It was built in 161 AD by the Athenian magnate Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla. It was originally a steep-sloped amphitheater with a three-story stone front wall and a wooden roof made of expensive, cedar of Lebanon timber. It was used as a venue for music concerts with a capacity of 5,000. It lasted intact until it was destroyed and turned into a ruin by the Heruli in 267 AD.
The audience stands and the orchestra (stage) were restored using pentelicmarble in the 1950s. Since then it has been the main venue of the Athens Festival, which runs from May through October each year, featuring a variety of acclaimed Greek as well as International performances; The Odeon has hosted Maria Callas, Maurice Béjart, the Bolshoi Ballets, Karolos Koun, Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Hatzidakis, Nikos Koundouros, Spiros Evangelatos, Giannis Markopoulos, George Dalaras, Haris Alexiou, Marinella, Dionysis Savopoulos and many other important artists and artistic organizations. It was the venue for the Miss Universe 1973 pageant, premiered Vangelis' Mythodea in July 1993 and hosted Yanni's Live at the Acropolis performance in September 1993. Another memorable performance at the Odeon of Herod Atticus was given by the Greek singer Nana Mouskouri in 1984; after 20 years of absence she returned to her country. In 1957, Edith Hamilton was pronounced an honorary citizen of Athens at ninety years of age. Sting performed at the venue during his Mercury Falling Tour on May 17, 1996. Elton John performed 2 concerts at the venue during his Medusa Tour in 2000. In September 2010, tenor Andrea Bocelli held a concert at the Odeon, attended by then prime minister George Papandreou, and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens, to raise funds for Cancer research. Mario Frangoulis has performed at the historic theatre with Yiannis Markopoulos Orpheus in 1996 and also played the role of Erotokritos in his work based on Vintentzos Kornaros's 'Erotokritos'. He performed Axion Esti by Odysseus Elytis music by Mikis Theodorakis and conducted by the composer himself in May 1998 to benefit Elpida for childrean suffering from cancer. In June 2008 Sylvie Guillem performed Bolero in company with the Tokyo Athens as part of the Athens Festival. In the Year 2012 Mario Frangoulis performed the leading role in Carl Orffs Carmina Burana at the Herod Atticus amphitheater.