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To Epidaurus, theatre and Asclepion

Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 07 May 2014

Wednesday 07 May, to Epidaurus, theatre and Asclepion

View from Tolo on the bayThis night it has rained every now but when we wake up the sky is blue and and a bright sun is shining. After breakfast we quickly check out and head for Epidaurus where a famous theater can be seen. For the nice town of Nafplio, which we have only seen in the pouring rain, we will make time some other time. There are many interesting things to see in this area but it is also a holiday and I don't want to race from one attraction to the next.
Looking for an old bridge Landscape in the PeloponneseAlong the way we see various brown signs that are increasingly used internationally to indicate tourist attractions. When seeing a sign that refers to an old bridge, Teije wants to go there. And that is the beginning of a long walk where we see a lot of things but no bridge. We come across some farmer and we try to ask about the bridge but he does not speak a word of English and we 3 only words Greek (yes, no, thank you).
Poppies in the PeloponneseThe weather is nice and we make it a long walk even though we do not see any old bridge. I have seen enough bridges, but Teije is such a person who always wants to know what lies around the next corner and goes on once he has set his mind on something. I wonder more about the fact that there is still so many bushes growing on this rocky bottom. It is now spring and there is also a lot in bloom but I can imagine that it can become very dry in this landscape in the autumn. But maybe it also rains occasionaly in the summer like we experienced yesterday.
The port of Epidaurus The port of EpidaurusIn Epidaurus (which the Greek pronounce as Epídavrus with the emphasis on the i) we first go to the new village where in 1821 and 1822 the first national meeting was held by representatives of Greek revolutionaries who fought against the Turkish domination. Now it is a village with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants and probably many more tourists. As in so many Greek places along the sea there is a harbor with mainly fishing boats and pleasure boats.
Modern EpidaurusJust like us, many travel groups also have a drink here before they go to the world-famous theater because it is crowded on the terraces. Fortunately, we only need a small table. There we first read about Epidaurus in ancient times in our travel guides and we find out that the place is mainly known as the center of the art of healing in ancient times. Already in prehistoric times a hero-doctor was worshiped here (called Malos or Maletas) and the sick sought salvation here.
The theater of Epidaurus The theater of EpidaurusWe actually only knew Epidaurus from the well-known theater that is the best preserved from Greek antiquity. It was built in the 4th century BC. against a hill and the acoustics are incredible. Teije walks all the way up and I call something to him, not even loudly, and according to him it is perfectly understandable and with performances no amplifier is needed. It must be a whole spectacle when a performance is given here. In the summer months, antique tragedies and comedies are performed again on Friday and Saturday.
The theater of Epidaurusa lot of studies have been carried out to find out how it is possible that you can understand perfectly well what is being said on the stage in almost all rows. The stage was called the orchestra, a word we still use. The theater also contains the number of the golden ratio and since the ancient Greeks were pretty clever in the field of music and mathematics, they probably knew exactly how to achieve such good acoustics. There are approximately 14,000 seats. In ancient times, dramas were also performed that were thought to have a positive effect on the physical and mental health.
Dog in EpidaurusThe whole complex is dedicated to the god Asclepios, son of Apollo. Two of his daughters were Hygieia (sanitation) and Panacea (a panacea that heals all diseases).
Homer, however, describes Asclepios as an ordinary person and an expert physician. According to tradition, he was born here but it is certain that this place was an extensive spa where thousands of patients could be housed and perhaps it was also the first European hospital. Instead of sick people there are now mainly tourists around and of course stray dogs that we see everywhere in Greece (and hear at night).
Ruins of the Asklepeion in Epidaurus Ruins of the Asklepeion in EpidaurusThe extensive grounds were filled with baths, sports centers, dining rooms, dormitories and various temples, including one for Asclepios. Now it is mainly foundations and loose stones that are left, but they have made beautiful finds, including all kinds of medical instruments that indicate that operations were already carried out here in antiquity. Sick who lived elsewhere in Greece and asked for advice in their local temples and oracles were sometimes sent here and conversely doctors were sent from Epidaurus to other places to establish their own Asclepion.
The running track in EpidaurusThey knew very well that sporting is healthy and there was a stadium or athletics track, among other things. Here the big Asklepieia were celebrated every 4 years, a sporting event in honor of Asclepios. The stadium is 180 meters long and still there are sometimes running competitions. You can still see exactly where the starting places used to be. Since here are also so many seats (not all excavated), I can imagine that it must have been a lively place in its heyday.
The Enkoimeterion in Epidaurus The Enkoimeterion in EpidaurusIn the Enkoimeterion the sick were prepared for their treatment and underneath it was the Abaton, a dormitory where the sick sought healing in their dreams. Dreaming about a snake was a sign of healing, which is probably why non-poisonous snakes were kept here that moved freely through the dormitory. If you were confronted with enough snakes, you would dream of them which was beneficial for the cure.
Every new branch of an Asklepion got even their own snakes from Epidaurus.
Here and in the temples elsewhere in Greece they first assumed that illnesses were sent by the gods and sacrifices, dreams, prayers and rituals were the most important elements for healing, but gradually there was a new development, especially thanks to Hippocrates, a doctor from the 5th century BC, where more natural causes of diseases were sought and from which ultimately modern medicine originated. Hippocrates also put together the oath of Hippocrates that is still taken by doctors.
There is much more to tell about this place, but fortunately everything can also be found elsewhere on the internet and we do not want to repeat too much. We have already walked a couple of hours and after we have a look at the museum, we look for a terrace to relax.
Looking for an old bridge Walking in the PeloponneseWe still have to drive a bit to our next overnight stop in Livadi, but Teije sees another sign pointing to a Mycenaean bridge. The Mycenaean era was centuries before the heyday of the Greeks, so he can not ignore such an old sight. I stay in the car, in some way I do not have so much confidence in those signs here. And after a while he returns with the story that he has made a nice walk but has not seen a bridge. That does not surprise me ...
Mycene itself we skip very consciously, we want to spend a whole day there. And then he surely gets to see his Mycenaean bridge.
After 2 hours of driving we arrive in Livadi, a small village where no one speaks English. But with the name of the place where we have to be, Elena's family apartments, we are guided to the right address by friendly locals where we are warmly welcomed. We have a small, cozy cottage with a terrace and a blooming flower garden. A wonderful place to stay for a few days.


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