Searching for Rhodes' Ancient Ampitheatres
Ask a musician their favorite venue to perform in, more than likely they will say an ampitheatre. Some of my best musical memories were playing in this semi-circular gestalt, surrounded by a crowd of people in holier-than-thou acoustics. We feel what the Greeks must have felt more than a thousand years ago: ultimate human connection. That's why I made it my mission to seek out the source of ancient ampitheatres while on Greece's largest Dodecanese island, Rhodes.
It was actually the perfect quest for a pregnant person because Rhodes is relatively easy to drive around in a day, and ampitheatres are relatively easy to scale, depending on who you ask.
“This is our last day free of chains!” Michael announced with his never-gets-old German accent. Yep, this really was the last day of the last trip we would take without a little squiggling 3rd person in tow. We laughed at the fact that we wouldn’t be able to zip around as quickly as we could now- the fascination with twigs and stones would soon overshadow these timeless ruins.
There are about 230 ampitheatres found across the Roman Empire, the earliest ones date from the middle of the first century BC. The word "theatre" literally translates to "watching place," and was built on a natural slope so the audience could see and hear the show with maximum impact. Sound waves filter out like ripples in a circular motion, making this the ideal structure for hearing even a pin drop.
Nerd alert: Researchers actually just discovered the natural stone the seats acted as a natural dampener to filter out unwanted frequencies. So, the Greeks were even more evolved than the high-functioning aqueduct systems and gentrified neighborhoods we knew them for. Who knew?
We set out to uncover the mystery of the Rhodesian ampitheatre on this bright and chilly day. How many were there? Rhodes is notorious for it's UNESCO -approved downtown, one of the best-preserved medieval settlements in all of Europe. It was a key stopover point for pilgrims sailing to the Holy Land and strategic warfare positioning during the Crusades, so we were bound to stumble upon a few ampitheatres. Bound to!
Heading west, we stopped in the ancient/touristy/gorgeous city of Lindos to mark my first ampitheatre sighting. But first, I barged in on the Dakas family's ceramic shop (one of the last authentic family ceramic makers on Rhodes) to tour their workshop.
In a hideaway mountain monastery on the south side of the island, I wandered in to an Orthodox church, incense burning and with only a few local families coming to visit. One of the resident monks popped out of nowhere like a character in Labyrinth to have a chat.
He saw I was pregnant and put his hand on my belly. "Oh, this will be a very special child. if it's a girl, she will cook, and if it's a boy, he will play football!”
Oh, yes, absolutely! My child will definitely cook. Did he know who he was talking to? It's ok, I played along with the funny joke. He gave me a small daisy he had plucked no doubt from the monastery’s garden and swept off, leaving as quickly as his came. I guess you haven’t lived till you’ve had your belly blessed by an Orthodox monk.
We rounded up the north side of the island, and I discovered my second-ish ampitheatre. Ok, well it wasn't an ampitheatre but was built in the shape of one. That was good enough for me. Ancient Kamiros is one of the most important archeological sites in all of Greece, flourishing 600 years before Christ and way ahead of its time regarding urban planning.
Before we completely circumvented the island, we managed to buy our combined weight in local Thyme honey, discovered my spirit animal is actually a parrot, ate enough Tzaziki to stave off vampires for a lifetime and catch a full moon in downtown Rhodes. We also found the final ampitheatre up at the Acropolis.
By the end of the day I was exhausted, but had triumphantly found 2 1/2 ampitheatres, and most importantly done my musician's duty to connect the past with the present.
Not a bad way to spend your last day "free of chains..."