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Olympia Hippodrome
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The hippodrome was the largest facility and one of the most important sites of the archaeological site of Olympia, in which all the major horse and chariot races of the Olympic Games with great popularity took place.

The exact location has not been identified so far, because most likely, its facilities were swept away by the river Alpheus during medieval times. According to another theory, the hippodrome may lie buried under tons of mud.

All available information we have nowadays about the hippodrome derived from Pausanias’s work, according to which the hippodrome was a wide and flat space. It had a length of about 780 m and a width of 320 m. It was located on the southeast edge of the sacred site of Olympia, in a large area south of the stadium.

The pitch was elongated, divided into two aisles through a piston, a stone or wooden partition. Horses or chariots ran on one of the two runways and when they reached the end, they passed the piston and entered the other runway. The total distance varied depending on the event. Around the track there was enough room for spectators and a special room for the judges.

On the western side of the Hippodrome was the starting point, called “ippafesi”. The ippafesi worked with a difficult system described in detail by Pausanias and ensured a fair start for horses and chariots.

The start was not a straight line, but it had a kind of ship bow shape; i.e. an equilateral triangle with built-in compartments on both sides, which determined the locations of the horses or chariots. At the top stood a bronze dolphin on a pole, while on the base of the altar rested a bronze eagle with outstretched wings. Inside the altar the mechanism and operator was sitting.

In front of the horses or chariots were taut ropes that hold the boot. When ippafesi, the operator triggered an hourglass, the bronze dolphin started to lower and hoisted the eagle, while the ropes fell gradually, starting from the horses that were further behind, according to the distance between them. When all the horses and chariots came in line at the base of the ramp and the eagle was seen by all viewers, the trumpets meant the start of the race.




Opening hours:

01 April to 31 October, Monday - Sunday, 8 am - 7.30 pm

01 November to 31 March, Monday, 10 am - 5 pm & Tuesday - Sunday, 8 am - 3 pm


Tickets (valid for Archaeological Museum of Olympia & Ancient Olympia):

Complete: 9.00 €

Reduced: 5.00 €


Contact information:

Ancient Olympia

27065, Olympia Ilias

Tel: (+30) 26240 22517

Fax: (+30) 26240 22529

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