The Persians by Aeschylus

The livestream event is over! Thank you for attending!

Sat, 25.7.2020: Livestream started at 17:00 GMT – Performance started at 18:00 GMT


For the first time ever, an ancient Greek drama performance will be streamed live, from the ancient theater of Epidaurus, often called “the world’s most beautiful theater.”

As countries around the world are still exploring ways to restart theater in the post-COVID era, and as most festivals across Europe have been unfortunately canceled this year, the Athens and Epidaurus Festival will still take place, albeit in a condensed form, titled Fragment, adhering to the strictest safety measures.

Within the framework of this year’s Festival, the National Theatre of Greece with the support of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports will present to a global audience a production of Aeschylus’ drama The Persians, commemorating the 25th centennial of the Battle of Salamis. It is the first time that a major ancient Greek drama production is being livestreamed, and it is also the first time that any event is being livestreamed from Epidaurus.

On this occasion, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated: “As humanity is still challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the first ever live streaming of an ancient Greek drama performance from the ancient theater of Epidaurus is, Ι believe, a pivotal moment. This performance of Aeschylus' The Persians, on July 25, comes at a critical juncture to underscore the universality of the principles that led to the construction of the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, a UNESCO World Heritage site, 2300 years ago. The Persians, Aeschylus’ most important antiwar play, dramatizes the naval battle of Salamis, one of the most decisive battles in the history of humanity, constantly recalling the timeless values of democracy and freedom, as well as the meaning of Ancient Greek metron and moderation”

The play will be streamed live at 21.00 Athens time (GMT +2), in partnership with Google Greece. It will be available worldwide except Greece, exclusively through the YouTube platform, free of charge, although donations will be welcomed. All proceeds will benefit the National Theatre and Greek actors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Google will host the livestreaming and provide technical support as well as major free promotion across YouTube regarding the livestreaming event.

The play is in Greek with English subtitles and lasts approximately 90 minutes.

  • Lina Mendoni

    The Ministry of Culture and Sports’ goal has been to prevent COVID-19 from leaving Greece without cultural events this summer, from leaving artists without employment opportunities and from leaving local communities without additional revenues. The Athens and Epidaurus Festival and the National Theatre of Greece, two major cultural institutions supervised by the Ministry, share our beliefs and adjusted their programming in the new reality, in a creative manner.

    The theater of Epidaurus, work of architect Polycleitus the Younger, is connected to the born of theater as well as healing, as it was part of a holy site dedicated to Asclepius, god of medicine and father of goddess Hygeia who personifies health. Music and dramatic contests hosted at this theater were part of the patients’ therapy, as they prayed to the god for their healing. It is therefore quite fitting that in 2020, when the entire planet is being tried by COVID-19, that Greece symbolically and literally transmits globally an ancient drama performance from the holiest of places, to heal the wounds that were inflicted by this pandemic. This summer Greece sends its own message around the world that art can heal body and soul, as ancient Greek philosophers and doctors taught us. This summer, we keep safe while still enjoying art.

    Lina Mendoni
    Minister of Culture and Sports

  • Dimitris Lignadis

    Two and a half thousand years ago, the theatre was born in Greece – and specifically in Attica – as the product of an advanced society that had found a balance between the individual and the collective, centred on citizens and their education.

    Aeschylus’ Persians is the oldest drama that has survived in full to the present day and is at the same time a historical account of the most important conflict in the second Persian invasion of Greece, the Battle of Salamis, which took place exactly 2500 years ago. It was one of the most decisive battles in the history of humanity, whose outcome determined the world’s future. The Persians is a tragedy of defeat; defeat caused by hubris.

    This year, our planet has experienced an unprecedented and terrifying pandemic, COVID-19, which overturned everything we once thought we knew and brought us face to face with our responsibilities. Amidst an enforced lockdown, art and the theatre once more emerged as vital human needs, as a place of refuge.

    The National Theatre of Greece, in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, invites the entire planet to the most beautiful theatre in the world, at Ancient Epidaurus, to share and participate – even if only online – in our production of The Persians; in a ritual that takes us back to the past, reminding us of the essence and the core of existence, which is at the same time a bridge between people and cultures. The theatre is, of course, quintessentially the art form of communication and dialogue. Culture is the child of the education of one place but at the same time belongs to all humanity. A humanity that has the right to unity and to the bridging of distances, even when the conditions do not allow it.

