Olympia (Greek: Ὀλυμπία; Ancient Greek: [olympía]; Modern Greek: [oli(m)ˈbia] Olymbía), is a small town in Elis on the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece, famous for the nearby archaeological site of the same name, which was a major Panhellenic religious sanctuary of ancient Greece, where the ancient Olympic Games were held. The site was primarily dedicated to Zeus and drew visitors from all over the Greek world as one of a group of such "Panhellenic" centres 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.
The archaeological site held over 70 significant buildings, and ruins of many of these survive, although the main Temple of Zeus survives only as stones on the ground. The site is a major tourist attraction, and has two museums, one devoted to the ancient and modern games.
View of the Palestra
Location within the region
|Administrative region||West Greece|
|• Municipality||545.1 km2 (210.5 sq mi)|
|• Municipal unit||178.9 km2 (69.1 sq mi)|
|Elevation||69 m (226 ft)|
|• Municipality density||25/km2 (64/sq mi)|
|• Municipal unit||8,128|
|• Municipal unit density||45/km2 (120/sq mi)|
|• Population||972 (2011)|
|Time zone||UTC+2 (EET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+3 (EEST)|
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Official name||Archaeological Site of Olympia|
|Criteria||Cultural: i, ii, iii, iv, vi|
|Inscription||1989 (13th Session)|
|Buffer zone||1,458.18 ha|
Olympia lies in the wide valley of the rather small Alfeiós River (also Romanized as Alpheus, Alpheios) in the western part of the Peloponnese, today around 18 kilometers away from the Ionian Sea, but in antiquity perhaps half that distance. The name Altis was derived from a corruption of the Elean word also meaning "the grove" because the area was wooded, olive and plane trees in particular. The Altis, as the sanctuary was originally known, was an irregular quadrangular area more than 200 yards (183 meters) on each side and walled except to the North where it was bounded by the Kronion (Mount Kronos).
According to Pausanias there were over 70 temples in total, as well as treasuries, altars, statues, and other structures dedicated to many deities. Somewhat in contrast to Delphi, where a similar large collection of monuments were tightly packed within the tenemos boundary, Olympia sprawled beyond the boundary wall, especially in the areas devoted to the games.
The Altis consists of a somewhat disordered arrangement of buildings, the most important of which are the Temple of Hera (or Heraion/Heraeum), the Temple of Zeus, the Pelopion, and the area of the great altar of Zeus, where the largest sacrifices were made. There was still a good deal of open or wooded areas inside the sanctuary.
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. The hippodrome and later stadium were located east of the Echo Stoa. To the south of the sanctuary is the South Stoa and the bouleuterion, whereas the palaestra, the workshop of Pheidias, the gymnasion, and the Leonidaion lie to the west.
Olympia was also known for the gigantic chryselephantine (ivory and gold on a wooden frame) statue of Zeus that was the cult image in his temple, 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 Alpheios River and south of Mount Kronos (named after the Greek deity Kronos). The Kladeos, a tributary of the Alpheios, flows around the area.
1. Northwest Propylon,
4. Temple of Hera,
6. Nymphaeum of Herodes Atticus,
9. Crypt (arched way to the stadium),
11. Echo Stoa,
12. Building of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II,
13. Hestia stoa,
14. Hellenistic building,
15. Temple of Zeus,
16. Altar of Zeus,
17. Ex-voto of Achaeans,
18. Ex-voto of Mikythos,
19. Nike of Paeonius,
24. Pheidias' workshop and paleochristian basilica,
25. Baths of Kladeos,
26. Greek baths,
27. and 28. Hostels,
30. South baths,
32. South stoa,
33. Villa of Nero.
Treasuries. I. Sicyon, II. Syracuse, III. Epidamnus(?), IV. Byzantium(?), V. Sybaris(?), VI. Cyrene(?), VII. Unidentified, VIII. Altar(?), IX. Selinunte, X. Metapontum, XI. Megara, XII. Gela.
It used to be thought that the site had been occupied since about 1500 BC, with a religious cult of Zeus developing around 1000 BC. It may be that instead there was only a sanctuary from the 9th or 8th centuries, though the question remains in debate. Others believe that remains of food and burnt offerings dating back to the 10th century BC give evidence of a long history of religious activity at the site. No buildings have survived from this earliest period of use.
