Through an ongoing presence since 1991, aiming to create the tradition of the Sacred Theatre under the guidance of Maria Peretzi, RODA has placed Alcibiades at the centre of its timeless performance “Alcibiades, Saint”, studying through this misunderstood figure both the fatal errors of Athenian expansionism and the direct connection of Socratic thought with the ancient Mysteries. With the vivid representation of three ancient Mysteries, the Eleusinian, Pan and Cabeiri on stage, Pythagorean and Platonic teaching is reconnected to its roots in the mystical rites of antiquity.
But why Alcibiades and even “Saint”?
A great mystery full of contradictions seems to surround the person and life of the most important political figure of classical Athens after Pericles. Alcibiades was Socrates’ favorite disciple but went down in history as an opportunist, an arrogant “vagabond”. No matter how accurately he foresaw the consequences of the self-destructive behavior of democratic Athens, he was held totally responsible for its decline and eventual fall. And finally, it is he who is associated with the very fate of the Platonic philosophical tradition which, for centuries, remains cut off from its inner and revelatory dimension, since its content is treated in a purely “moralistic” way.
Through this timeless theatrical production and its groundbreaking point-of-view, RODA penetrates the contemporary complex reality and features its perspectives, linking it to Platonic Philosophy and the truth about the expansionism of Athenian democracy.
How can one approach Greek philosophy in a new invigorating way that, in an era of deep value crisis and bankruptcy of ideas, the Greek spirit can be revitalized? What are the reasons that cause an entire political and social system to decline? The misunderstood personality of the Athenian general Alcibiades emerges as the central dramatic figure for understanding the era of 5th century BC democratic Athens, which, trapped in the irresponsibility of its politicians and their inability to come together and take concerted action, was driven to collapse.
The performance “Alcibiades, Saint” is an elaborate spectacle with 30 actors, impressive costumes, aesthetic lighting and live original music played by an excellent orchestra, which frames and highlights the action, creating a unique sound ambiance. It premiered in 2004 at “Pireos 131” theatre in Athens. Since then, it has been presented repeatedly in Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras in open air and indoor theatres, in major festivals, receiving excellent reviews and screenings from all media.
Why RODA staged Alcibiades
Strange as it may sound, the fact is that the picture we have of Alcibiades is the result of falsifications, bordering on a historical conspiracy against him. The mixed feelings constantly aroused by his scandalous private life have always accompanied, and still accompany his reputation, to the point of overshadowing his astonishing personal achievements and his far-sighted plans to realize the ideals of Athenian democracy that prevailed in his time.
By staging a play about Alcibiades, RODA sheds light to ancient Athens during its “golden age”, perhaps the most interesting period of ancient Greek history.
During those years, the preclassical world, bounded by the order of the gods, the exploits of heroes and the religiosity of the mysteries, was being transformed under the pressure of the times. New mores and customs, new needs, the newly acquired wealth of the middle democratic class and the imperialistic Athenian appetite caused social unrest that erupted in military confrontations with other cities. The rivalry with Sparta grew along with conflicts against Persian rule in Asia Minor. At the same time, arts and trade flourished, while spiritual achievements brought forward figures like Socrates, whose teaching gave birth to the tradition of Platonic philosophy.
Alcibiades was the central political figure of the years after Pericles
His public life was an impressive, dizzying adventure. As a general, he led over 300 battles at land and at sea and was never defeated, not once! But his fellow Athenians, carried away by malicious accusations against him, which were very often nothing but slander, trusted incompetent politicians, and his had disastrous results for the city, as reported by Thoucydides. When their shortsightedness brought about their final defeat and with it, Alcibiades’ death, the fury of the crowd turned against Socrates. This was the real cause of his condemnation. Alcibiades was the representative par excellence of the “youth” that Socrates was accused of “corrupting” with his teaching. It was certainly no coincidence that Socrates’s chief accuser was Anytos, he who considered Socrates his rival for favor with Alcibiades when he was still an adolescent.
Alcibiades’ life is not exhausted by the descriptions of his public life, or the scandals of his personal life. What may have defined him as an individual was his apprenticeship in philosophy. He was an ardent devotee of all mystery rites, to the extent that the comedy writers of his day mocked him for it. The fact that he was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries and that he constantly attended the ritualistic “orgies” of Thrace and all of Greece and of Asia Minor, one realizes that what characterized him was an inner quest. Alcibiades was a mystic. He was a product of the great philosophical tradition that was written down by Plato, a tradition that had begun with Socrates’ apprenticeship with Diotima and had its roots even further back, in the ancient Mysteries of Pan.
According to M.L. Morgan, a prominent scholar, Plato’ s relationship with Greek piety is deeper than an encounter with the world of Olympian deities, sacrifices and religious holidays. Plato adopts aspects of Greek ecstatic rites as a framework for his philosophical inquiry. This religious dimension helps us understand the reasons why philosophy was so important to him.
The root of the philosophy itself is the ancient ritual mysteries. This is the perspective from which RODA approaches the life of Alcibiades.
Stage Composition & Texts: Dimitri Peretzi
Director Maria Peretzi