Olympia, officially Archaia Olympia, is a small town in Elis on the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece, famous for the nearby archaeological site of the same name. This site was a major Panhellenic religious sanctuary of ancient Greece, where the ancient Olympic Games were held every four years throughout Classical antiquity, from the 8th century BCE to the 4th century CE. They were restored on a global basis in 1894 in honor of the ideal of peaceful international contention for excellence.
The sacred precinct, named the Altis, was primarily dedicated to Zeus, although other gods were worshiped there. The games conducted in his name drew visitors from all over the Greek world as one of a group of such "Panhellenic" centers, which helped to build the identity of the ancient Greeks as a nation. Despite the name, it is nowhere near Mount Olympus in northern Greece, where the Twelve Olympians, the major deities of Ancient Greek religion, were believed to live.
Ancient history records that Pisa and Elis, other villages in the region, contended with Olympia for management of the precinct, and that Olympia won, implying that the village was not identical to the precinct. The putative location of the ancient village is the modern village, which appears to have been inhabited continuously since ancient times.
The archaeological site held over 750 significant buildings, and ruins of many of these survive. Of special interest to Greeks of all times is the Pelopion, the tomb of the quasi-mythical king, ancestor of the Atreids, the two kings who led their domains to war against Troy. The Peloponnesus is named for Pelops. The tomb suggests that he may not have been entirely mythical.
Another location that has a special interest to both ancients and moderns is the stadium. It is basically a field with start and end lines marked off by transverse curbing. The athletes entered under an archway of a vaulted corridor at the start. Spectators sat mainly on the field's sloping flanks. The length of this field became the standard stadion, an ancient Greek unit of distance, which appears in all the geographers. The stadium has been resurrected for Olympic use with no intentional alteration of the ancient topography.
View of Olympia with the Temple of Hera (with the massive columns), behind to the right the Philippeion (3 connected columns). Behind it, between the trees is the Palaestra. (1.8M) View over Olympia. (1.8M) The stadium of Olympia (from 5th century BCE). This is where the Olympic Games started. (1102k) view of the stadium from its entrance. (1381k) The Gymnasium, training area for foot racing, javelin and discus throwing (2nd century BCE). (1172k) Philippeion (started by Philip II after his victory at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE, finished by Alexander the Great). The columns have Ionic capitals. (1456k) Temple of Hera (oldest temple in the sanctuary, from end of 7th century BCE). (1421k) Temple of Hera with Doric column capitals. (1084k) Temple of Hera in the back. (1.8M) Altar of Hera. This is where the Olympic flame is lit for the Olympic Games. (1.6M) Temple of Zeus (from 457 BCE). It held the Statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The columns have Doric capitals. (1195k) Temple of Zeus. (1256k) Temple of Zeus. (1000k) Closer view of the Temple of Zeus. (1408k) Temple of Zeus with the Altar of Zeus. (1285k) Metroon, Temple of Cybele (4th century BCE). (1.6M) Palaestra (wrestling grounds). (1.9M) Palaestra. (1.7M) Palaestra. (1.7M) Palaestra. (1210k) Palaestra. (1.6M) Kronion Thermae. (1478k) Nymphaion (from 160 CE). (1.6M) Nymphaion, center, and the altar of Hera, left. (1.7M) Theokoleon (official residence of the priests of Olympia). (1.8M) Leonidaion, the lodging place for athletes taking part in the Olympic Games (from 330 BCE). (1.5M) Leonidaion. (1.8M) Leonidaion. (1.6M) Center of the Leonidaion. (1.5M) Colonnade of the Leonidaion. (1467k) Colonnade of the Leonidaion. (1.7M) Colonnade of the Leonidaion, with the Temple of Zeus in the back. (1.6M) Leonidaion Thermae (Baths) (3rd - 6th century CE). (1410k) Leonidaion Thermae (Baths). (1.6M) Closer view of the Leonidaion Thermae (Baths). (1471k) Greek Baths (from 5th century BCE). (1.8M) Greek Baths. (1422k) Interior of the Greek Baths. (1213k) Prehistoric building (2150-2000 BCE). (1.6M) Votive monument of Ptolemy II with Ionic capital. (1.6M) Votive monument of Ptolemy II. (1178k) Base of Paeonios' Victory statue (from 421 BCE). (1.7M) Stone sarcophagi. (1387k) Inscribed marble stele. (1285k) Inscribed marble stele. (1.5M) Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum, german: Gewöhnlicher Judasbaum, french: Arbre de Judée) over column remains. (1.8M) Flowering trees in Olympia. (1.8M) Cat resting on an Ionic capital. (1.6M) Ongoing excavations. (1.7M)
