Epidaurus – Ancient Sanctuary of Asclepius and Famous Amphitheatre

Epidaurus, built of limestone in late-4th-century-BC, is one of the best preserved Ancient Greek structures. The amphitheatre is famous for its extraordinary acoustics; if you drop a coin in the theatre centre below it can be heard all the way up to the last seat row. The theatre is in use till this day housing performances during the annual Athens & Epidaurus Festival. It seats up to 15,000 people.

History of Epidaurus

Female statue without hands in the Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus. Argolida prefecture, Peloponnese, Greece
Female statue without hands in the Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus. Argolida prefecture, Peloponnese, Greece

Epidaurus was independent of Argos and not included in Argolis until the time of the Romans. Reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son Asclepius, the healer, Epidaurus was known for its sanctuary situated about five miles (8 km) from the town, as well as its theatre, which is once again in use today. The cult of Asclepius at Epidaurus is attested in the 6th century BC, when the older hill-top sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas was no longer spacious enough.

Why was Ancient Epidaurus important?

The ancient theatre of Epidaurus in Argolida, Peloponnese Greece

Mycenae & Epidaurus


The asclepieion at Epidaurus was the most celebrated healing center of the classical world, the place where ill people went in the hope of being cured. To find out the right cure for their ailments, they spent a night in the enkoimeteria, a big sleeping hall. In their dreams, the god himself would advise them what they had to do to regain their health. Found in the sanctuary, there was a guest house for 160 guestrooms. There are also mineral springs in the vicinity which may have been used in healing. 

Where is the Epidaurus theatre in Greece?

Landscape of Old Epidaurus in Argolis Greece - Palaia Epidauros
Landscape of Old Epidaurus (Palaia Epidauros) in Argolis Peloponnese

Epidaurus was a small city in ancient Greece, at the Saronic Gulf. You will find it southeast of Delphi, across the peninsula from Argos in Peloponnese . Two modern towns bear the name Epidavros: Palaia Epidavros and Nea Epidavros. Since 2010 they belong to the new municipality of Epidavros, part of the peripheral unit of Argolis. The seat of the municipality is the town Asklipieio.

There were two other similarly named Greek cities. One Epidaurus in Dalmatia and another Epidaurus Limera in Laconia.

Where is Epidaurus on a map?

Map of the Argo Saronic Gulf in Greece
Click to enlarge map

When was Epidaurus built?

Asclepius, the most important healer god of antiquity, brought prosperity to the sanctuary, which in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC embarked on an ambitious building program for enlarging and reconstruction of monumental buildings. Fame and prosperity continued throughout the Hellenistic period. In 87 BC the sanctuary was looted by the Roman general Sulla, and in 67 BC, it was plundered by pirates. In the 2nd century AD, the sanctuary enjoyed a new upsurge under the Romans, but in AD 395 the Goths raided the sanctuary.

Aerial view of the archaeological site of ancient Epidaurus or Epidavros in Argolida, Peloponnese Greece
Aerial view of the archaeological site of ancient Epidaurus in Argolida, Peloponnese Greece

Even after the introduction of Christianity and the silencing of the oracles, the sanctuary at Epidauros was still known as late as the mid 5th century, although as a Christian healing center.

Who built Epidaurus theatre?

Parts of the destroyed marble columns in the Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus, Argolida prefecture, Peloponnese, Greece
Parts of the destroyed marble columns in the Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus

The prosperity brought by the Asklepieion enabled Epidauros to construct civic monuments too: the huge theatre that delighted Pausanias for its symmetry and beauty, which is used once again for dramatic performances, the ceremonial Hestiatoreion (banqueting hall), baths and a palaestra. The theater was designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century BC. The original 34 rows were extended in Roman times by another 21 rows. As is usual for Greek theatres (and as opposed to Roman ones), the view on a lush landscape behind the skênê is an integral part of the theatre itself and is not to be obscured. It seats up to 15,000 people.

What is Epidaurus famous for?

Aerial view of Epidaurus theatre - Photo by Vergas
The Ancient Greeks built the acoustically perfect amphitheatre in Epidaurus that is still used to this day, over two thousand years later – Photo by Vergas

The theatre is marveled for its exceptional acoustics,which permit almost perfect intelligibility of unamplified spoken word from the proscenium or skênê to all 15,000 spectators, regardless of their seating. Famously, tour guides have their groups scattered in the stands and show them how they can easily hear the sound of a match struck at center-stage. A 2007 study by Nico F. Declercq and Cindy Dekeyser of the Georgia Institute of Technology indicates that the astonishing acoustic properties are either the result of an accident or the product of advanced design: The rows of limestone seats filter out low-frequency sounds, such as the murmur of the crowd, and amplify/reflect high-frequency sounds from the stage.

Athens Epidaurus Festival 2021

Pot with blooming bougainvillea against New Epidaurus cityscape, Peloponnese, Greece
New Epidaurus village, Argolis, Peloponnese

Today, the amphitheatre Epidaurus is still used for plays and concerts during the summer months. You can find the summer programm for 2021 and book your tickets for performances during June, July, and August here

The Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus

The Archaeological Museum of Epidaurus is noted for its reconstructions of temples and its columns and inscriptions; it was established in 1902 and opened in 1909 to display artifacts unearthed in the ancient site of Epidaurus in the surrounding area.
Epidaurus was a major healing center in classical Greece. The museum is small, but there are some interesting artifacts that show how ancient medicine was actually practiced.