Home of the original Olympic Games

I’ve just visited the archaeological site of Olympia, one of the most important religious centres of antiquity, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989.

IMG_8282

It’s here the ancient Olympic Games were staged from 776 BC until the 393 AD.

The games were a series of athletic competitions with people from all over Greece coming to watch and partake. Held every four years they honoured the  King of their gods, Zeus.

IMG_8297

It is here the athletic took place.

It took 1503 years for the Olympics to return after they finished in 393 AD with the first modern Olympics held in Athens in 1896.

Today, a ceremonial lighting of the flame takes place every four years at this very site, prior to the games. The Olympic flame is kindled in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera, the Queen of Greek gods and the torch begins its journey to the site of the games. This ceremony was established in 1936 for the Berlin’s Olympiad and signified the beginning of the contemporary games.

IMG_8299

These are the reconstructed columns of the Temple of Hera, the Queen of the Greek gods.

The archaeological site covers a large land mass with ruins and a little reconstruction. There’s little explanation as to the nature of many of the ruins so make sure you visit the museum before you look at the Olympia site.

IMG_8306

The museum is well worth a visit, especially the reconstructed model of the Olympia site.

Inside the door of the museum is a model showing what the Olympia site looked like in its heyday. Try and memorize as much of the layout as you can before you go to the ruins and you’ll get a far better understanding what the complex looked like.

IMG_8316

Inside the museum are some wonderful reconstructed sculptures, displayed beautifully in a contemporary context.

Temple of Zeus 470-457 BC

It was in this Temple, the colossal gold and ivory statue of Zeus was placed – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The giant seated figure, in an elaborate throne was 13 metres tall and made around 435 BC at Olympia.

IMG_1012 6

This is a model of the Temple of Zeus in its heyday.

The temple was destroyed in an earthquake in 522 AD and no one is sure what happened to the statue of Zeus.

IMG_8291

This is one reconstructed column from the Temple of Zeus with other fallen columns in the foreground.

Reconstruction of the north-west corner column of the Temple was carried out to honour the 2004 Olympics. The magnitude of the column gives a real sense of the size of the temple. Along side the reconstructed column are the remains of other fallen columns. It’s incomprehensible how they built these columns without cranes.

How to get there

From the port and town, taxis run a round trip to the Olympia site (37 km each way) for a fixed rate of 80 euros and wait an hour for you to explore the site.

 

 

 

Hi I love to receive your emails and feedback. Jane