West pediment of the Temple of Zeus, showing the battle between Lapiths and Centaurs. In the center is Apollo, imposing peace and order. (608k) Apollo, imposing peace and order, in the center of the west pediment on the Temple of Zeus. (595k) One of the Centaurs. (633k) East pediment of the Temple of Zeus, showing the chariot race of Pelops and Oinomaos. (625k) Closer view of the east pediment. (592k) Zeus in the center of the east pediment of the Zeus Temple. (615k) Marble statue of Hermes holding the infant Dionysus (from 340-330 BCE). (528k) Marble statue of Nike (from 421 BCE). (598k) Marble statue of Emperor Vespasian (from 1st century CE). (612k) Marble torso of Emperor Augustus (from 1st century BCE). (535k) Marble statue of Emperor Titus (79-81 CE). (572k) Marble statue of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE). (547k) Marble statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE). (534k) Marble statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE). (616k) Female marble statue (mid 2nd century CE). (871k) Marble statue of Poppaea Sabina, second wife of Emperor Nero (1st half of 1st century CE). (593k) Marble statue of Agrippina the Younger, wife of Emperor Claudius (beginning of 1st century CE). (567k) Marble statue of Faustina the Elder, wife of Emperor Antoninus Pius (2nd half of 2nd century CE). (620k) Marble torso of Asclepius (Hellenistic copy). (554k) Bronze statue of Zeus holding a thunderbolt (from 470-460 BCE). (441k) Terracotta statue of Zeus and Ganymede (beginning of 5th century BCE). (645k) Bronze statue of Pan (from 450-440 BCE). (456k) Clay figurine of Pan (end of 3rd century BCE). (607k) Clay body of a warrior (beginning of 5th century BCE). (543k) Metope from the Temple of Zeus, showing one of the tasks of Heracles, getting the golden apples of the Hesperides. Heracles is in the center, holding up the sky. Athena is on the left, helping Heracles. Atlas is on the right holding the golden apples. (602k) Metope from the Temple of Zeus, showing one of the tasks of Heracles, capture Cerberus from the Underworld. (502k) Metope from the Temple of Zeus, showing one of the tasks of Heracles, cleaning the Augean stables. Athena is on the right. (593k) Metope from the Temple of Zeus, showing one of the tasks of Heracles, killing the Stymphalian Birds. Athena is on the left, receiving the dead birds. (577k) Metope from the Temple of Zeus, showing one of the tasks of Heracles, capture the Cretan Bull. (549k) Clay head of Athena (beginning of 5th century BCE). (637k) Female limestone head. (668k) Female marble head. (570k) Bronze female winged figure with inlaid eyes (from 590-580 BCE). (724k) Bronze statue of a horse (early 5th century BCE). (510k) Statue of a bull (2nd half of 2nd century CE). (583k) Bronze Griffin head (from 7th century BCE). (515k) Building spout in the form of a lion head from the Leonidaion (2nd century CE). (680k) Marble lion's head water spout from the temple of Zeus. (833k) Marble Corinthian capital. (734k) Marble inscribed base. (715k) Warrior helmets. (630k) Bronze cauldron (from 8th century BCE). (507k) Red-figured bell krater, showing two nymphs and a satyr (middle of the 4th century BCE). (641k) Large pottery vessel. (648k) Large pottery vessel. (538k) Large amphora. (634k) Black-figured pottery vessel (end of 6th - beginning of 5th century BCE). (579k) Large drinking vessel with Lotus calyxes (from mid 6th century BCE). (569k) Glass bottle (from 3rd-4th century CE). (421k) Glass bottle (Oinochoe) (from 1st-2nd century CE). (457k)
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