When I was a student at secondary school, and even later on at university, ancient monuments never really appealed to me. However, growing up, and especially since I took up cycling, I began to see things very differently. These places shine bright on an another dimension, totally foreign to the coincidental interest of the motorized tourist. They demand a certain sensitivity and a clear sight, both of which require prior preparatory effort in order to be acquired. We must, first, lay the foundations, just like the religious devotees prepare their humbled hearts through fasting. Otherwise, transitioning from the city walls to the Ancient Theatre will devalue mystagogy and rite into mere inanimate moments in the confines of a stone canopy.
Luckily, I know the difference between the two all too well, and that’s why I chose to visit the ancient theatre in Aigeira, with no other company than my trusty bicycle – mid-summer, in fact, when most people go to the beach.
The uphill ride to the theatre is truly a challenge. At first, the shade of the pines you come across after the village sweetens the ride, but, from there on, there’s only low-browed olive trees and a few almond trees enduring the scorching sun on a golden carpet of dried up weeds.
On my way up, I can feel the intensity of the nature surrounding me, as though it were a stage leaping out of the pages of Kazantzakis’ nostalgic world. I can imagine his characters accompanying me and leading me towards the theatre. It’s not long before a ramshackle sign comes into view, indicating that the Theatre is on the left. A few metres up ahead I turn right to a rugged fairy-tale path.
I cycle slowly, listening to the few cicadae that are interrupting the otherworldly peace and quiet. Soon, from the corner of my eye, I see the theatre’s stage from within the fenced enclosure. I move on a bit more, then leave my bike and try to open the large gate. It’s locked shut, and there doesn’t seem to be a member of staff in the kiosk. I take a furtive look around, climb over the gate and jump off on the other side. Complete stillness. All I can feel is a playful breeze, caressing my ears. With a few quick steps, I pass by Zeus’ temple and am now behind the remains of the proscenium.
The peaceful atmosphere of the place, combined with the first signs of neglect and abandonment, creates an unearthly setting that vibrates from the hidden energy of an ancient marvel. The stone Theatre stands before me, like an alien time portal, inviting me to lose myself in history’s vortex. I notice, as I walk to the stage, that it harmonically completes the clear blue sky. I pass by the scattered broken pieces of the proscenium and stand in the middle.
The grandstands are deformed from the long years of erosion. On most of them the wild weeds have taken over. Some other ones are so misshapen now that the archaeologists have been forced to safeguard them, using some graceless binding material. Yet, none of these changes can confuse the visitor. The effect it has on him/her is not influenced by time. It is influenced only by the visitor’s own self.
I walk towards the grandstands, climb up on each one instinctively and take a seat on the last one.
The sight you gaze upon when sitting in the Theatre feels like pure poetry. The Corinthian Gulf stretches before you like a continuation of the golden hill. This natural beauty, which so naturally attached itself as an extension of the theatrical performances, stirs up a strange sense of seclusion. A sentiment that cannot be justified, if one considers that the theatre is carved wholly out of the rock. It is, in other words, a natural monument. But, for some inexplicable reason, the more you look at it, the more it seems like a foreign body. Like an organism that came to being in the barren hillside of Aigeira, hundreds of years ago, to interact with our own reality, but somewhere in the depths of history, for reasons unknown, it lost its connection with our world and was left to be mercilessly plundered by time.
And we, the modern man and woman, gave it another chance and re-discovered it. We unburied it from the dirt and the rocks, we healed its wounds and christened it once more a Theatre – Ancient. Even so, we have yet not been able to interpret it; for man, the ancient theatre is nothing more than just a stone of historical importance.
For as long as our eyes are trapped in our civilization’s screens and walls, the ancient time portal will remain hidden, deeper and deeper, behind the curtain of our collective memory.
The Theatre of Ancient Aigeira is here
Written by me – Translated to english by C.Polydorou