The first Olympic festival was organized on the site by the authorities of Elis in the 8th century BC – with tradition dating the first games at 776 BC. Major changes were made to the site around 700 BC, including levelling land and digging new wells. Elis' power diminished and the sanctuary fell into the hands of the Pisatans in 676 BC. The Pisatans organized the games until the late 7th century BC.
The earliest evidence of building activity on the site dates from around 600 BC. At this time the Skiloudians, allies of the Pistans, built the Temple of Hera. The Treasuries and the Pelopion were built during the course of the 6th century BC. The secular structures and athletic arenas were also under construction during this period including the Bouleuterion. The first stadium was constructed around 560 BC, it consisted of just a simple track. The stadium was remodelled around 500 BC with sloping sides for spectators and shifted slightly to the east. Over the course of the 6th century BC a range of sports were added to the Olympic festival. In 580 BC, Elis, in alliance with Sparta, occupied Pisa and regained the control over the sanctuary.
The Temple of Zeus was built in the middle of the 5th century BC. Its size, scale and ornamentation was beyond anything previously constructed on the site. Further sporting facilities, including the final iteration of the stadium, and the hippodrome (for chariot-racing) were constructed. The Prytaneion was built at the northwest side of the site in 470 BC. Also, the Greek Baths were constructed in the middle of the 5th century BC.
In the late classical period, further structures were added to the site. The Metroon was constructed near the Treasuries c.400 BC. The erection of the Echo Stoa, around 350 BC, separated off the sanctuary from the area of the games and stadium. The South Stoa was built at the southern edge of the sanctuary at approximately the same time.
The late 4th century BC saw the erection of the Philippeion. Around 300 BC the largest building on the site, the Leonidaion, was constructed to house important visitors. Due to the increasing importance of the games, further athletic buildings were constructed including the Palaestra (3rd century BC), Gymnasion (2nd century BC) and bath houses (c.300 BC). Finally, in 200 BC, a vaulted archway was erected linking the entrance of the stadium to the sanctuary.
During the Roman period, the games were opened up to all citizens of the Roman Empire. A programme of new buildings and extensive repairs, including to the Temple of Zeus, took place. In 150 AD, the Nympheum (or Exedra) was built. New baths replaced the older Greek examples in 100 AD and an aqueduct constructed in 160 AD.
The 3rd century saw the site suffer heavy damage from a series of earthquakes. Invading tribes in 267 AD led to the centre of the site being fortified with material robbed from its monuments. Despite the destruction, the Olympic festival continued to be held at the site until the last Olympiad in 393 AD, after which the Christian emperor Theodosius I implemented a ban. The Temple of Zeus was apparently destroyed around 426 AD, during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire, following an edict by Theodosius II enforcing the ban on pagan festivals. The workshop of Pheidias was turned into a Basilica and the site was inhabited by a Christian community. Archaeological evidence suggests that small scale Olympic events (possibly in Christian guise) were still being held secretly until Justinian's plague and two earthquakes devastated it by the mid-6th century. Repeated floods ensured that the settlement was finally abandoned altogether in the early 7th Century.
Over time the site was buried under alluvial deposits, up to 8 metres deep, long thought to be the result of river flooding. Modern research hypothesizes instead—based on the presence of mollusc and gastropod shells and foraminifera— that the site was buried by ocean waters resulting from repeated tsunamis.
The exact site was re-discovered in 1766 by the English antiquarian Richard Chandler. The first excavation of the sanctuary at Olympia was not carried out until 1829, by the French "Expedition Scientifique de Moree".
Since the 1870s, the excavation and preservation of Ancient Olympia has been the responsibility of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens. The first major excavation of Olympia began in 1875, funded by the German government after negotiation of exclusive access by Ernst Curtius. Other archaeologists responsible for the dig were Gustav Hirschfeld, George Treu, Adolf Furtwängler (who worked alongside architects), A. Boetticher, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, and Richard Borrmann. They excavated the central part of the sanctuary including the Temple of Zeus, Temple of Hera, Metroon, Bouleuterion, Philipeion, Echo Stoa, Treasuries and Palaestra. Important finds included sculptures from the Temple of Zeus, the Nike of Paeonius, the Hermes of Praxiteles and many bronzes. In total 14,000 objects were recorded. The finds were displayed in a museum on the site.
