Dionysus, the Olympian god, is known as the god of grapes, wine, intoxication and fertility. But in ancient Greece, he was also worshipped as the patron of the theatre. The open-air theatre found on the southern slope of the Acropolis in Athens was used for this purpose and thus it is known as the Theatre of Dionysus.
According to various sources, the first drama was performed here in about 534 BC, the year s thus often considered the dawn of the theatre. Later many great works of legendary Hellenistic authors were performed in the theatre. The structure of Ancient Greek theatres took on their final form in the Hellenistic age. The horseshoe-shaped auditorium encircled the orchestra. Seats were initially made of timber, and later of stone tiles, or carved from rock.
The design of the tiered auditorium was such that spectators could hear the play perfectly even in the back rows. Initially, the orchestra was simply a flattened, circular patch of earth where the chorus danced and sang in honour of Dionysus.
Later it was paved and its shape was not perfectly circular. The actual stage was a raised platform on logs, located behind the orchestra. There was usually a multi-storey scenic wall in the background, serving also to enclose the space of the theatre.
Only men could perform in the Ancient Greek theatre, so female roles were also played by young men or boys. Emotions were expressed using masks; actors also wore platform shoes during Performances.
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