ANCIENT CAPITAL OF
PEACE AND SPORT...
the west of the Peloponnese, 16 km inland from the Ionian Sea, the
main road out of Pyrgos leads into legendary Olympia’s. In a peaceful
and luxuriant valley at the confluence of the rivers
Cladeus, the vast archaeological
site of Olympia stretches over the lower slopes of a hill covered
with pines and olive trees that fill the air with fragrance on hot
Geography - Demography
The modern village of Ancient Olympia lies on a hill, near the remains
of the magnificent and glorious structures of Olympia. Population:
1,812 inhabitants. Here is also the Museum of the Modern Olympic
Games, with many choice items from the Modern Olympic Games on display
(torches, stamps, and so on).
History and Mythology
The first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC,
after the ‘descent of the Dorians’ to southern Greece and after
the worship of Zeus had started to spread. It was a king of Elis,
Iphitos, who established that the Games were to be held every four
years. Athletes came to Olympia from towns on the Greek mainland
- and later on from Ionia and Sicily too – to compete at Olympia
for four days. At first there were only half a dozen sports, but
in the fifth century BC they increased to thirteen. The prize was
a kotinos, or wreath of intertwined olive branches, and it was a
prize that any athlete or city longed to win. The heyday of the
Olympic Games was from the sixth to the fourth century BC. The institution
of the ‘sacred truce’ meant that city-states temporarily ceased
hostilities, which helped them settle their disputes and realize
the unity of the Hellenic nation. It was a major religious, cultural
and sporting centre, a pole of attraction for
Hellenism, and the bond that linked motherland Greece
with the colonies of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The celebrations
at Games-time lent the city religious splendor and influence until
the 4th century BC. The sanctuary of Olympia was pillaged by the
Romans in 74 BC in the course of their conquest of Greece. The Games
lost their glory and the main purpose under Hadrian. Thereafter,
Olympia played neither a religious nor a political role and the
crowds filled the stadium from curiosity, not from faith or respect.
The Games went on until 393 AD, a year before Theodosios II ‘the
Great’ prohibited “pagan” festivals. In 426 AD, Theodosios ordered
the destruction of all pagan temples. In the following years, an
earthquake, fire and pillage completed his work. The first excavations
- by the French scientific mission of Blouet and Dubois in May 1829
revealed the exact position of the temple of Zeus. In 1875, the
Greek Parliament ratified an agreement with the German Archaeological
Institute, authorizing them to undertake the excavations, which
are still under way.
Olympic Games More...
Gymnasium and Palaestra
(Wrestling House). The gymnasium in
ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors
in public games. It was also a place for socializing and engaging
in intellectual pursuits. The name comes from the Greek term gymnos
meaning naked. Athletes competed in the nude, a practice said to
encourage aesthetic appreciation of the male body and a tribute
to the Gods. Gymnasia were typically large structures containing
spaces for each type of exercise as well as a stadium, palaistra,
baths, outer porticos for practice in bad weather, and covered porticos
where philosophers and other "men of letters" gave public lectures
and held disputations.
Olympic Games More...
wrestling school. The events that did not require a
lot of space, such as
were practiced there. The palaestra functioned both
independently and as a part of public
A palaestra could exist without a gymnasium, but no
gymnasium could exist without a palaestra. The
at Olympia is centered around a large courtyard covered
with sand for use as a
Along all four sides of the palaestra are rooms that
opened onto the porticoes. It is not possible to say
for what most of the other rooms lining the porticoes
were used. Since Olympia had no resident population,
the palaestra and gymnasium would not have included
spaces for lectures or intellectual discourse and would
have been used primarily by competitors in the sanctuary
The workshop of Fidias
BC - c.430 BC), son of Charmides, (not to be mistaken
for the Charmides who participated in the tyranny at
Athens) , was an ancient Greek sculptor, painter and
architect, universally regarded as the greatest of all
Classical sculptors. Phidias designed the statues of
the goddess Athena on the Athenian Acropolis (Athena
Parthenos inside the Parthenon and the Athena Promachos)
and the colossal seated Statue of Zeus at Olympia in
the 5th century BC. The workshop of Pheidias was
turned into a Basilica and the site was inhabited by
a Christian community until the late 6th century. After
this point the site was buried under the alluvial deposits
of two rivers until its discovery by archaeologists
in the 19th century
Leonidaion was the lodging place for athletes taking
part in the
It was located at the southwest edge of the sanctuary
and was the largest building on the site. It was constructed
around 330 BCE and was funded and designed by Leonidas
of Naxos. The building consisted of four Ionian
colonnades with 138 decorated columns, forming a square
of approximately 80 metres. In its interior there was
a central Doric
44 columns. It consists
of four ranges of rooms set around an atrium with a
circular pool in the centre added by the Romans.
