Olympia in the Peloponnese – the Cradle of the Olympic Games and the Greek Sanctuary

In the Greek Peloponnese, there is the city of Olympia, located in the western part of the peninsula, in a mountainous area, tucked away in the beautiful natural environment of lush coniferous forests and between two rivers, Alpheus and Kadea. This city is known for ancient Olympia, one of the most important archeological sites and the largest cultural and historical sights of today’s Greece.

If you are a fan of archeology and history, this is the right destination for you. Olympia is 115 km south of Patras, the largest city and main port in the Peloponnese, and 264 km west of the Greek capital Athens. You can reach Athens, as well as all other major European cities, in different ways.

Olympia is an archeological site in Greece

Ancient Olympia was one of the most important sanctuaries of ancient Greece and the cradle of the Olympic Games. The area of ​​Olympia was inhabited in the Neolithic, which is confirmed by the found human skeletons and sacrificial objects dating from the 10th century BC.

In the early 7th century BC, a sanctuary dedicated to the god Zeus, named after Olympus, the mountain of the gods, was built here. Shortly afterwards, in 776 BC, the Olympic Games began to be held here.

At the beginning of the 6th century BC, the first buildings were built, including the temple of Hera, the treasury and the first stadium.

In the middle of the 5th century BC, the Temple of Zeus was built here, the most impressive building of ancient Olympia, then a new large stadium and hippodrome, as well as several other important buildings.

At the end of the 4th century BC, some other important facilities were built, a training ground, a gymnasium, a swimming pool and many accompanying facilities. Around 200 BC, a stunning porch was erected connecting the main stadium with the Sanctuary of Zeus.

Although the Romans took power in the Peloponnese in the middle of the 2nd century BC, the Olympic Games were still organized in Olympia, in which the Roman rulers themselves often participated. During the Roman rule, all existing facilities in Olympia were renovated, and new, primarily sports buildings were erected.

In the 3rd century, a devastating earthquake caused great material damage in Olympia, and after the earthquake, this area became a constant target of barbaric raids.

The Roman emperor Theodosius abolished the holding of the Olympic Games in 393, after which Christianity spread here, and some sports facilities were turned into early Christian basilicas.

A strong earthquake that occurred in 551 destroyed and buried ancient Olympia. The site was discovered in the second half of the 18th century, and a detailed reconstruction was carried out in the 1950s.

Olympia archeological site in Greece – Ionic pillars

Today, the restored remains of many famous buildings can be seen on the site, so the trip to this destination is truly amazing. Among the oldest is the Temple of Hera, built around 650 BC The Temple of Zeus was built in the Doric style around 450 BC , according to the ideas of the architect Libon. It was located in the very center of the entire complex and was the largest building ever built in Olympia . Inside the temple, a statue of Zeus in Olympia, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was erected around 430 BC.. The statue is the work of the Athenian sculptor Phidias and was made with a special chrysanthemum technique in a combination of gold, ivory and precious stones. The statue, 13 meters high, was placed on a rectangular base 6.5 meters wide and 1 meter high.

The throne was decorated with carvings of sphinxes, winged figures of victory, statues of the ancient Greek gods Apollo and Artemis and other mythical creatures. Zeus himself, who was sitting on the throne, had an olive wreath on his head, his face was made of ivory, his eyes were made of precious stones, his clothes were made of gold. In his left hand he held a metal skipper with an eagle on top, and in his right he had a symbol of victory made of a combination of gold and maple wood.

After a series of earthquakes that struck Olympia in the 4th century , the Greeks moved the statue to Constantinople, where it burned in a fire in 462. Later, many of its reconstructions were made, which existed throughout Greece and other islands , but none of them has been preserved to this day. The statue of Zeus is considered to be the greatest ancient Greek sculptural work.

The remains of Phidias’ atelier, built in the middle of the 5th century BC , are also visible on the site. Leonidaion dates from the middle of the 4th century BC, and it was the largest and most luxurious ancient hotel, with two floors on more than 80 rooms. The remains of the stadium date from the 4th century BC. Filipeon was a round building with 18 Ionic pillars erected by Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great in the second half of the 4th century BC. Sculptures of Alexander of Macedon and his ancestors were found in it.

Remains of Palestra, a building from the 3rd century BC, as well as the Gymnasium, built in the 2nd century BC, are visible on the site. Near the site is the Archaeological Museum of Olympia , which has a rich treasury of ceramic objects, stone and bronze statues and other artifacts site of ancient Olympia.

Ancient Olympic Games
Olympia is an archeological site in Greece
The ancient Olympic Games were the most important of all the Panhellenic Games reflected in ancient Greece. It is believed that the first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC, and after more than 1,100 years of their existence, they were abolished by the Roman emperor Theodosius in 393.

They were organized every four years and it is believed that the ancient Greeks counted time on them. During the games, all war conflicts were interrupted, so that during the games, the so-called Olympic truce. Only men competed in the Olympics, coming to Olympia from all parts of the Hellenic world to compete in various sports and martial arts. Between sports fights, poetry, drama, acting, architecture, sculpture and various other competitions of cultural and artistic character were organized.

The Olympic Games were organized as part of the supreme Greek god Zeus , so they also had great sacral significance. According to one legend, the Olympic Games were established by Zeus himself as part of his victory in the fight for supremacy against his father Chronus. Another myth tells how the demigod Heracles, the son of Zeus, won one race in Olympia and founded the Olympic Games, which have been held every four years since then as a memento of this race.

In addition to the archeological site, in today’s Olympia there is a monument to Pierre De Coubertin , the French baron and the founder of the International Olympic Committee. Under the auspices of this committee since 1896, when the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, until today, 28 summer Olympic Games have been organized, ending with Rio in 2016, and in Sochi in 2014 the 22nd Winter Olympics were held. Olympic Games. On the eve of each game, at the restored Olympic Stadium, with the help of the sun and mirrors, the Olympic flame is lit and from there it is relayed to the country and the city where the games will be organized.

The remains of ancient Olympia were included in the UNESCO list of cultural heritage in 1988.

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