Olympia

If Olympia makes you think of the 5 interlocking rings and endless hours in front of the TV, I can tell you there is much more in regard of the history of this games. The sanctuary where the games were carried out in Antiquity lay under 4 m of soil before it was uncovered again in the 19th century.

We had spent the night at Katakolo, the little port west of Olympia. Some caravans already parked at the big parking at the harbour when we arrived. But we soon realised that this is the go to spot for the youth to get the most out of their cars and bikes. We had tried to sleep at such places before and it was not easy. So we decided to find a quieter spot and drove to the very tip of the peninsula, where we spent a relaxed night with the sound of the waves as the only noise. (37.633105, 21.310432) We are learning 😉

The next morning we were surprised to find a big cruise ship towering the harbour. On the way to Olympia we came across many busses which returned to the harbour with the modern “crusaders”. We hoped they will all have left when we reached Olympia. 
Busses returning to the cruise ship
Museum of the Olympic Games in Antiquity

We went first to the archaeological museum, which was very impressive. The temples of Olympia had been destroyed by earthquakes in the 6th century AC. But the excavations in the 19th century had brought to light an incredible number of objects.

Griffin hammered from bronze 7th century BC
Lion’s head hammered from thick sheets of bronze 8th century BC
Terracotta decoration of a building
Nike – the goddess of victory 425 BC marble
Nike of Paionios originally had wings that have not survived. She is floating down from the sky and seems to have already set the left, superior foot to the landing. In Antiquity Nike was standing on a three-sided 8,5 m high pillar which is reconstructed on the archeological site.
The Temple of Zeus was the dominant building in the Olympic sanctuary, built in the 5th century BC. The approximately 64 meters long, 28 meters wide and 20 meters high temple is one of the most important buildings of early classical architecture. It was the largest temple in the Peloponnese and at the time of its construction the largest temple ever in the Greek motherland. On the fifth day of the Olympic Games, all athletes and spectators went in a procession to the sanctuary to sacrifice cattle at the fire altar of Zeus, which were then eaten in a joint feast.
The pediments of the temple were decorated with sculptures of Parian marble. From what was found they were both reconstructed without any additions. The size of this figures give a good impression how big and richly decorated the temple must have been.

West pediment of the temple of Zeus
Hermes with little Dionysos in his arm – 340 BC
found in 1877 in the ruins of the Temple of Hera
Marble statues with toga and stola
Luxurious vase made from glass
Philippeion

 The Rotunda was built by Philip II in the sanctuary of Olympia in 338 BC and was completed by his son Alexander the Great. It held statues of Philip, Alexander and other members of the family. It was probably already destroyed before the earthquakes, but had been partially restored in 2005 by the German Archeological Association.

Temple of Hera

The Temple of Hera was built around 600 BC and at the beginning of the 4th century AD it was destroyed by an earthquake and never restored. Since 1936 the Olympic flame for the modern Olympic Games is lit at the altar of the temple with a concave mirror and the first runner receives a torch which will be carried to the site of the Olympics.

Stadium

The track of the stadium is 192,27 meters long. It is surrounded by simple grass walls, which accommodate about 45.000 spectators.

Impressive diameter of the columns of the Temple of Zeus

Collapsed columns
Reconstructed column at the Temple of Zeus

The reconstruction was carried out for the 2004 Olympics by the German Archeological Institute. The column is 10,5 metres high which gives a good impression of the dimension of the Temple. And with the pediments which we saw in the museum this was for sure an incredibly impressive temple at its time.

Flower of the Day

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