Sunday, July 2, 2006

July 24, 2006

Day 33
Monday, July 24, 2006
Katakolon, Greece

Olympia, Greece
Today is our day to visit the ancient olympic ruins in the city of Olympia, Greece.  Our tour guide is George and listening to him you can tell how proud he is of the ancient olympic sites.  The games of Olympia were held every four years in honor of Zeus, father of the gods.  The traditional date for the first Olympiad was 776 BC.  The Temple of Zeus, and the great statue which was housed in it, was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. 

The Olympia Village contained the following:
  1. Bouleterion:  building that housed the Altar of Zeus and where athletes and trainers swore to compete fairly.
  2. Gymnasion:  Large, open practice field surrounded by long narrow porticoes known as stoas
  3. Heraion:  temple dedicated to Hera, the wife of Zeus, built in approximately 600 BC.
  4. Hippodrome:  Horse and chariot races took place here
  5. House of Nero:  Remains of a 1st century villa
  6. Prytaneion:  Complex where the winners were feted and where the Olympic flame burned on a sacred hearth.
  7. Leonidaion:  Guest house for important visitors and later a residence of the Roman governor of the area.
  8. Metroon:  Located below the Nymphaion, this area originally had 16 bronze statues of Zeus, the statues were purchased from fines levied against those caught cheating at the games.
  9. Pelopeion:  Shrine of Pelops from approximately 600 BC.
  10. Palaestra:  Rooms used by the athletes for training, bathing, cleansing with oil, socializing, and teaching.
  11. South Hall:  Building remains adjacent to the Bouleterion.
  12. Stadium:  Home to most of the Olympic events including running, jumping, boxing, wrestling and discus and javelin throwing, approximately 50,000 spectators could be accommodated.  (Note. The marble starting blocks are still in place.)
  13. Temple of Zeus:  One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, this once-enormous temple housed a gold and ivory statue of Zeus on his throne; it was created in 430 BC by Pheidias, the brilliant sculptor who also created the statue of Athena in the Parthenon.
  14. Treasuries:  Used to store valuables such as the equipment used in the games and rituals.

Most of these sites are just a chaotic mess of ruins, but you can still see the marble starting blocks used for foot races at the Stadium.  After nearly 1,500 years, Olympia came back to life with the shot put events for the 2004 Olympic Games being held at the Stadium.

After our visit to the Olympia Archaeological Site, we visit the Archaeological Museum where the statues are kept.  The museum displays treasures unearthed in over a century of excavation. 

When our tour is over, we decide to stay in town a while longer and shop and get lunch at one of the outdoor cafes on the water.  Of course we both had Greek salads!

Tour of Olympia, Greece

Ancient olympic ruins in Olympia, Greece

Reconstructed pillar showing height of ancient temple

Temple of Phillip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great

Ancient Olympia track (used in 2004 Olympic Games)

Model of ancient Olympia (Olympia Archaeological Museum)

Frieze from ancient Olympia

Winged Victory (Nike) of Paionios

Olympian Zeus
Hermes, holding Dionysus

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