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Unesco Monuments
Olympia
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The archaeological site of Olympia, one of the most important sanctuaries of ancient Greece, is located at west Peloponnese in the valley of River Alfeios. The sanctuary was dedicated to Zeus and flourished during the Classic period. This is matrix of the Olympic spirit and the place that gave birth to the Olympic Games.  It was established as the major religious and athletic center of the known ancient world. Olympia revived its past athletic glory after hundreds of years when it hosted the men’s and women’s shot put during the 28th Olympic Games in Athens.

Apart from the nonnegotiable archaeological value of the site and the idea it represents, Ancient Olympia is located at the center of the worldwide athletic interest since ​​the Lighting of the Olympic flame is held here every four years.

Short History

The archaeological findings which include an extended number of shells indicate that there had been activity in the area since the Early Stone Age. There are traces of occupancy during the three periods of the Bronze Age. In the 11th century BC the Aetolians inhabited the region and established the ancient town of Ilida.

Ancient Olympia became a place of worship the 10th-9th centuries BC whereas the first offerings representing Zeus are estimated to date to the Geometric period. 776 BC is a crucial year for the area since this is the first time that Games took place simultaneously with the establishment of the Sacred Truce.

The sanctuary of Olympia flourished during the Archaic Period when the first monuments were constructed. The area’s prosperity continued during the Classic period when new buildings were added. On the top of all, the Temple of Zeus is the greatest construction of this period. During the Hellenistic period the new buildings added hold mainly a cosmopolitan prestige. The Roman Period, except for a few new constructions, showed merely some restorations and additions to the already existing buildings.

The area’s decline came after its closure when the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius ordered all the ancient sanctuaries to stop operating since they were regarded as places of the pagan worship. Over the following years, the site suffered many disasters from natural causes that led to the sanctuary’s depopulation. Moreover several filling-ups had covered it until 1766 where scientists managed to locate it.

Buildings

Within the archaeological site visitors will see 25 buildings which are placed in four different periods. During the Archaic Period the Heraion, the Vouleftirion, and the Treasures were constructed. The monuments of the Classic Period are the Temple of Zeus, the Pelopio, the Prytanion, the Philippeum, the Baths, the Heraion, the workshop of Phidias, the Registry, the Leonidion, the South Stoa, the Stoa of Echo and the Stoa of Hestia. At the Hellenistic period date the Gymnasium, the Theikoleon, the Hellenistic Baths and the Hellenistic Building, while in the last period (Roman) the Nympheon, the Roman houses, the South Baths and the Villa of Nero.

The most significant buildings - monuments we meet in our tour to the area are:

The Temple of Zeus

The Temple of Zeus is a Doric-order construction that was started in 472 BC and completed in 456 BC by the Ilidan architect Livonas. It was comprised of 34 columns and was adorned with brilliant pediments. The Eastern pediment represented the fight between Oenomaus and Pelops and the Western one the battle between the Centaurs and the Lapiths. At the temple’s interior there were kept many offerings to honor Zeus, the most important of which is the known ‘Golden and ivory statue of Zeus’ (regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World); it was 13m high, created by Phidias and represented the God Zeus sitting on his throne.

The Museum of Olympia

The Museum of Olympia is located just before the entrance to the archaeological site and houses many objects that were revealed during the excavations at the sacred site of Olympia. Among them visitors will see the statue of Hermes by Praxiteles, the Pediments of the temple of Zeus, the Nike of Paionios and many offerings to the Gods from the locals.

Excavations

The first excavations at the ancient site of Olympia were carried ​​in 1829 by the French Scientific Expedition under the supervision of the General N. J. Maison. This project revealed parts of the Temple of Zeus and its pediments. The far-most systematic research in the temple of Zeus was conducted ​​in 1875 by the German Archaeological Institute, headed by Ernest Kurt. This team expanded to other buildings in the site such as in the Heraion, the Prytanion, the Palaestra, the Registry and the Vouleftirion. The project brought in the light near 14.000 items including the ‘Nike of Paionios’ and ‘Hermes of Praxiteles’.  The excavations were carried on for decades, with certain interruptions and expanded in many parts of the site such as the Workshop of Phidias, the Stadium’s North Wall, the Prytaneion, the Pelopion and the east part of ​​the Sanctuary. Today, along with the archaeological research, restoration and conservation projects around the site of the ancient temple are conducted too.

Useful information

The site is under the supervision of the 7th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Tel: +3(0) 2624022742

General admission fee is 6€ and the reduced fee is 3€. Special ticket package valid for the Archaeological site and the Museum: 9€ and 5€ the reduced.

 



© myGreece.travel photo
© myGreece.travel photo
© myGreece.travel photo