Now We Understand
People frequently test the acoustics of the ancient theatre at Epidaurus standing in the performing space and lighting a match, or dropping a few coins, or rattling some paper. On my honeymoon I whispered “I love you” to my wife sitting in the top most row. Amazingly, even the slightest subtleties can be heard with perfect clarity anywhere in the theatre.
For centuries people have puzzled over how the Greeks accomplished this engineering and acoustic wonder. Recent science has some new theories. Researchers think that the limestone composition and the design of the seats filtered out certain frequencies to cut down on crowd noise. At the same time they reflected others to help project the sound of the actors on stage.
Contemporary speculation is that the Greeks weren’t aware of how it all worked. I wonder. We have underestimated them before.