Excavation was continued in a more limited way by Dörpfeld between 1908 and 1929 but a new systematic excavation was begun in 1936 on the occasion of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin under Emil Kunze and Hans Schleif. Their excavation focus was on the area to the south of the stadium, the South Stoa, bath complex and gymnasion.
Between 1952 and 1966, Kunze continued the excavation joined by architect Alfred Mallwitz. They excavated Pheidias' workshop, the Leonidaion and the north wall of the stadium. They also excavated the southeast section of the sanctuary and out of approximately 140 debris pits found many bronze and ceramic objects along with terracotta roof tiles.
Mallwitz took charge of the excavations between 1972 and 1984 revealing important dating evidence for the stadium, graves, and the location of the Prytaneion. From 1984 to 1996, Helmut Kyrieleis took over the site and the focus shifted to the earlier history of the sanctuary with excavation of the Prytaneion and Pelopion.
The Olympic flame of the modern-day Olympic Games is lit by reflection of sunlight in a parabolic mirror in front of the Temple of Hera and then transported by a torch to the place where the games are held. When the modern Olympics came to Athens in 2004, the men's and women's shot put competition was held at the restored Olympia stadium.
The town has a train station and is the easternmost terminus of the line of Olympia-Pyrgos (Ilia). The train station with the freight yard to its west is located about 300 m east of the town centre. It is linked by GR-74, and the new road was opened in the 1980s; the next stretch N and NE of Olympia opened in 2005. The distance from Pyrgos is 20 km (12 mi), about 50 km (31 mi) SW of Lampeia, W of Tripoli and Arcadia and 4 km (2 mi) north of Krestena and N of Kyparissia and Messenia. The highway passes north of the ancient ruins. A reservoir is located 2 km (1 mi) southwest, damming up the Alfeios River. The area is hilly and mountainous; most of the area within Olympia is forested.
Panagiotis Kondylis, one of the most prominent modern Greek thinkers and philosophers, was born and raised in Olympia. When Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, died in 1937, a monument to him was erected at ancient Olympia. Emulating Evangelis Zappas, whose head is buried under a statue in front of the Zappeion, his heart was buried at the monument.
The site and town of Olympia were severely threatened and nearly damaged by the 2007 forest fires.
The municipality Archaia Olympia ("Ancient Olympia") was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 4 former municipalities, that became municipal units:
The municipality has an area of 545.121 km2, the municipal unit 178.944 km2.
The municipal unit of Archaia Olympia is divided into the following communities (villages within the communities given in brackets):
The 1968 Summer Olympics torch relay took part as part of the build-up to the 1968 Summer Olympics hosted in Mexico City, Mexico. The Olympic flame was lit in Olympia, Greece, and retraced the steps of Christopher Columbus, founder of the New World. This theme celebrated the link between Latin-American and Mediterranean civilisations.
At the end of the relay the Olympic cauldron was for the first time lit by a female athlete. Mexican hurdler Enriqueta Basilio was chosen to complete the final leg of the 2,500 km running relay. The torch had covered a total distance of 13,620 km including the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.
While the relay was largely successful it was marred by problems when exchanging the flame from one torch to another. Runners in Barcelona and Medinaceli were burned by small explosions as a lit torch came into contact with an unlit one.2018 Winter Olympics torch relay
The 2018 Winter Olympics torch relay was ran from October 24, 2017 until February 9, 2018, in advance of the 2018 Winter Olympics. After being lit in Olympia, Greece, the torch traveled to Athens on 31 October. The torch began its Korean journey on 1 November, visiting all Regions of Korea. The Korean leg began in Incheon: the torch travelled across the country for 101 days. 7,500 relay runners participated in the torch relay over a distance of 2,018 km. The torchbearers each carried the flame for 200 metres. The relay ended in Pyeongchang's Olympic Stadium, the main venue of the 2018 Olympics. The final torch was lit by figure skater Yuna Kim.2020 Summer Olympics torch relay
The 2020 Summer Olympics torch relay will run from March 12 until July 24, 2020. After being lit in Olympia, Greece, the torch will travel to Athens on the 17th of April. The Japanese leg will begin in Fukushima, and will end in Tokyo's New National Stadium, the main venue of the 2020 Olympics. It will visit Japanese cities, including all 47 prefectural capitals. The torch is reported to go to two remote islands which are part of Tokyo. The end of the relay will be the finale of the 2020 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. Toyota, NTT and Nippon Life are the presenting partners of the relay with the slogan being "Hope Lights Our Way".Archaeological Museum of Olympia
The Archaeological Museum of Olympia (Greek: Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο Ολυμπίας) is one of the principal museums of Greece, located in Olympia. It is overseen by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and, as of 2009, is directed by Georgia Xatzi. When the original building was completed and opened in 1882, it was the first museum in Greece outside of Athens.