    Anyone looking for the heart of culture will find it beating in the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, in the National Theatre of Greece’s first production of ancient drama in the post-COVID era, to which the whole planet is invited.

    Dimitris Lignadis
    Director of The Persians
    Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Greece

  • Peggy Antonakou

    For the first time, YouTube will give the opportunity to an international audience, to virtually travel to the home of the theater and to the magical landscape of Epidaurus and to watch live, via live stream, the Persians by Aeschylus – one of the leading ancient Greek tragedies. And while it is true that nothing can compare with the physical presence in such a sacred place like Epidaurus, the fact that, in these adverse conditions we can share a taste of our cultural heritage and unparalleled Greek experience with people who would like to visit our country but are currently undergoing restrictions is really important.

    Peggy Antonakou
    General Manager Southeast Europe for Google

Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus

The Asclepeion of Epidaurus,
a place of care for the body and the soul

The Asclepeion of Epidaurus, an ancient healing temple dedicated to Asclepius, the god of medicine and the protector of human health and personal happiness, was the most important therapeutic centre in the entire Greek and Roman world. Its fame spread far beyond Argolis and it was considered the birthplace of medicine, while its monuments bear extraordinary witness to the development from faith healing to science. More than 200 healing centres in the eastern Mediterranean are believed to have operated under authorisation from the Asclepeion of Epidaurus.

During the 4th and 3rd century BCE, widespread warfare led people to seek the help of Asclepius even more, and the sanctuary became one of the richest of that time. This resulted in a number of great works of construction. The temple of Asclepius, the abaton (a place of ritual sleeping), the tholos (a colonnaded rotunda) and the theatre, the banqueting hall, the hostel and the stadium, the temple and the altar of Apollo, the great stoa, the living quarters of the priests and the shrine of the Muses are all monuments of that era. It is worth noting that in contrast to other temples, worship at the Asclepeion of Epidaurus continued even after the ancient religion was officially banned in 426 AD, and the site was only finally abandoned after the catastrophic earthquakes of 522 and 551.

The ancient theatre of the Asclepeion of Epidaurus

The Theatre of the Asclepeion of Epidaurus, built on the northwest slope of Mount Cynortion, is the consummate form of the architectural experience of the ancient world, combining elegance with perfect acoustics, and is the best preserved ancient theatre in Greece. It was built in the late 4th or early 3rd century BCE by the architect Polycleitus the Younger to host the music, singing and dramatic contests involved in the worship of Asclepius. Attendance was an integral part of the treatment of patients, as the ancient Greeks viewed the nurturing and cultivation of the soul and spiritual development as inherent to bodily health.

The harmony of the theatre is due to its unique design, based on a regular pentagonal orchestra (the part of the theatre where the performances took place), as well as the use of three centres in the plan of the curved cavea, where the spectators sat. Specifically, the cavea originally comprised 34 rows of seats, holding between 6000 and 8000 spectators, divided into 12 cunei (wedge-shaped sections) and 13 staircases, radiating outwards from the corners of a notional 20-sided polygon in the orchestra. The seats in the first row were for officials and were distinguished by being made from limestone and having backs. In the mid-2nd century BCE, the cavea was extended and its capacity increased to 13,000 or 14,000 spectators. The orchestra is 20 metres in diameter, with the thymele, the base of an altar of Dionysus, at its centre.

The theatre came to light during excavations by Panagis Kavvadias from 1881 to 1883. Since then, its continuous care has aimed to repair damage from natural causes and the use of the monument.

After centuries of silence, ancient drama was once again heard at Epidaurus in 1938, when the National Theatre of Greece (NTG) performed Dimitris Rondiris’ production of Sophocles’ Electra, starring Katina Paxinou and Eleni Papadaki. Regular performances of ancient drama by the NTG began in 1954, while in the following year, the Epidaurus Festival was inaugurated as an annual event for the presentation of ancient drama with a performance of Euripides’ Hippolytus.

The Persians by Aeschylus

THE PERSIANS by Aeschylus
Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus 24, 25 & 26 July

The Persians

The Persians (472 BCE) is the oldest ancient Greek drama that has survived in full to the present day. It is also a historical record of the most important battle of the sec-ond Persian invasion of Greece (and one of the most crucial conflicts in human histo-ry), the Battle of Salamis, in which the play’s author, Aeschylus, took part.

