The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a jewel of the Roman period and one of the best-preserved monuments of the entire Acropolis of Athens. It was built in the 2nd century AD to host musical events, and, fortunately, it is still in operation.
Hello traveler! I am a tour guide in Athens and I welcome you to my site. Are you interested in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus? I hope so, because I’m going to tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about it (plus some other interesting facts).
Note: This article is part of the virtual tour of the Acropolis of Athens that we offer free of charge on our website. If you do not know what this is about and want to find out EVERYTHING about this sacred enclosure (including the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, the theater of Dionysus, etc.), then you should visit the homepage.
When visiting the Acropolis of Athens, one of the most incredible moments for tourists is undoubtedly when they see the Odeon of Herodes Atticus from above (which you can find before crossing the Propylaea). Let’s find out why:
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus was the third Odeon built in ancient Athens after the one of the famous Athenian politician Pericles (also located on the Acropolis) and that of the Roman politician and general Agrippa (which was built in the ancient agora). However, as you can see for yourself, this is the best-preserved of all (if not the only one).
Did you know that the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is nothing more than a romantic gesture?
We owe the construction of this masterpiece to the benefactor Tiberius Claudius Herodes Atticus, a descendant of a very prestigious (and of course wealthy) family of Athens. – But why did he decide to conduct this immense work? – The answer is his wife:
In 160 AD, his wife, named Regilla, died, and Herodes Atticus decided to build this Odeon to commemorate and honor her. – Which was the result? – Thanks to the ancient traveler and geographer Pausanias we can know exactly since he describes it perfectly:
Architecture and characteristics of Herodes’ Odeon
After approximately ten years of construction, the Athenians finally got to know this Odeon (located next to the Temple of Asclepius). Its structure was very similar to that of a conventional Roman theater. The main difference was that a wooden roof covered the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in this case. In fact, this element is the only one missing today from the whole monument, but let’s continue:
The Odeon had, and still has, a capacity for 5,000 spectators arranged in 32 rows with a diameter of 80 meters. It was relatively small considering that at that time, Athens had 290,000 inhabitants. The stage was made of white Pentelic marble (mixed with other types of marble), which is 19 meters.
According to various ancient testimonies, it is known that the construction of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus was extremely expensive, especially for the cedarwood used for the roof (which had a diameter of 38 meters).
Was it built almost entirely of marble? But was its high cost only due to the wood?
Let’s find out an interesting fact:
In ancient Greece, marble was not as expensive as it may seem since Hellada (as the ancient Greeks called Greece) was rocky terrain, and they had several abundant quarries of this material. In fact, being a relatively dry area, wood was a very precious raw material. All the other temples and monuments you will see on the Acropolis of Athens are composed of the same white marble.
The Odeon of Herod was connected to the theater of Dionysius by an immense portico called the Stoa of Eumenes. It was a “corridor” 162 meters long and 18 meters wide connecting both theaters, named after the Pergamon King Eumenes II (who, of course, was the donor).
Finally, Herodes’ Odeon was destroyed by the Heruli, a Germanic tribe that invaded the Roman Empire in 267 AD. They were also responsible for the fact that today we cannot enjoy many other monuments of ancient Greece.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus today
Today the theater is exactly the same as when it was built in the 2nd century, except for the roof that was never rebuilt or replaced. But believe me: if you do NOT know that it used to have a roof, you will NOT notice anything strange, since it is in PERFECT CONDITION.
However, you may be wondering: Having this prestige, being so well-preserved, and located next to the Acropolis of Athens. Don’t they take advantage of it?
Of course, they do!
Nowadays, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is used for theatrical and musical performances. Still, it has also been utilized for other significant events such as the Miss Universe pageant in 1973, the concert of the Greek singer Nana Mouskouri in 1984 (after being absent for 20 years), the recording of the first album by composer Yanni.
However, the most important event that still takes place here during summer is the Athens Festival. Here is the official website where you can find ALL the events that are organized: http://greekfestival.gr/?lang=en
Congratulations, traveler, on reading this far! You’re definitely getting ready to make the most of your visit to the Acropolis of Athens. You can now skip to the next monument and continue with our virtual tour.
Ticket prices and opening hours of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Except for those events held during the Athens festival, you cannot enter the interior of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. However, it is possible to get a magnificent view of it from inside the Acropolis of Athens; in fact, this is the most common case.
So, the opening hours of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus are defined by the timetable of the Acropolis itself since it is necessary to pay the entrance fee to visit the whole site.
If you want to know the schedule, the price of admission depending on the season, and all the different kinds of tickets, click on the following link: The Acropolis of Athens (Complete Guide).