Ancient Greek Plays Help Us Reconstruct Europe’s Climate

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According to source provided by Wiley, open air plays performed by the ancient Greeks may suggest a valuable insight into the Mediterranean climate of the present. By studying and observing Greek history from artwork and plays, scientists identified ‘halcyon days’, of theatre friendly weather in mid-winter.

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Christina Chronopoulou, from the National and Kapodestrian University of Athens said, “We explored the weather conditions which enabled the Athenians of the classical era to watch theatre performances in open theatres during the midwinter weather conditions…..We aimed to do so by gathering and interpreting information from the classical plays of Greek drama from 5th and 4th centuries B.C.”

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When possible these ancient Athenians preferred watching drama in the middle of winter between 15 January and 15 February and liked to enjoy the open theatre of Dionysus in the southern foothills of the Acropolis.

To figure this piece of information, the university team went through the writings of 43 plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes and not surprisingly, several were found to contain references about the weather. The weather of Greece is usually a long, hot, dry summer; in spite of that the exceptional theatre friendly ‘halcyon days’ of clear, sunny weather during winters seemed to be particularly noteworthy.

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“The comedies of Aristophanes, often invoke the presence of the halcyon days,” Dr. Chronopoulou concluded. “Combining the fact that dramatic contests were held in mid-winter without any indication of postponement, and references from the dramas about the clear weather and mild winters, we can assume that those particular days of almost every January were summery in the fifth and maybe in the fourth centuries BC.”

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The detailed publication can be found out as follows:

Christina Chronopoulou, A. Mavrakis. Ancient Greek drama as an eyewitness of a specific meteorological phenomenon: indication of stability of the Halcyon days. Weather, 2014; 69 (3): 66 DOI: 10.1002/wea.2164





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