Dionysus Liberator

The Theatre of Dionysus was a major open-air theatre in Athens, one of the earliest theaters in the world, where plays were performed at festivals in honour of the god Dionysus. It is commonly confused with the later and better preserved Odeon of Herodes Atticus at the southwest slope of the Acropolis. In 534 BCE, the Athenian tyrant Peisistratus transferred the Dionysiac festival from the rural district of Eleutherae inside the city of Athens.[1] The plays that formed a part of these festivals were at first performed on a flat circular area in the Agora of Athens, but were transferred about 500 BCE to the sloping southern side of the Acropolis, where a temple to Dionysus was also built with an outside altar.[2] It formed part of the sacred precinct, or temenos, of Dionysos Eleuthereus (“Dionysus Liberator”). The theater was able to hold up to 25,000 people, with them all able to hear clearly what was being said on stage. Dedicated to the god of wine and fertility, patron of drama, and the liberator of man from his everyday worries, it hosted the City Dionysia festival. Amongst those who competed are all the dramatists of the classical era who composed plays that have survived: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and Menander. (Dozens of other playwrights are known by name; thousands of other tragedies, comedies, and satyr-plays are known only by name or in small fragments.)


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