Epidaurus Archaeological Site (Επίδαυρος)




Location: Argolis region, Peloponnese Peninsula  Map


Epidaurus is an ancient Greek archeological site in Argolis region, Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece. Epidaurus is the most important ancient place of worship of the god Asclepius. It is located in the area of today's city of Ligourio (Municipality of Asklipieio, Municipality of Epidaurus) in the Peloponnese in the region of Argolida, about 30 km from the city of Nafplio, 20 km from Nea Epidavros and about 13 km from Old Epidaurus. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988.


The name Epidaurus was given to her by her third lord in a row, who was also a hero of Epidaurus, Epidaurus, son of Argos and Evadni. According to Homer, Epidaurus took part in the Trojan War and was led by Podaleirios and Mahaona, who were sons of Asclepius. Epidaurus took part in the Median Wars and was an ally of the Spartans in the Peloponnesian War. In fact, the Epidaurus War is noted, which took place between them and the Argeian allies of the Athenians. It became a member of the Achaean Confederation in 243 BC.

Famous throughout Greece made its Asclepieion, one of the most important of antiquity, with the sanctuary of Asclepius which is about 15 km from the city. Apollo was worshiped in about the same places, but there was a special sanctuary in his honor a little higher than the ancient theater. From the end of the 5th century and the beginning of the 4th, Asklepios became the real owner of the city. The area of ​​Epidaurus is generally mountainous. It has few arable lands, difficult transport and inaccessible coasts. Thus, the population in antiquity was probably sparse with main occupations being agriculture and animal husbandry. Of course, the still incomplete archaeological research of Epidaurus reinforces this impression. On the other hand, the difficulty of land transport favored communication by sea. Soon, the port of Epidaurus was created, which opened the culture of the inhabitants of the area to the vital area of ​​the Aegean. The inhabitants of this place in antiquity were a conservative society. It was characterized by the traditional Doric organization in classical times, which, however, had not limited its scope, developing overseas activity.

Remains of habitation exist from the Early Helladic era (3rd millennium BC). On the flat hill above the village there are even today remnants of archaic and classical fortifications, as well as traces of habitation in the classical era. The area was first inhabited by Mediterranean pre-Greek leaves, which the tradition later remembered as Kares. In the Mycenaean times Ionians were settled in it. With the arrival of the Dorians they left with their king Pityreas in Attica or some remained in the area or left for the coasts of Asia Minor. At least, those memories were saved by tradition.

Seven chambered Mycenaean tombs in the Katarachi hills testify to prosperity during the Mycenaean times. Remains of the citadel and the buildings of the classic city are visible today mainly above and near the cape "Island", which forms its port, as well as in the sea around the cape and to its south: polygonal walls, epigraphic finds place the market of the city at the neck of the cape, while houses from the Roman period (…) erase the spread of the city to the NW.

According to archaeologists, none of the city's sanctuaries is confirmed with certainty. A sanctuary of Hera must have been located where the church of the village, Agios Nikolaos, is built today. In recent years, the very well-preserved theater of the city has become known. Its seats bear all the inscriptions that testify that they were donated by the city officials to Dionysus (4th-3rd century BC).

The history of Epidaurus during the historical Greek times (1st millennium) is not considered remarkable. Characteristic are the disputes with the Argives over the territories of the region and the preservation of their independence until the end, thanks to the friendship and cooperation with Corinth and Sparta.

The official sanctuary of the city-state of Epidaurus was the Asclepieion. Nearby is an older sanctuary, of Apollo Maleata. The typical of the Asclepieion considered common the worship of Apollo and his son Asclepius. This mountainous area of ​​the Asclepieion played an important cultural role for the coastal region. The tradition of the two fertile goddesses of fertility, Damia and Ascension, whose ancient olive tree statues were a coveted guarantee of happiness for the cities of the region, is typical.

In the 5th c. e.g. the sanctuary of Asclepius acquires fame and influence. The feast of the sanctuary of the Asclepieion becomes pan-Hellenic. This reputation brings financial strength, especially during the 4th-3rd c. e.g. The sanctuary remained in great prosperity during the Hellenistic times, but also in the Roman years until the 2nd c. A.D.


In the port, north of the Island, warships were moored. Most likely, a wall had been built to separate it from the opposite cape. In the center of the wall there was a gate, exactly where today are the buoys that measure the depth of the canal water. "Under the water one can clearly see the ruins of the foundations. South of the island there was the commercial port. The ruins of the port, its roads and storage areas can be seen even today under the waters of the bay of Gialasio". The locals call the place "sunken city". The actors of the dramatic performances in Epidaurus used to swim there.

In 395 AD the Goths of Alaric arrive here too, plundering everything. The official ban of ancient cults by the Byzantine emperor Theodosius II (426 AD) marked the end of the action of the sanctuary of Asclepieion. The large five-aisled basilica of the 5th c. A.D. in the NE of the sanctuary highlights with its presence the victory of Christianity.

The ruins of an early Christian church dedicated to the Virgin Mary were found on the "Island" peninsula, where the acropolis of Ancient Epidaurus is located, near the present-day village of Palea Epidaurus. It is single-aisled with a semicircular arch and dates to the end of the 6th century at the latest. It was probably a castle church.

We do not know exactly what caused the end of the city of Epidaurus. Most likely, the cause was some contamination from the swamps near the city. Others talk about the eruption of the neighboring volcano of Methana and even speculate that a tidal wave was caused later. Perhaps this unrest also caused the union of the Island with the mainland.

