18-21 May, 2010
In the morning I was picked up from my hotel and taken to my tour bus, where I joined 10 others who were doing either a 3-day or 4-day 'Classical' tour of mainland Greece. Our guide, Vassiliki, was by far the best guide I had on the tour. Her English was excellent, she had a good sense of humour and a passion for her subject. We learned a lot from her.
Our first stop was at the Corinth canal. As early as classical times people had thought of digging a canal between the Saronic Gulf and the Gulf of Corinth. But the canal was only finally dug in 1893. It is an impressive piece of engineering.
The next stop we made was at Epidauros, where there are remains of an ancient Temple of Asklepios and a beautiful ancient Greek theatre. Vassiliki told us that the key focus at Epidauros was the Temple of Asklepios, god of healing, and that the theatre performances offered healing of the mind to complement the healing of the body offered at the Temple.
The theatre at Epidauros was built in the 4th century BC and is the best preserved of all Greek theatres. Greek theatres are distinctive in having a circular 'orchestra' in the front, rather than a semi-circular space as in the Roman theatres. This circular space was originally for a group or chorus to perform songs and dances in praise of the gods, so Greek drama had religious origins. In the 6th century BC, a man named Thespis added an actor to this group, allowing stories to be told in a much more personal and affecting way. Subsequently extra actors were added during the 5th century BC.