Olympia Tour More...
sanctuary of Zeus
was the place where all ancient Greeks abandoned the
politic rivalries of their city-states and were united
in worship of the gods as they celebrated their common
ethnic and cultural roots. The Olympic games probably
began as a local funerary celebration in honour of
The first historical reference to the Games in
776 BC. when a treaty between kings
Elis and Lykourgos
of Sparta provided for an Olympic truce (ekecheiria)
during the summer Games. From 776 BC. onwards lists
were kept of the winners in the foot - race round the
Stadion, giving rise to the Greek method of chronological
reckoning by olympiads.
years Greeks from all over the Greek world gathered
in this sanctuary to participate in the
A sacred truce was kept during the period of the games
and attempts were made to settle wars
Naos Dios: A
ramp leads up to the terrace supporting the great temple
of Zeus which was built in the 5c BC of local shell-
limestone, covered with a layer of stucco. The entablature
and study columns have collapsed and their drums and
capitals lie in pieces at the foot of the high steps
of the stylobate The chaotic heap of stones, the enormous
drums and capitals of the columns thrown down by an
earthquake in the 6c AD create a dramatic effect. The
pediments were decorated with sculptures (museum) illustrating
the chariot race between Oinomaos and Pelops as well
as the battle of the Lapinths and Centaurs, the friezes
at the entrance to the pronaos and the opisthodromos
were composed of 12 sculpted metopes (museum) of the
Twelve Labors of Heracles.
The naos, which consisted of a
nave and two aisles, contained the famous statue of
Olympian Zeus, one of the "Seven Wonders of the World".
was a huge chryselephantine figure (about 13.50m high)
representing the king of the gods in majesty, seated
on a throne of ebony and ivory holding a scepter surmounted
by a n eagle in his left hand and a Victory, also chryselephantine,
in his right., his head was crowned with an olive wreath.
this circular votive monument was built in the 4c BC
in the Ionic order. It was begun by Phillip of Macedon
and completed by Alexander the Great.
The Philippeion in the Altis of
Olympia was an Ionic circular memorial of ivory and
gold, which contained statues of Philip's family,
Alexander the Great,
Olympias, Amyntas III and Eurydice II. It was made by
athenian sculptor Leochares in celebration of Philip's
victory at Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC).
||Naos Heras (Heraion)
The Temple of Hera, or
the Heraion, at Olympia, Greece, is an important monument
of the ruins of Doric
The temple was dedicated to Hera, the wife of Zeus
and one of the most important female deities in
Greek religion. A few columns
have been re-erected.
among the remains of the imposing
foundations of the temple of Hera. Within stood an effigy
of Hera, of which the colossal head has been found,
and one of Zeus, as well as many others statues which
included the famous Hermes by Praxiteles.In
modern times, the temple is the location where the
torch of the Olympic flame is lit,
the rays of the sun. Eleven women, representing the roles of priestesses,
perform a ceremony in which the torch is kindled by
the light of the Sun, its rays concentrated by a parabolic mirror.
The Olympic Torch Relay ends on the day of the opening
ceremony in the central stadium of the Games. The final
carrier is often kept secret until the last moment,
and is usually a sports celebrity of the host country.
The final bearer of the torch runs towards the cauldron,
usually placed at the top of a grand staircase, and
then uses the torch to start the flame in the stadium.
It is generally considered a great honor to be asked
to light the Olympic Flame.
first stadium was constructed around 560 BCE, it consisted
of just a simple track. The stadium was remodelled around
500 BCE with sloping sides for spectators and shifted
slightly to the east.
In the 3c BC a passage was built beneath the terraces
to link the sanctuary to the stadium. The Crypt a vaulted
passageway linking the Stadium with the Altis, was built
at the end of the 3rd c. BC.
The starting and finishing lines are still visible,
the distance between them was a stadium (about 194yd).
The finishing line (nearest the passage) was marked
by a cippus, a small low column acting as a goal or
a marker round which the runners ran if the race consisted
of more than one length of the stadium, the starting
line was marked by several cippi.
Olympic Games More...
The spectators, men
only, were ranged on removable wooden stands mounted
on the bank surrounding the stadium. It was enlarged
several times until it could accommodate 20000 people.
In the middle of the south side there was a paved marble
enclosure where the judges sat.
The word originates from the Greek
word "stadion" (στάδιον), literally a "Stand", (a place
where people stand.) The oldest known stadium is the
one in Olympia,
in western Peloponnese,
the Olympic Games
of antiquity were held since
776 BC. Initially
'the Games' consisted of a single event, a sprint
along the length of the stadium. Therefore the length
of the Olympia stadium was more or less standardized
as a measure of distance (approximately 190 meters or
Olympia Tour More...
Classical Tour More...
Peloponnesian Tour More...
© 1999 www.GreeceCab.gr
All rights reserved. Send us an e-mail.