The Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens
Built by Athenian benefactor (and Roman senator) Herodes Atticus in around 161 AD as a memorial to his late wife, Regilla, the Herodion (as it’s commonly called) is one of the most striking Athens monuments and one of the world’s oldest functioning theatres.
There can be few better ways to enjoy the Athenian night sky than a musical or theatrical performance of the Athens-Epidaurus Festival, for which the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is the main venue.
It wasn’t always open-air, with the original three-storey façade of arches being closed in by a wooden and tiled roof, making it the most prestigious Roman-era theatre in ancient Athens and a landmark of the city, even in antiquity. However, the roof burnt down around a century after it was built and its condition declined over the centuries (especially during Ottoman times) – although that didn’t stop it from continuing to stage performances and public events, even during the wartime German occupation.
Its rebirth came in 1950, with a refurbishment project that included the reconstruction of the characteristically steep tiers of seating from Pentelic marble, taking the capacity to around 5,000.
The venue has since hosted some of the world’s leading performers – from home-grown divas Maria Callas and Nana Mouskouri to international legends Luciano Pavarotti and Frank Sinatra and pop icons Elton John and Sting.