and to visit it is an unforgettable experience.


Epidaurus is a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, so designated for its physical and cultural importance to world heritage and history.

Located 17 miles east of the city of Napflio and 80 miles from Athens, Epidaurus was originally built to entertain the patients at the sanctuary of Askleipos, known as the largest healing center in the ancient world.


Epidaurus’ theater remained in use for several centuries despite several attacks by Romans, pirates, and an invasion by Goths in 395 A.D., which nevertheless caused some damage.

Originally, the theater was built with 34 rows, to which the Romans added an additional 21. Finally banned the theater in 426 A.D by Emperor Theodosius II., the theater closed after nearly 1,000 years of use.


Two major earthquakes in 522 and 551 buried the theater and sanctuary almost entirely, preserving and protecting most of the structures. The site was re-discovered at the end of the 19th century and excavation began soon after it was found.


Shortly after excavation was completed, the first production, Sophocles’ Electra, took place in 1938. Held every summer with performances and screenings throughout June, July, and August, The Epidaurus Festival was launched in 1955. World-famous actors have performed at Epidaurus to sold-out crowds.


Like all traditional Greek theaters where the natural backdrop formed an important part of the aesthetics, Epidaurus boasts a breathtaking view of the mountains and valleys directly behind the stage.


The most amazing aspect of Epidaurus, however, is the astonishing acoustics. Tour guides routinely strike matches, rustle a sheets of paper and inhale deeply to demonstrate how even the slightest sound can be heard from the top rows.


Scientists thought for decades that the theater’s amazing acoustics were due to sound being carried by the wind. However, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2007 revealed that not only is the theater built in a way that amplifies high frequency sound coming from the stage, but the limestone seats also act as natural acoustic traps that filter out low frequency sound, minimizing noise from the crowd.


“When I first tackled this problem, I thought that the effect of the splendid acoustics was due to surface waves climbing the theater with almost no damping,” said Nico Declercq, a mechanical engineer that worked on the site in 2007. “While the voices of the performers were being carried, I didn’t anticipate that the low frequencies of speech were also filtered out to some extent.”

Researchers found that sound waves up to 500 hertz are minimized and those above 500 hertz are undiminished within the theater.


Visiting Epidaurus is an amazing experience that offers visitors with the wonders of ancient Greece and the rich history of this amazing country.

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© LAURA SESANA