Dionysos theatre

The Dionysos Theater of Athens has a long history: the theater was founded by Peisistratos around 540 BC, who brought the countryfied worship of Dionysos to Athens in an attempt to win over the farmers’ population for his rule. In Peisistratos’ time, the structure consisted only of the circular orchestra, the dance place where the choir could perform phallic dances in honor of Dionysos, while the audience watched from the slopes of the acropolis. In the 5th century BC. the theatre gets wooden benches and a wooden stage building, while the marble benches, which we now find so characteristic of a Greek theater, were only built in the 4th century (around 320 by the statesman-builder Lykourgos), At that time the form of the orchestra was also adapted. The front row consisted of 67 finely crafted seats for the most important officials of Athens, while the richly decorated marble stage still bears witness to the worship of Dionysus, in the form of both satyrs that are watching each other over half the width of the stage. Of course, the countless images once stood in and around the theater have now disappeared.

The sanctuary of Dionysus was not the theatre, but the sacred court before it. Only a few remnants of this sacred court remain, although it is possible to recognize the foundations of two temples, the Old Temple (T1) and the New Temple (T2), a long column hall (S) and the large altar for the god (A).


In and around the Dionysos Theater stood monuments in honor of the chorègos of a play or piece of music that had won first prize at one of the music or theatre festivals (in honor of Dionysos) that the city has used to have. These so-called choregic monuments (M) were often richly decorated and in most cases had a bronze tripod on the roof. Well known (and very well preserved) is the Monument of Lysicrates in the Street of the Tripods, which ran from the Dionysos Theatre along the east side of the acropolis to the agora.


High above the Dionysos Theater, a cave has been carved out and by means of pilasters and doors is expanded into the choregic monument of Thrasyllos, while above it are two columns (the bases for 2 tripods) of yet another choregic monument.