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How much did it cost to attend a performance at the Greek theater?

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Kristin Pasculle eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Performances of Greek theatre were generally free to the public. Theater performance as an art form is thought to have begun in Greece when performances were created to celebrate religious festivals. The Greeks had a festival called the City Dionysia to honor the god Dionysus. Religious rituals and songs, performances in themselves, evolved into theatre. The ancient theaters seated 12,000–14,000 audience members in an amphitheater style. Because of the celebratory nature of the performances, up until the fifth century BCE it was free for the people to watch the performances as a way to honor the gods and to reinforce morals. Whether or not women were permitted to attend is often questioned. The topics of the performances were often of a religious nature and warned against the wrath of the gods for disobedience. After the fifth century, people were charged two obols, or roughly 1/6 of a drachma, for admittance. Even when admission was free, seating was arranged by a person's station.

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It is conjectured that admission costs were originally free, but changed once crowds became too large.

As far as scholars and archaeologists can tell, anyone could attend the theatre performances of the ancient Greek people. Scholars contest whether women were among these theatre-goers, although it is well-known that married women were considered to be citizens who shared in their husband's citizenship to a strictly limited extent. Local officials were usually in attendance, sitting in the front rows.

The cost of a visit to the theater would have been around two obols, which was equivalent to an unskilled laborer's wages for a day. If a male citizen of Athens was unable to pay for the theatre ticket, he might have been able to apply for a special ticket, furnished by a general fund for men who belonged to their local "deme," or district, where it was necessary for citizens to register their citizenship on the citizen-list.

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