Acropolis South Slope
At the same time with the building programme on the Acropolis, the area of the hill’s southern slope was rearranged. The Theatre of Dionysus was renovated and a new temple was built near the older one. Pericles constructed a big odeum, while the sanctuary of Asclepius was founded on the west, the Asclepieion. Furthermore, more small temples and other sanctuaries filled the southwest area of the Acropolis.
The Sanctuary and the Theatre of Dionysus
The Theatre of Dionysus is perhaps the most ancient theatre in the world. The area where it was constructed was the sanctuary of Dionysus with whom the ancient drama was closely related. In the archaic period, there was only a small temple and north of this temple was a circular space, the orchestra, where various events took place during the celebrations of the god (the Rural and the City Dionysia). The spectators sat on the side of the hill where wooden benches were later added. When the drama had finally taken its final form, Lycurgus, archon of Athens from 337 BCE, renovated completely the theatre dressing it with marble
The koilon of the theatre had only one diazoma which was actually a road (the peripatos, a road that run around the Acropolis) which separated the theatre in two parts. The frontmost seats were 67 thrones made of marble for the officials whose attributes were carved on. The total capacity of the theatre was 16.000 spectators. The stage building in the classical and hellenistic period was relatively simple, compared to the later one constructed by the Roman emperor Nero.
South of the theatre and behind the stage, there was the sanctuary of Dionysus. In the southern wall of stage was a small stoa and nearby was the archaic temple of Dionysus. Next to it, a new doric temple was erected in 340 BCE measuring 21,95m X 10,5m.
Closely related to the theatre are the choragic monuments. These were temple-like buildings that were erected by the sponsors of the winning dramatic plays, on the top of which a tripod was placed as a price. In 320 BCE the choragic monument of Thrasyllos was built on the higher spot of the Theatre, carved on the rock of the Acropolis. More monuments of this type were erected on the so-called Road of the Tripods. One of them is the perfectly preserved monument of Lysicrates.
The Odeum of Pericles
West of the Theatre was the Odeum of Pericles. It was almost square (62,4m X 68,6m) and was constructed in the middle of the 5th c. BCE. According to ancient writers, its plan was based on Xerxes’ tent and the roof was made of the Persian of boats‘ timber. At the beggining, it was used as lawcourt and a meeting place for the councils. Later however, was hosting the musical competitions during the feast of Panathenaea.
The odeum was destroyed by the Athenians, in 86 BCE, in order to avoid the use of the timber by the Roman general Sylla who was at the time besieging the city. It was rebuilt in 61 BCE. with the expenses of the king of Cappadocia, Ariobarzanes the 2nd. The Odeum of Pericles was the biggest roofed building of greek antiquity.
The sanctuary of Asclepius, the Asclepieion was founded in the end of 5th century BCE by a man named Telemachus, who brought the cult of the healer god in Athens from Epidaurus. The place where it was built was selected because there was a small spring, very essential element for the cleaning of the patients.
The sanctuary consisted of a the small temple of Asclepius and two stoas. The one was Doric and two-storied. This was used as an infirmary. It was called enkoimeterion (the place where someone sleeps) because there slept the patients waiting to see the god in their dream, giving the advises for treatment or to cure them. A second smaller ionic stoa could be found westwards. It had four rooms in which the various visitors resided.
The sanctuary was destroyed in 267 CE by their Heruli and later on, was replaced by a Christian basilica dedicated to the Saints Anargyri, not by chance, as they are considered protectors of health.
Finally, west of the Asclepieion and beneath the southwest side of the Acropolis, many shrines and sanctuaries were built and can be seen below.
From right to left: the first building with tile roof was a fountain which had already been cunstructed during the archaic years. In front of the fountain were two temples. The second one is the temple of Themis. Next is the temple of Venus Pandimos and beyond that, the temple of Earth Kourotrophos. In the far end, under the temple of Nike on the Acropolis, was the sanctuary of Aigeus.
For other monuments of Classic Athens click below: