Education

Theater of Dionysus, Athens, Greece, n.d.


Historical Context
Greek theaters were open-air and built into hillsides.  The Theater of Dionysus was the world’s first theater.  Plays in Athens were performed in the agora (marketplace) until a spectator got hurt; then a site on the southern side of the Acropolis was chosen for the theater.

    

The Theater of Dionysus was originally built to honor the god Dionysus.  The stage building, which had scenery in the background, and the benches were first constructed of wood in the fifth century BCE.  The orchestra was actually a circular area meant for singing and dancing.  In the early theater, it was made of dirt.  The theater was later rebuilt in stone and could hold an audience of up to 17,000 people.  

    

The seats for the audience were in rows up the side of the hill.  Sets of stairs separated the seats into different sections, making it easier for such large crowds to come and go.
Essential Question
What role does culture play in the development of a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the importance of cultural activities in Greek society.
[click to enlarge]
Athens, Greece - Theater of Dionysus, New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_A7539
Document Description
A photograph of the Theater of Dionysus, Athens, Greece, n.d.
Questions
  1. Have you ever been to a theater?  What do you think it was made of?
  2. This is an old theater. What does it look like it was made of?
  3. Why do you think it was built out in the open?
  4. Where did the people sit? 
  5. Where did the actors perform? 
  6. What do you think happened to the theater?
Historical Challenge
Write a play to dramatize a Greek myth. Remember that most Greek plays involved telling the story of a hero.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Using the scale found on the plan of the Acropolis, determine how far it was between the Theater of Dionysius and the Parthenon, or the Cave of Apollo.
Science: Explain how levers might have been used to build this theater.
English Language Arts: Find a student version of a Greek play, assign different roles, and perform it. Other students could make the scenery.
Resources
  1. Arnott, Peter. Public and Performances in the Greek Theater. Taylor & Francis, Inc., March 1991. ISBN: 0415062993
  2. Green, J.R. Theatre in Ancient Greek Society. Taylor & Francis, Inc., August 1996. ISBN: 0415143594
  3. Ferris, Julie. Ancient Greece. Houghton Mifflin Company, August 1999. ISBN: 0753452197
  4. Guy, John. Greek Life. Barron's Educational Series, Incorporated, August 1998. ISBN: 0764106309
  5. http://lilt.ilstu.edu/drjclassics/lectures/theater/ancient_greek_theater.shtm
  6. http://library.thinkquest.org/10805/greece.html