Σάββατο 16 Μαρτίου 2024

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus (Greek: Ωδείο Ηρώδου του Αττικού; also called Herodeion or Herodion; Greek: Ηρώδειο) is a stone Roman theatre structure located on the southwest slope of the Acropolis of Athens, Greece. The building was completed in AD 161 and then renovated in 1950.
1865

It was built by Herodes Atticus in memory of his Roman wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla. It was originally a steep-sloped theatre with a three-story stone front wall and a wooden roof made of expensive cedar of Lebanon timber. It was used as a venue for music concerts with a capacity of 5,000. It lasted intact until it was destroyed and left in ruins by the Heruli in AD 267.
The famous Herod Atticus Odeon dominates the western end on the south slope of the Acropolis. It was the third Odeon constructed in ancient Athens after the Pericles Odeon on the south slope (fifth century) and the Agrippa's Odeon in the ancient Agora (15 BC). The construction of the monument during the second century AD was sponsored by Tiberius Claudius Herod Atticus, renowned offspring of an important Athenian family and a benefactor; he thus acted in remembrance of his wife Regilla, who died in 160 AD. The exact date of construction is unknown, but it was certainly built sometime after Regilla's death and 174 AD, when the traveller and geographer Pausanias visited Athens and referred to the monument in great admiration.
The roofed Odeon served mainly musical festivals, and could host up to 5,000 spectators. It was a solid construction, but the masonry was not massive. Both wall surfaces were covered by poros stone blocks, while the interior was filled with quarry faced stones. The semicircular cavea (in Greek koilo, auditorium), 76m in diameter, was hewn out of the rock. It was divided into two sections (diazomata, landings) by a 1.20m wide corridor; each diazoma numbered 32 rows of seats made of white marble. The upper corridor of the cavea was probably bordered by a gallery. Also semicircular, the orchestra, 19m in diameter, was paved with white marble. 
Artist's rendering of the ruins of the conservatory in 1813, by Edward Daniel Clarke.

The scene was raised and the scenic wall, preserved up to 28m, extended over three levels. Arched openings decorated the wall's upper part, while the lower part contained several tristyle prostasis (three-columned projecting porticos) and niches for the placement of statues, a traditional feature in Roman theatres. The scene was flanked by staircases leading to the upper diazoma. A gallery called metaskenio lined the front of the outer scenic wall. Mosaic floors with geometrical and linear patterns covered the entrances to the staircases and to the metaskenio. The monument was an extremely expensive construction, which is also confirmed by ancient testimonies referring mostly to the cedar wood used for the roof. It seems that the roof of the cavea, with a 38m radius, had no internal fixings, since there are no traces of such fixings, which constitutes a unique construction achievement even in our days. To the east, the Odeon was connected to the gallery of Eumenes, a roofed edifice built about three centuries previously (197-159 BC), by Eumenes, king of Pergamos (also known as Pergamon or Pergamum).
The Odeon was destroyed in 267 BC at the incursion of the Heruli (or Erils), who burnt and flattened many buildings in ancient Athens; it was never reconstructed contrary to other edifices that suffered damages. In later years, the Odeon was incorporated within the fortifications of the city of Athens. Its south wall made part of the Post-Roman wall erected in the third century AD, whereas in the thirteenth century the high scenic wall was included in the wall surrounding the Rizokastro, i.e. the base of the Acropolis hill. In the fourteenth century, the embankments covering the lower part of the monument's south wall were so thick, that the entrances were not visible anymore, and the Italian traveller Niccolo da Martini qualified it as a bridge. It was from the Odeon that the French Philhellene General K. Favieros and his soldiers entered Acropolis in 1826 during the siege of Acropolis by the Turks, supplying the beleaguered Greeks with provisions and gunpowder. The excavations at the monument started in the mid-nineteenth century by the Archaeological Society and the archaeologist K. Pittakis, removing tones of earth. The monument was restored during 1952-1953 using marble from the Dionysus area.
Herbert von Karajan and the Orchestra of the Athens Conservatory (later to become the Athens State Orchestra) at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (1939)


Modern events
The audience stands and the orchestra (stage) were restored using Pentelic marble in the 1950s. Since then it has been the main venue of the Athens Festival, which runs from May through October each year, featuring a variety of acclaimed Greek as well as International performances.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus with the Parthenon in the background

In 1957, Maria Callas performed at the Odeon as part of the Athens Festival and in the same year Edith Hamilton was pronounced an honorary citizen of Athens at ninety years of age. In May 1962 Frank Sinatra gave two benefit concerts for the city of Athens. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus was the venue for the Miss Universe 1973 pageant. Another memorable performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus was given by the Greek singer Nana Mouskouri in 1984; after 20 years of absence she returned to her country. Luciano Pavarotti performed at the Odeon twice, in 1991 and in 2004. Vangelis' Mythodea premiered at Odeon of Herodes Atticus in July 1993 and the venue hosted Yanni's Live at the Acropolis performance in September 1993. Sting performed at the venue during his Mercury Falling Tour on May 17, 1996. In June 2018 he returned for two more concerts. Mario Frangoulis has performed at the historic theatre with Yannis Markopoulos' and directed by Elias Malandris, Orpheus in 1996 and also played the role of Erotokritos in his work based on Vitsentzos Kornaros' Erotokritos. He also performed 'Axion Esti' poem by Odysseus Elytis music by Mikis Theodorakis and conducted by the composer himself in May 1998 to benefit Elpida Foundation for children suffering from cancer. Elton John performed two concerts at the venue during his Medusa tour in 2000. In June 2008, Sylvie Guillem performed Boléro in company with the Tokyo Ballet as part of the Athens Festival. In September 2010, tenor Andrea Bocelli held a concert at the Odeon to raise funds for cancer research. In 2012, Mario Frangoulis performed the leading role in Carl Orff's Carmina Burana at the Herodes Atticus theatre. 
In 2013. the 23rd World Congress of Philosophy opened in Athens on Sunday evening with a concert held at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus
In 2020 the first art exhibition was held on the site, by Greek artist Dionisis Kavallieratos, entitled 'Disoriented Dance / Misled Planet' organised by NEON Organization and the Athens and Epidaurus Festival.