OLYMPIA ANCIENT CAPITAL OF PEACE AND SPORTS...
In 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 Alpheus and 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 summer days. Olympia Tour
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). Olympia Tour
Every four years Greeks from all over the Greek world gathered in this sanctuary to participate in the Olympiada. A sacred truce was kept during the period of the games and attempts were made to settle wars and conflicts between the (poleis -cities) based on reasoning inspired by Zeus.
They were finally banned by the Emperor Theodosius, and came to an end in AD 393 after an existence of more than a thousand years. A direct consequence was the revival of the Olympic Games by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the first modern Games being held in Athens in 1896. The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is marked with the arrival of the Olympic flame which is taken on every occasion from Olympia, Greece, the original site of the Olympic Games.
Palaestra: The double colonnade of the porticoes, some of which has recently been re-erected, make it possible to envisage the Hellenistic palaestra, a sports arena. The athletes, particularly the wrestlers, trained in the courtyard and bathed or anointed themselves with oil in the surrounding rooms.
Ergastirio Fidia: (Phidias' Studio) The excavations of 1955-58 revealed the rectangular plan of the studio which was specially built for the sculptor Phidias to work on his statue of Zeus. Later a Byzantine church was constructed in the ruins of Phidias' studio.
Leonidaion: The ground plan of this huge hostelry is reasonably clear. It was built in the 4c BC by a certain Leonidas from Naxos. It consists of four ranges of rooms set around an atrium with a circular pool in the centre added by the Romans.
Bouleuterion: where the members of the council which administered the sanctuary used to hold their meetings.
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 (photo). 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". It 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.
Philippeion: 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. Prytaneion: Administrative centre of the sanctuary (5c BC), the perpetual flame was kept in a sacred hearth. Olympia Tour
Naos Eras (Heraion): The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is marked with the arrival of the Olympic flame which is taken on every occasion from Era's alter, (in the photo the alter in front Era's temple).
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.
Stadium: 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 ( see photo)
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. 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.
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. Olympia TourYou can view our portfolio of photos at http://www.panoramio.com/user/45649/tags/Olympia
The ancient 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 honor of Pelops. The Greeks believed that Herakles had laid down the regulations for the Games and had specified the length of the stadion as 600 feet (183 m). The first historical reference to the Games in 776 BC. when a treaty between kings Iphitos of 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.