Theater Was a Technological Miracle in Ancient Greece
Greek tragedy as we know it today was created in Athens back in 532 BC, when Thespis was becoming (with his performance in front of the public) the earliest recorded actor. Tragedy, comedy and the satyr play were the three dramatic genres to emerge there. After the “Great Destruction” of Athens by the Persians in 480 BC, the town, as well as the iconic Acropolis of the city were rebuilt, and theater became an even greater part of Athenian culture and civic pride. The development of theater itself as a structure was truly astonishing. From the simple platform where actors initially performed, theater in ancient Greece became so much more than just a form of art with the addition of the ingenious “pit” and the use of a wooden scenery, which was beautifully adorned with stone complexes and wonderful colonnades at the front part of the stage.
Nothing is more impressive, however, than the sound engineering when it comes to the acoustics of ancient Greek theater. You have probably heard about the amazing acoustics of the Epidaurus Theatre and how anyone in attendance could perfectly hear what the actors said without any amplification even if they were sitting 60 meters farther from the stage. Amazingly, the acoustics of the theater seem to work today just as well as they did when it was first built. But the acoustics weren’t the only thing that made theater in ancient Greece a technological miracle; for every play and performance, the ancient Greeks created stage machinery and also small automatically programmed shows, with animated characters and sound effects, which excited the crowd and gave them the sense of a surrealistic experience.
For example, lifting machines were widely used for the impressive hovering and descending of determinant persons on the stage for the action of the play (especially gods and goddesses) and rarely heavier “items,” such as tanks or horses with riders on. According to the merging of literary and pottery information, this consisted of a long jointed beam which was based on a rotating vertical beam. The load was ascended by rope through a pulley and manual winch located on both ends of the beam. The beam had a counterweight to balance the risen load. The machine was mounted behind the scene near the left passage in a nearly horizontal position.
The operator of the machine, after balancing the load with counterweight, gave through levers the required slope and then the required rotation to the beam so that the load be found above the middle of the proscenium. One wheel at the end of the balanced beam may have facilitated the operator in the rotation. Furthermore, rotating prismatic constructions located at each side of the central door of the ancient Greek theatrical stage for the rapid change of scenery. The three vertical sides illustrated representations of the plot providing nine different combinations of scenery to the play. It’s an undeniable fact that even though the ancient Greeks didn’t spend mini fortunes on their theatrical productions like most contemporary theater producers, they still managed to offer spectacular shows to their audiences.