CULTURE

Amphiareion: Cures like a dream

Amphiareion, in a fertile valley in northern Attica, 4 kilometers from the present-day village of Kalamos and 50 km from Athens, was a holy healing place and sanctuary in ancient times.

The system of healing that was employed there has been likened to shamanism, as it relied on a complex process including baths, fasting, meditation, animal sacrifice, a sleep ritual (enkoimesis) and the interpretation of patients? dreams by the priests to prescribe the suitable therapy.

As early as the 5th century BC, the site was a place where the mythical hero Amphiaraus was worshipped. Its buildings stand on the banks of a stream, the Charadra, as it was called. They included a Doric temple, measuring 28×14 meters ? the southern part of which was swept away by the stream during late antiquity ? and a grand stoa, measuring 11 m in width and 110 m in length, which was used for accommodation purposes by visitors and the sick. At the eastern and western ends of the stoa were two rooms equipped with benches and tables that were also used as sleeping quarters by those who sought the oracle of Amphiaraus.

Another important part of the remains is the theater, built in the 2nd century BC, with wooden seats and a capacity for 300 spectators. Today only the orchestra remains in good condition. Five marble thrones, with relief floral decoration, can be seen at the edge of the orchestra.

To the west of the stoa is a row of bases for the statues that once flanked the road leading to the temple. One is for the statue of Sulla, the Roman dictator who became a benefactor in 86 BC and was honored with an inscription.

Visitors today will be struck by the tranquillity of the place, nestled amid pine and plane trees.

Archaeological site tel 22950.62144. Buses to Kalamos leave from Pedion tou Areos in Athens (tel 210.880.8080).