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Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War a Theatrical Sensation in Athens

The National Herald

Lessons of War II at the Megaron in Athens, May 7-14. Photo by Stavros Habakis

ATHENS – The Megaron Athens Concert Hall is hosting, May 7-14, the sequel to Lessons of War, an original dramatization of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War that in 2018 became the “talk of the town,” cherished by critics and audiences alike.

Lessons of War II: The Sicilian Drama by playwright Dr. John Lignadis dramatizes selected passages from the second phase of the Peloponnesian War, the Sicilian Expedition (415-413 BCE), drawing its material from the 6th and 7th books of Thucydides’ History.

The play covers the second part of the Peloponnesian War. Lessons of War first staged in May 2018 at the Athens Concert Hall by leading Greek actor and director Dimitris Lignadis in a series of sold-out performances covered the first part of the war. By popular demand, the play returned in September, November, and December. Numerous domestic and international theater critics gave the play enthusiastic reviews and editorials, including Kathimerini and the Financial Times in Britain. In March 2019, Lessons of War was invited to perform at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Lessons of War II focuses on the most dramatic phase of the war for Athens, the great delusion of sovereignty in the West, the audacious tribulations of the Sicilian Campaign, the ultimate annihilation of Athenian forces and the definitive crushing of the imperialistic dream. The political and military "tragedy of Athens" is embodied by its major protagonists, the controversial Alcibiades and the unfortunate Nicias.

The National Herald Archive

Actor and director Dimitris Lignadis in Lessons of War II at the Megaron in Athens, May 7-14. Photo by Stavros Habakis

Central to the play are the terrible consequences of imperialist policies of the 5th century BCE Athenian democratic superpower. These policies were dictated by demagogues, i.e. popular politicians who were ambitious warmongers and who possessed the art of persuading the masses into voting for such policies.

Dimitris Lignadis returns as director for the Sicilian Drama and appears in the play along with a cast of young actors. Acclaimed Greek composer Theodore Economou performs original music live on stage on a celesta. Lighting, sets and costumes allow the historian’s words to rise and resonate fully with audiences. The performance includes a brief introduction by historical consultant Dr. Andronike Makres. The play is a co-production of The Athens Concert Hall and Dramaticus, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the dramatization of ancient Greek historical texts.

Lessons of War seeks to show that Thucydides’ text is an experience in history. The dramatization of historical prose, i.e. turning the narrative into action, or imitation (mimesis), delivers a vivid and essentially more direct experience of history. Furthermore, it becomes evident that, through dramatization, the individual experience of history transitions into a collective one.

The text of the play is very close to Thucydides’ original text. The performance also seeks to instruct by demonstrating that, on a cognitive level, knowledge and understanding of the ancient historical narrative is relevant to modern political discourse. At the emotional level, the play transmits the tragic and visceral elements unleashed by military violence. It attempts to showcase the eternal and universal essence of the tragedy of war, the dark and complicated mechanisms behind the war phenomenon. Thucydides’ history belongs to all humanity, and its themes universal to human experience.

The National Herald

Actor and director Dimitris Lignadis in Lessons of War II at the Megaron in Athens, May 7-14. Photo by Stavros Habakis

The play is performed in Greek with English supertitles and runs from May 7-14, 9 PM, at the Megaron- Athens Concert Hall.

Lessons of War II: The Sicilian Drama

Text-Dramaturgy: John Lignadis

Director: Dimitris Lignadis

Music: Theodore Economou

Historical Consultant: Dr. Andronike Makres

English supertitles: Georgetta Theofilou

Tickets available at www.megaron.gr and the Athens Concert Hall ticket office.