Delphi heard the roar of the crowd echoing into the sky. She climbed the hill trying to look like she was supposed to be there. It wasn’t out of the question for women and children to be allowed to watch the performances, but not on her own and her dad had refused to let her come because it lasted all day and he insisted she would get bored. She had decided on the spot that she would be coming anyway.
The theatre was cut into the side of the Acropolis hill, its steps reaching up towards the Parthenon above. The great sweep of steps served as seats for the spectators while stone thrones were at the front and centre – where the judges of the drama sat. Theatre was a competitive sport in Athens. The crowd watched three new plays in one huge sitting, then the judges would declare one the winner.
Delphi found a space in an out of the way corner, above the main crowds. The first play had already started – the chorus were standing at the back singing, while a man wearing an unconvincing mask kept answering them. She had absolutely no idea what was going on.
She kept glancing around, but the space in front of her had a way of focusing your attention, making it impossible to look at anything other than the stage. The whole place felt like a temple with large statues to Dionysus watching the performance. There was a small shrine to the god, with his biggest statue, behind the stage, but it was out here where the real worship took place.
The crowd were hypnotised, occasionally laughing at a line that Delphi didn’t quite understand. It was in many ways the heart of Athenian culture - this was the birthplace of drama, of tragedy and comedy, where Oedipus married his mother and killed his father, where the god Dionysus travelled down to the world of the dead, and where the great heroes of the Trojan war met their fates.
Delphi watched for a while, then decided it was boring.