Odeon of Herodes Atticus (II cent. CE, located on the southwest slope of the Acropolis of Athens).
The word “odeon” (from the greek ōideion ᾠδεῖον) means ‘place where you sing’ and it belongs to the same semantic family of words such as ōidē (ᾠδή) (poem), aidos (from the verb ᾄδω / áidō, «sing») (oral epic poet) and so forth. In its architectural meaning, it stands for a building provided with a roof, where musical competitions were held. If tragic competitions were held since their very beginning in an open-air structure, competitions / performances dealing with music, songs singing and poetry had a different building due to clearly different acoustic purposes: such building was the Odeon and the Roman architecture as well kept this difference. Therefore, the Odeon had a shape similar to that of any theatre and yet it was much smaller.
1) The oldest odeon in Athens dated back to the times of Pisistratus (VI sec. BCE), thus giving evidence that both buildings (the Dionysus Eleutherios theatre and the odeon) share a very ancient common origin and that very early this tyrant felt the importance of the ‘theatrical performances’ in a broader sense to enhance a common national identity and for political purposes, as well. Today nothing is left, but ancient sources tell us that this odeon was built near the Ilissos river and it was later restored by the Athenian Lycurgus. At the times of the comic playwright Aristophanes (446 – 386 BCE), this odeon was no longer used for artistic reasons, it had become a place where soldiers could be billeted, or where the corn was stored and then distributed.
2) Another odeon was built under the rule of Pericles in the V sec. BCE, it was a wooden building located on the southern slope of the Acropolis of Athens, very close to the entrance of the Theatre of Dionysus. Know as Odeon of Athens or Odeon of Pericles, nothing has survived to present day, yet we know a lot about it thanks to the descriptions of Plutarch, Vitruvius and Pausanias. Though being an odeon, it had many unusual characteristics: it was big (audience of 5.000) and it had a square shape instead of a circular one. This odeon had to host the musical contests that occurred during the festivity of the Panathenea, but it could also host some theatrical performances, whenever rain or bad weather could prevent people from enjoying tragic and comic plays at the Dionysus Theatre. According to the sources (both Vitruvius and Plutarch), stone pillars supported a wooden roof, made of the timber taken out of the captured Persian ships. A tent like structure was raised on the roof of this odeon to remind of Xerses’ tent, according to Pausanias, and to recall the victory of the Greeks against him. In 87-86 BCE this Odeon of Pericles was destroyed during Sulla’s siege of Athens.
3) Finally in 161 CE the wealthy Roman senator and Greek sophist, Herodes Atticus built in memory of his wife, Appia Annia Regilla, the present day Odeon of Herodes Atticus, as a stone theatre located on the southwestern slope of the Acropolis of Athens. Such structure had a wooden roof made of expensive cedar of Lebanon and could host an audience of 8.000 people. This concert hall was restored in the fifties and the present day amphitheatre stage is made of the famous pentelic marble.