The museum houses discoveries from the surrounding area, including the site of the Ancient Olympic Games. The collection includes objects produced and used in the area from prehistory to its time under Roman rule. The principal pieces in the museum are Hermes and the Infant Dionysus (attributed to Praxiteles), some objects from the Temple of Zeus, the Nike of Paionios, as well as an oenochoe that belonged to Phidias. The extent of its bronze collection makes it one of the most important in the world.
Today, the museum is housed in two buildings: the principal building with twelve rooms for exhibitions, organized both around themes and ages of the objects. The other building is dedicated to the museum store, and is separate from the main structure, located on the path to the archaeological site.Aspra Spitia, Elis
Aspra Spitia (Greek: Άσπρα Σπίτια) is a village in the municipality Olympia, eastern Elis, Greece. In 2011 its population was 195. It is situated between the rivers Alfeios and Erymanthos, 4 km northwest of their confluence. It is 2 km west of Tripotamia (Arcadia), 4 km southeast of Vasilaki, 14 km east of Olympia and 30 km east of Pyrgos. Near the village, archeologists have excavated remains of housing from the Neolithic period. The village was affected by the 2007 Greek forest fires.Kryoneri, Olympia
Kryoneri (Greek: Κρυονέρι, before 1928: Μπάστα - Basta) is a little village near Olympia, Elis, Greece. It is situated on the southwestern edge of the Foloi oak forest. It is 2 km south of Neraida, 4 km west of Doukas, 3 km east of Chelidoni and 9 km northeast of Olympia. Its population in 2011 was 139.List of Olympic torch relays
The Olympic torch relay is the ceremonial relaying of the Olympic flame from Olympia, Greece, to the site of an Olympic Games. It was first performed at the 1936 Berlin Games, and has taken place prior to every Games since.
Although in the past some Olympic organizing committees organized torch relays which encompassed multiple countries, the International Olympic Committee now restricts international relays due to the protests during the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay, in which the relay was met with protests at several international sites on its way to Beijing, China.List of ancient Greek and Roman roofs
The list of ancient roofs comprises roof constructions from Greek and Roman architecture ordered by clear span. Most buildings in classical Greece were covered by traditional prop-and-lintel constructions, which often needed to include interior colonnades. In Sicily truss roofs presumably appeared as early as 550 BC. Their potential was fully realized in the Roman period which saw over 30 m wide trussed roofs spanning the rectangular spaces of monumental public buildings such as temples, basilicas, and later churches. Such spans were thrice as large as the widest prop-and-lintel roofs and only superseded by the largest Roman domes.Nike (Kougioumtzis)
Nike is an abstract sculpture depicting Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, designed by Greek artist Pavlos Angelos Kougioumtzis. Versions of the statue have been donated to every host city of the Olympics since 1996.Olympic flame
The Olympic flame is a symbol used in the Olympic movement. Several months before the Olympic Games, the Olympic flame is lit at Olympia, Greece. This ceremony starts the Olympic torch relay, which formally ends with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. The flame then continues to burn in the cauldron for the duration of the Games, until it is extinguished during the Olympic closing ceremony.Palaestra at Olympia
The palaestra at Olympia is an ancient edifice in Olympia, Greece, part of the gymnasium at the sanctuary. It is a sixty-six metre by sixty-six metre, or 4345 metre square building that dates to the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 2nd century BC.
