Olympia, a sanctuary of ancient Greece in Elis, is known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times, comparable in importance to the Pythian Games held in Delphi. Both games were held every Olympiad (i.e. every four years), the Olympic Games dating back possibly further than 776 BC. In 394 AD, (after exactly 1169 years) emperor Theodosius I abolished them as they were then considered reminiscent of paganism. The first Olympic Games were in Olympia in honor of Zeus.
The sanctuary, known as the Altis, consists of an unordered arrangement of various buildings. Enclosed within the temenos (sacred enclosure) are the Temple of Hera (or Heraion/Heraeum) and Temple of Zeus, the Pelopion and the area of the altar, where the sacrifices were made. The hippodrome and later stadium were also to the east.
To the north of the sanctuary can be found the Prytaneion and the Philippeion, as well as the array of treasuries representing the various city states. The Metroon lies to the south of these treasuries, with the Echo Stoa to the East. To the south of the sanctuary is the South Stoa and the Bouleuterion, whereas the West side houses the Palaestra, the workshop of Pheidias, the Gymnasion and the Leonidaion.
Olympia is also known for the gigantic ivory and gold statue of Zeus that used to stand there, sculpted by Pheidias, which was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Antipater of Sidon. Very close to the Temple of Zeus which housed this statue, the studio of Pheidias was excavated in the 1950s. Evidence found there, such as sculptor's tools, corroborates this opinion. The ancient ruins sit north of the Alfeios River and Mount Kronos (named after the Greek deity Kronos). The Kladeos, a tributary of the Alfeios, flows around the area. Its located in the part of Greece which is called Peloponesse. In Ancient Greece,
Olympia Greece was the site of the ancient Olympic Games, which were celebrated every four years by the Greeks. Olympia was situated in a valley in Elis, in western Peloponnisos (Peloponnesus), through which runs the Alpheus River. It was not a town, but only a sanctuary with buildings associated with games and the worship of the gods. Olympia was a national shrine of the Greeks and contained many treasures of Greek art, such as temples, monuments, altars, theaters, statues, and votive offerings of brass and marble. The Altis, or sacred precinct, enclosed a level space about 200 m (about 660 ft) long by nearly 177 m (nearly 580 ft) broad. In this were the chief centers of religious worship, the votive buildings, and buildings associated with the administration of the games.
The French began excavations here in 1829. German explorations of 1875-81 threw much light upon the plans of the buildings; they were resumed in 1936, 1952, and 1960-61. Many valuable objects were discovered, the most important of which was a statue of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, by Praxiteles.
Top Attractions:The most celebrated temple was the Temple of Zeus, dedicated to the father of the gods. In this temple was a statue of Zeus made of ivory and gold, the masterpiece of the Athenian sculptor Phidias. Next to the Temple of Zeus ranked the Heraeum, dedicated to Hera, the wife of Zeus. In this temple, probably the oldest Doric building known, stood the table on which were placed the garlands prepared for the victors in the games. The votive buildings included a row of 12 treasure houses and the Philippeum, a circular Ionic building dedicated by Philip II, king of Macedonia, to himself. Outside the Altis, to the east, were the Stadium and the Hippodrome, where the contests took place; on the west were the Palaestra, or wrestling school, and the Gymnasium, where all competitors were obliged to train for at least one month.
Ancient olympia museum
The Archaeological Museum of Olympia, one of the most important museums in Greece, presents the long history of the most celebrated sanctuary of antiquity, the sanctuary of Zeus, father of both gods and men, where the Olympic games were born. The museum's permanent exhibition contains finds from the excavations in the sacred precinct of the Altis dating from prehistoric times to the Early Christian period.Among the many precious exhibits the sculpture collection, for which the museum is most famous, the bronze collection, the richest collection of its type in the world, and the large terracottas collection, are especially noteworthy. The museum building comprises exhibition rooms, auxiliary spaces and storerooms. The vestibule and twelve exhibition rooms contain objects excavated in the Altis. The auxiliary spaces (lavatories) are located in the museum's east wing; a separate building between the museum and the archaeological site houses a book and souvenir shop. Finally, part of the east wing and the basement are dedicated to storage and conservation of terracottas, bronze, stone, mosaics and minor objects.
The Archaeological Museum of Olympia, supervised by the Seventh Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, was reorganized in 2004 to meet modern museological standards.
The sculptured ornaments from the Temple of Zeus
There were 42 figures decorating the 2 pediments of the temple, 12 metopes and the lion-headed water spouts running along the lengths of the temple. It is one of the best surviving ensembles from ancient Greek works of art. They belong to the "austere style" and date to the 1st half of the 5th century B.C.
The eastern pediment depicts the chariot race between Pelops and Oinomaos, and the central figure which dominates the work is of Zeus. The western pediment depicts the abduction of the Lapith women by Centaurs, and has Apollo as its central figure. The metopes bear the relief representation of Hercules' labours. These sculptures were made during the 5th century B.C.
Hermes of Praxiteles
One of the masterpieces of ancient Greek art. Hermes, as Pausanias informs us, is depicted carrying the infant Dionysos. Made from Parian marble it stands 2,10m in height. It is thought to be an original of the great sculptor and it is dated to ca. 330 B.C.
The statue depicts a winged woman. An inscription on the base states that the statue was dedicated by the Messenians and the Naupactians for their victory against the Lacedaemonians (Spartans), in the Archidamian (Peloponnesian) war prabably in 421 B.C. It is the work of the sculptor Paionios of Mende in Chalkidiki, who also made the acroteria of the Temple of Zeus.
Nike, cut from Parian marble, has a height of 2,115m, but with the tips of her (now broken) wings would have reached 3m. In its completed form, the monument with its triangular base (8,81m high) would have stood at the height of 10,92m. giving the impression of Nike triumphantly descending from Olympos. It dates from 421 B.C.
Zeus and Ganymedes
A terracotta statuette depicting Zeus carrying off young Ganymedes. Probably an acroterion of a temple, dated to 480-470 B.C.
Bronze breast-plate with incised decoration. On its lower part there is an engraved scene of Zeus and Apollo with his 'kithara', while other figures are also represented. Probably the work of an island bronze-smith around the dates of 650-625 B.C.
The Helmet of Miltiades
Dedication by Miltiades, as the inscription informs us "Miltiades dedicates to Zeus". It is the same helmet worn by the Athenian general in the battle of Marathon, where he defeated the Persians, and thus offered it to Zeus as a sign of gratitude.
Bronze battering-ram The only surviving besieging instrument of its kind from Antiquity. On all sides of the battering-ram there are symbolic depictions of rams heads, from where indeed it got its name. 5th century B.C.
It is dated in the transition between the Geometric to the Archaic period. It is unique for its monumentality on comparison with the small scale of other artefacts from the Geometric period.
The collections are displayed in a modern way. A chronological order, easy to understand information panels and subtle lighting, make visiting a museum in Ancient Olympia an enjoyable family event.