Located on the northeastern side of the Peloponnese and only 2 hours drive from Athens, Epidaurus is among the most important ancient sites of Greece. It owes its prosperity in the ancient times to the Asklepieion, the healing center where patients would come to be healed by god Apollo.
As Epidaurus was reputed to be the birthplace of Asclepius the healer, son of Apollo, its sanctuary and healing center was very popular in antiquity. Ill people would come there from all over Greece and Asia Minor to be cured with the god’s help. According to the healing process, all patients would sleep in a large sleeping hall (enkimeterio) and god Apollo would come to their dream. The next day, the patients would narrate their dreams to the priests of the sanctuary, who would later explain it and decide which treatment must be followed to cure the patient.
To thank the god for offering his advice, athletic games and other festivities would be organized every four years to his honor. This is why a stadium has been found next to the Asklepieion, where athletic competitions would take place in honor of god Apollo and his son, Asclepius. Also, this is why the famous Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus was constructed, so that performances and ceremonies would take place there as part of the festivities for the gods.
The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, that amazes visitors with its symmetry and beauty, was designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century BC. With a capacity to host 15,000 spectators, this theatre is famous for its exceptional acoustics that permits even the spectators of the last row to listen to what actors are saying on the scene.
Fame and prosperity followed the sanctuary of Asklepieion throughout the Hellenistic period, but afterward, it was raided many times by the Romans, the Goths and by pirates. However, even with the introduction of Christianity, the healing center continued to work as a Christina center, before it gradually declines along time. In 1988, the ancient site of Epidaurus was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site and today it is visited by millions of people every year.