It is thought to be a building in ancient Greece that was devoted to the training of wrestlers and other athletes.Panagis Vourloumis
Panagis Vourloumis (Greek: Παναγής Βουρλούμης; 1867–1950) was a Greek politician, lawyer, economist and a finance minister. He was one of the main collaborators of Eleftherios Venizelos. He studied law at the University of Athens and worked in Marseilles as the director of a raisin export company. In 1893, he founded his own business in Patras. He was first elected into the Hellenic Parliament on the Liberal Party ticket in the 1910 elections. He served as Food Supply Minister in 1918-1920 and as Minister of National Economy in the last Venizelos cabinet of 1928-1932. His tenure in the Ministry of National Economy was significant, as he promoted the foundation of a number of institutions: the Autonomous Tourism Organization, the Workers' Home and the Textiles Organization. He also led the reorganization of the National Statistical Service of Greece, and prepared the legislation for the eventual Social Insurance Institute. He failed to be elected in the 1933 elections, and withdrew from politics following Venizelos' death in 1936.
He also served for a time as chairman of the Panachaiki sports club.Peribolos
In ancient Greek and Roman architecture, a peribolos was a court enclosed by a wall, especially one surrounding a sacred area such as a temple, shrine, or altar. Peribolos walls (which may also be referred to as temenos walls) were sometimes composed of stone posts and slabs supported by porous sills.
Famous examples included:
the peribolos wall and gate in the Sanctuary of Zeus (Altis), north of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, Greece;
the peribolos enclosing the Altar of the Twelve Gods near the north end of the Athens Agora; and
the terrace created by retaining and peribolos walls around the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia (Marmaria), southeast of the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, Greece.Smila, Greece
Smila (Greek: Σμίλα) is a village in the municipality of Olympia, Elis, Greece. It is situated in the plains north of the river Alfeios, 1 km north of Strefi, 3 km west of Pelopio, 7 km northwest of Olympia and 10 km east of Pyrgos. In 2011 its population was 341 for the village and 390 for the municipal district, which includes the small village Karoutes.
The myth says that the village was called Smila because Praxiteles (the artist who made the famous statue of Hermes), lost his chisel (Greek: σμίλη) here. Many ancient artifacts have been found in this village, especially in the northern part. They are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. A great cheesemaking tradition has been established in Smila over the past few years, and several well known cheesemakers have been born in Smila, some of whom have found extensive occupation as ship chefs. Smila suffered damage from the 2007 Greek forest fires.Stadium at Olympia
The stadium at the archaeological site of Olympia, Greece is located to the east of the sanctuary of Zeus. It was the location of many of the sporting events at the Ancient Olympic Games.Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was a giant seated figure, about 13 m (43 ft) tall, made by the Greek sculptor Phidias around 435 BC at the sanctuary of Olympia, Greece, and erected in the Temple of Zeus there.
A chryselephantine sculpture of ivory plates and gold panels on a wooden framework, it represented the god Zeus on a cedarwood throne ornamented with ebony, ivory, gold and precious stones.
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the statue was lost and destroyed during the 5th century AD; details of its form are known only from ancient Greek descriptions and representations on coins.Temple of Zeus, Olympia
The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was an ancient Greek temple in Olympia, Greece, dedicated to the god Zeus. The temple, built in the second quarter of the fifth century BCE, was the very model of the fully developed classical Greek temple of the Doric order.Theodoros Papasimakopoulos
Theodoros Papasimakopoulos (Greek: Θεόδωρος Παπασημακόπουλος, 1790 – 1800s) was a Greek revolutionary leader during the Greek War of Independence.
He was born in 1790 in Mostenitsa (now Oreini), northeastern Elis. He fought on the side of Plaplouta in many battles along with the battle of Lalas, Tripoli, Nafplio and others. In 1844 he was awarded with the rank of a sergeant by the Patriot.Vyronas Davos
Vyronas Davos (Greek: Βύρων Δάβος; born 1927), is a Greek historian, writer and poet. He was born in the village of Pelopio in Elis and moved to Athens as an employee of the fire department. Davos was member of the Hellenic or Greek Literature Company and the Greek Literature Union. His literature of the same is made known to the cultural ministry.
Places adjacent to Olympia, Greece
|Regional unit of Achaea|
|Regional unit of Aetolia-Acarnania|
|Regional unit of Elis|
Subdivisions of the municipality of Archaia Olympia
|Municipal unit of Archaia Olympia|
|Municipal unit of Foloi|
|Municipal unit of Lampeia|
|Municipal unit of Lasiona|