From 1821 it becomes again a village called Palea Epidavros. It is slowly becoming the only port in eastern Argolis that exports the region's products: lemons, rope flour, vegetables, fruits and, in particular, grapes - a vast vineyard was once the place. It has been observed since 1971 that in Epidaurus the inhabitants have limited their agricultural occupations to the cultivation of citrus fruits. The effort for tourism of their community turned to other activities.

Its manners and customs, songs and traditions, a composition from the folklore material of Argolida, in general, also become a distant echo of another life. In a prestigious archeological site, P. Epidavros has in front of it the shapely peninsula

- on it the ancient state - which is connected from the north with its port and from the south with the plain beach, the bay of Ai Vlasi. Here there was a wonderful sandy beach of 4 km crowned by fertile and fruitful land. The ascent to Hersonissos - Island for the locals leads to its wide ridge, where the walls of the citadel of the 5th c. e.g. and the ruins of the city of Epidaurus, as well as the theater. It was discovered in 1971 by the archaeologist Evangelia Deilaki and excavated by the Archaeological Service of Nafplio in 1972.

The houses, rooted in the hills of Agios Theodoros and Asprokambitis, are reflected in the sheltered waters of its small port. The hill of Kalamaki is covered with pine trees, next to the beach of Vagionia, near the beautiful church of Ai Nikolas, at the edge of the port. There, the locals remember that in the first years of the Festival hundreds of tourists - visitors gather to enjoy the sea of ​​Epidaurus. at the edge of Gelasi, while in the bay of Ai Vlasi, the high peak Ali Rema - or Ali Pithari is reflected.


The myth of the birth of Asclepius in Epidaurus is due to Hesiod. Before him, it was believed that Asclepius was the son of Apollo and Thessaly Koronida, from whom Hermes took Asclepius' fetus, while she was about to burn. The attempt to present Asclepius as born in Epidaurus, positioned his birth as the fruit of the mating of Apollo with Arsinoe, daughter of the king of Messinia. In Epidaurus this second version gained pan-Hellenic radiation, due to the reputation of the sanctuary.

Asclepius was worshiped in the beginning as a hero and not as a god and his worship had many heroic elements. This is evidenced by the older ruins, where the labyrinth dominates, an underground building, in which, to get to its center, you have to go through all its corridors. The labyrinth was used for sacrifices to the god. But just from its construction, we conclude that these sacrifices were secret, similar to those made for the dead. So Asclepius was in the consciousness of men mortal in the beginning and not a god.

His worship is always accompanied by the sacred serpent. The heroic element that characterized the cult of Asclepius, over time, is transformed into a religion in his honor and Epidaurus is filled, at the beginning of the 4th century, with majestic monuments. Among them stands out the majestic temple in which the ivory statue of the god Asclepius is kept.

The Asclepieion
The Asclepieion of Epidaurus became the most famous of all the asclepieces of ancient Greece, due to the many and serious cases that were treated there. Sick people from all over Greece, but also from the Mediterranean basin, begged for divine mercy.

Its area was very large and had hostels, gym, stadium and the famous, for its acoustics, Theater, for the entertainment of the people.

Of great importance in the treatment of patients seems to have been the wonderful natural environment, which was built. The tranquility of nature, the soft and clear lines of the surrounding mountains, the rich vegetation and the abundant springs exerted, especially on the patients with mental illnesses, a terrible effect resulting in the improvement of health with the help of their priests.

Excavations and buildings
The excavations of Epidaurus were made by P. Kavvadias and lasted from 1881 until his death. The excavations were undertaken by the Archaeological Society. An important role in the course of the excavations was played by the non-profit offer of the inhabitants of Ligourio, who, in addition to the work they offered, gave their lands near the Archaeological site on a non-profit basis. The first place that the visitor sees, when he reaches the sanctuary, are the propylaea. The propylaea, whose construction dates back to Mycenaean times, was a building that consisted of two galleries with six columns each. One was Ionic and the other Corinthian. The second building is the temple of Asclepius, whose construction lasted 5 whole years. It is a temple of Doric style in which there was also the statue of the god Thrasymides made by the artist Parios. Just behind the temple, is the Dome, which was the most famous building of the sanctuary. Other buildings follow, such as the abbey, the house of the priests, the temples for Artemis, the sanctuary of Apollo and, finally, the theater.

The theater of Epidaurus
In a ravine, in 340 BC, the ancient architect Polykleitos the Younger built, according to Pausanias, the theater of Epidaurus. Of all the ancient theaters, the theater of Epidaurus is the most beautiful and the best preserved. Intended for the entertainment of patients has a capacity of 13,000 spectators. Is divided into two parts. One of 21 rows of seats for the people and below, of 34 rows of seats, for priests and lords.

Its wonderful acoustics, but also the very good condition in which it is maintained contributed to the creation of the Epidaurus festival, an institution that has been started for many years. Apart from the greatest Greek actors such as Alexis Minotis, Thanos Kotsopoulos, Katina Paxinou, Anna Synodinou, Thanasis Vengos, he has appeared in Epidaurus. and the famous Greek soprano Maria Callas.

T national assemblies were held in Epidaurus during the Greek revolution. The first on 20 - 12 - 1821 which declared the independence of the Greek nation and the second in March 1826.