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Home 27 January 2021
Culture Archaeological sites and monuments Epirus Dodonochoria (the Dodoni villages)

The ancient theater of Dodoni
The ancient theater of Dodoni
The Temple of Dodoni, in which votive offerings were kept up to the 4th century b.c., was converted to a temple of Zeus at the end of the 4th century b.c., while in the time of Pirros a three sided Ionian loggia was constructed around it where the King of
The Ancient Theater of Dodoni

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In the area the organised archeological site of Dodoni dominates. Here was the oldest, according to Herodotus oracle of ancient Greece.
The presence of human communities here from the end of the 3rd millenium BC is witnessed by stone axes, blades of local limestone and hand made vessels, that excavations brought to light. The name Dodoni, like the name Tomaros, are pre-hellenic. From the early 2nd millenium objects of every day use and weapons bear the stamp of Micynaic civilisation and prove the relations of the people of Dodoni with the colonies of Micyne on the Ionian coast. Little is known about the following centuries (1100-800 BC), which experts link to the descent of the Molossi, a Greek tribe that drove back the Thesproti (the first Greeks of Ipiros), and remained the domonant tribe of Dodoni. Communication with southern Greece was interrupted and restored in the 9th century, according to excavation research. The pious from the Corinthian colonies of the Ionian sea then began to dedicate bronze tripods, weapons and jewels to the sanctuary, enriching it, until Athenian expansive policy displaced the Corinthians and Athens intervened as the protecting power in the affairs of Ipiros in the 5th century. The Molossi became members of the A’ Athenian Alliance and a new period began for all Ipiros which has passed into “history.” Communities were organised, the wall and acropoles were built.
In the 4th century BC whole cities were built (Kassopi, Gitani, Orraon), and coins were made, the alphabet and writing were introduced and the first political pact was made, the “Koino ton Molosson,” centered in Dodoni. Zeus and Dioni who resided at the root of the holy beech tree and sent messages to their priests, now (4th century BC) had their homes, which were luxurious but plain ( the Zeus of Ipiros like all people of Ipiros did not like waste), was named “Iera Oikia” and had of course in its calm scenery the prerennial beech tree. A much more recent beech tree awaits the modern visitor with the ruins of the sacred residence that had four construction phases in the 800 years the sanctuary functioned until in 393 AD it was closed by the perhaps justifiably centralist Byzantine emperor Thedosius the Great, who wanted one state with one religion.
But let us return to the 4th century BC. A Molosson princess, named Olympiada descended from the mythical Achilles, becomes the wife and then widow of Philip I of Macedon, and is of course the mother of Alexander the Great and despairs of the fact that the Athenian every year send an observer to Dodoni. The decline of Athens has begun. The famous Alliance of Ipiros (340 BC – 234 BC) united the locals and embelished the religious and cultural centre of Ipiros, Dodoni, with brilliant buildings that at the same time covered the needs of the new “state.”
The Vouleftirio was built with the altar of Zeus in the middle where the representatives of this sanctified parliament were sworn in, the Prytaneio, which in its guest rooms housed famous people and very important persons. In the collonade of its yard problems large and small were solved. The temple of Aphrodite was raised, the first temple of Dioni and the temple of Themis and the polygonic wall at the top of the hill. The reign of Pyrrus (297BC – 272 BC) expanded the zone of influence of the Alliance which started to intervene more or less in the affairs of the Hellenic area and Italy. Dodoni reached its acme. The Theatre was built, with a capacity of 17,000 people, three layers (visitors in our day see only the first two, the third and largest with 18 rows has not been restored), 55 rows of seats and two gigantic walls protecting the theatre from landslides. The monumental enclosure with the grand southern entrance is being brought to light gradually by excavations.
The temple of Heracles was located here, and the Naia were held here, athletic, dramatic, horse racing and perhaps also musical competitions. In 234BC the “Koino ton Ipiroton” pact was founded, which was democratic, since the last descendant of the Aiakides has eclipsed. A new period of acme which was interupted by the destructive invasion of the Aitoli in 219 BC which turned Dodoni into scorched earth. The following year the people of Ipiros invaded the Thermo of Aitolia and with the booty of the attack rebuilt their sanctuaries and buildings. They built a stadium, which is one of the few known stadiums with stone steps. The roman conquest brought wear to the buildings while the theatre in the age of Augustus (1st century BC) was turned into an arena. Present day very important persons in vein seek to sit in the first rows of seats before the scene. A stone construction of 2.80 m height protects the circus from the wild beasts… The ruins of an early Christian basilica in the eastern side of the sacred area confirms the written record that claims that Dodoni was the seat of a Bishop from the 4th century AD. Repeated invasions led to the abandonment of the space in the 6th century AD. Excavations began in the 19th century by Karapanos, were continued by Evangelidis, and the unforgetable Sotiris Dakaris brought to light the theatre and most buildings. His work is continued by his students Amalia Vlahopoulou, Hrysiida Souli and Konstantina Gravani, archeologists and professors at the University of Ioannina.

The entrance of the archeological site of Dodoni is from the arena of the stadium while in antiquity visitors came from the valley exactly opposite the theatre.

The priests of Zeus and the priests of Dioni were in direct contact with the chthonian gods. They walked bare foot according to the homeric texts, and did not even wash their feet so as not to lose contact with the earth. They knew how to interpret the rustling of the leaves of the holy beech tree, the flight or the purling of the pigeons, the sound of water and other signs that our sources do not describe

Pilgrims wrote their queries to the deity on lead plates that are displayed at the archeological museum of Ioannina.
The questions concerned almost always private affairs. They asked whether or not they would have children with their wife, whether or not they should travel, what profession their should follow etc. There were also queries about important issues of their communities and leaders.
The last man who consulted the Oracle was Julian Paravatis before campaigning against the Persians.

The cemetery has not been excavated in the sacred site. Some box shaped graves have been found northwest of the area, in Dramesii, and northeast at the foothills of the Manoliasa.

The ruins of an ancient acropolis (4th century BC) have been found at Aghia Anastasia.

At Meligi is located a prehistoric community at the Gouves site.