Odeum - Encyclopedia

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ODEUM (Gr. Odeion), the name given to a concert hall in ancient Greece. In a general way its construction was similar to that of a theatre, but it was only a quarter of the size and was provided with a roof for acoustic purposes, a characteristic difference. The oldest known Odeum in Greece was the Skias at Sparta, so called from its resemblance to the top of a parasol, said to have been erected by Theodorus of Samos (600 B.C.); in Athens an Odeum near the spring Enneacrunus on the Ilissus was referred to the age of Peisistratus, and appears to have been rebuilt or restored by Lycurgus (c. 330 B.C.). This is probably the building which, according to Aristophanes (Wasps, 1109), was used for judicial purposes, for the distribution of corn, and even for the billeting of soldiers. The building which served as a model for later similar constructions was the Odeum of Pericles (completed c. 445) on the south-eastern slope of the rock of the Acropolis, whose conical roof, a supposed imitation of the tent of Xerxes, was made of the masts of captured Persian ships. It was destroyed by Aristion, the so-called tyrant of Athens, at the time of the rising against Sulla (87), and rebuilt by Ariobarzanes II., king of Cappadocia (Appian, Mithrid. 38). The most magnificent example of its kind, however, was the Odeum built on the south-west cliff of the Acropolis at Athens about A.D. 160 by the wealthy sophist and rhetorician Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife, considerable remains of which are still to be seen. It had accommodation for 8000 persons, and the ceiling was constructed of beautifully carved beams of cedar wood, probably with an open space in the centre to admit the light. It was also profusely decorated with pictures and other works of art. Similar buildings also existed in other parts of Greece; at Corinth, also the gift of Herodes Atticus; at Patrae, where there was a famous statue of Apollo; at Smyrna, Tralles, and other towns in Asia Minor. The first Odeum in Rome was built by Domitian, a second by Trajan.

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