Without triumphalism or bravado, and with respect for the suffering of the defeated, Aeschylus delivers a paean to the freedom of the individual, juxtaposing democratic ideals with tyranny and blind obedience to power. Victory crowns those who act wisely, while the mechanism of justice punishes anyone whose pride leads them into excesses, offending both gods and men with their arrogance.

The plot

In Susa, the Persian capital, the old men who loyally guard the glorious palaces of Xerxes are awaiting news of their army’s campaign against the Greeks, and are ap-prehensive about the outcome of the expedition.

The impressive size of the Persian army, the fame of its generals, and the god-given power of their king do nothing to allay the fears of the elders, who know all too well how the web of Ate, the goddess of folly, can entrap men and lead them to their ru-in.

Their trepidation reaches its peak when Queen Atossa, the mother of the campaign’s commander, Xerxes, and the wife of the deceased King Darius, recounts an ominous dream in which Xerxes attempts to yoke a Greek woman and an Asian woman to his chariot. The Greek woman breaks free, throwing the king to the ground.

The arrival of an out-of-breath messenger confirms their worst premonitions: the Persian army has been annihilated; the Greeks have won.

A detailed account of the rout concludes with a long description of the Battle of Salamis, the flight of Xerxes, and the ill fortune of the remaining army that attempt-ed to return by land.

Darius, the symbol of former glory, is summoned from Hades by a necromantic ritu-al and the grief of the Persians. According to the dead king, the blame for the disas-ter lies with the arrogant Xerxes, whose hubris defies nature and the gods. The arri-val of the ragged and vanquished king, in stark contrast to the magnificent presence of Darius, completes the image of absolute defeat. Praise for the achievements of the past is transformed into wailing and lamentation for the present, crowning the suffering in the once-splendid palace of the Persians.

  • Translation – Metric coaching: Theodoros Stephanopoulos
    Directed by Dimitris Lignadis
    Choreography - Movement: Konstantinos Rigos
    Set design: Alegia Papageorgiou
    Costume design: Eva Nathena
    Music: Giorgos Poulios
    Lighting Design: Christina Thanasoula
    Music coaching: Melina Peonidou
    Assistant to the director: Nurmala Easty
    Dramaturg: Eva Saraga
    Assistant to the set designer: Daphne Foteinatou
    Assistant to the costume designer: Sofia Gavala
    Assistants to the choreographer: Markella Manoliadou, Angelos Panagopoulos
    Assistant to the light designer: Marieta Pavlaki
    English subtitles translation: Christiana Pourgali
    Live subtitles projection:
  • Vasilis Athanasopoulos
    Alberto Fais
    Konstantinos Gavalas
    Nikos Karathanos
    Lydia Koniordou
    Spyridon Kyriazopoulos
    Alkiviadis Maggonas
    Laertes Malkotsis
    Giorgos Mavridis
    Argyris Pandazaras
    Dimitris Papanikolaou
    Giannos Perlegas
    Michalis Theofanous
    Argyris Xafis

  • Photos by Marilena Anastasiadou

National Theatre of Greece

Greece's first state theatre company was the Royal Theatre, which was founded in 1901 and operated until 1908. It was reestablished under the name National Theatre in 1930 and opened for the public in March 1932. The National Theatre of Greece, during its 90 years of existence, has succeeded in creating a powerful theatrical tradition.

The repertory of the National Theatre aims at polyphony, promoting a dialogue between tradition, present and future. The revival of Ancient Greek Drama remains a key area of interest for the National Theatre in an effort to combine respect for tradition with new trends. In 1938 the National Theatre of Greece performed its first open-air production of ancient drama, Sophocles’ Electra; the first performance after centuries at the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus. In 1955 the NTG established the Festival of Epidaurus.

Today, there are five venues in the National Theatre in Ziller Building, in Rex Theatre and the School of Athens – Irene Papas (open-air venue under construction). The National Theatre is always open to collaborations with foreign theatres and artists - tours, joint productions with major theatres abroad, participation in international festivals, educational programs, invitations to important contemporary artists; these are all part of the effort to broaden an already established network. Since 2009 the NTG has also been a member of the European Theatre’s Union.

The Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Greece is the actor and director Dimitris Lignadis.

Find out more:

The National Theatre of Greece's production of The Persians is being live-streamed free of charge worldwide (outside Greece). Anyone who wishes to do so can make a donation to support the National Theatre of Greece, its work and its staff.

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Donations can be made using a Visa or MasterCard credit, debit or prepaid card on the Ticket Services site and are processed through the Eurobank online payment environment.


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