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Ancient Olympia
The Birthplace of the Olympic Games

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Under the holy light of the birthplace of the Olympics, where the ideals of sportsmanship and peace were born, this immortal place inspires admiration. This international radiation of Ancient Olympia, the most important athletic and religious centre of Hellenism, is lost in the mists of time. Ancient Olympia, the divine land of the Twelve Olympians, has been praised as one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. This corner of the Peloponnese peninsula emits a heavenly energy impossible to ignore. Ancient Olympia, which has existed from the dawn of time, managed to unite all the Greeks under the spirit of rivalry, and left to mankind a valuable heritage of the Greek culture. The most important shrine of the ancient world, dedicated to mighty Zeus, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, is nothing less than majestic and aspiring. The Olympic ideal was born in Ancient Olympia crowned from all of its glory.

 

The sacred grove of the temple of Zeus, athletic buildings, temples, altars, statues and treasures of the Olympians. Can you imagine discovering such an inspirational place that survived since the millennia? The chryselephantine statue of Zeus was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, a wondrous work of Phedias while the impressive temple of Hera, one of the oldest temples of Ancient Olympia, used to host the famous statue of Hermes from Praxiteles. Every location in this sacred monument is full of mysteries from the everyday life of the athletes. The Stoa of Echo and the Crypt, the entrance to the Olympia, along with the huge Stadium that could accommodate 45 thousands spectators are only some of the most spectacular monuments in this historical place.

 

In this sacred place, you will have the opportunity to feel the energy of the sactuary of Zeus at Philippion and Hera’s temple, admire the acoustics of Echo Gallery, where the sound is repeated seven times, watch the baths of Leonideon, and enter the Memorial Crypt leading the Olympic-size stadium, with a length of 2,12 meters, which used to be filled from 45 thousands spectators who were watching legendary games. 293 Olympiads and 4.237 athletes, all of which should be Greeks, and born with a free spirit.

 

Undeniably, this exceptional glory of Ancient Olympia will shine. Eternally.

Myths & History

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Zeus, Apollo, Hermes and Hercules are the dominant mythical founders of the Olympic Games of antiquity. Traces of the settlement date back to the 4th BC millennium, whereas the worship to Zeus was established in the 10th century, transforming Olympia into a place of worship. Two centuries later, the King of Elis, Ifytos, Klesthenes of Pisa and Lycurgus of Sparta organized for the first time a Sacred Truce, which symbolized the end of the hostilities between the warring Greek city-states, in honor of the “Father of Gods”. The Games were held for the first time in 776 B.C. as a local feast, and later expanded in the Peloponnese and eventually in all Greek cities. These glorious Games happened every four years for five days for continuous 1,169 years. Athletes from all over Greece competed with the unique prize of an olive wreath, the wreath of the Olympic Games.

 

However, with the decline of the Greek cities, especially after the victory of the Romans, the Olympic Games gradually lost their prestige and importance. In 393 A.C., the last Olympic Games took place. Unfortunately, the sanctuary suffered incalculable damage following the decree of the ancient religion from Emperor Theodosius to destroy the pagan temples in 426 A.C.

 

In the middle of the 5th century AD, a Christian settlement was developed and Phidias’ workshop was converted to a basilica. In 500 A.D. , two major earthquakes destroyed the entire settlement and the upcoming floods and landslides covered sacred Olympia until 1776, when the site emerges again to the surface. The first excavations took place from the French Scientific Expedition in 1829, and systematic research started in 1875 by the German Archaeological Institute.

The Revival & the Flame of the Olympic Games

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The first president of the International Olympic Committee, Dimitris Bikelas, participated in the International Athletic Congress of the Sorbonne in 1894. At that time, he argued, along with Pierre de Coubertin, to revive the Olympic Games in the city of Athens, in 1896. When Coubertin, who is considered the father of the modern Olympic Games, visited Olympia in 1927, he noted: “…I have the impression that I am in a fairytale world … every corner, every inch of Olympia has its own history…” According to his own wish, he was buried next to the gical site of Olympia, where he had already set up a small altar and a simple commemorative column in his honor.

 

The flame of the Olympic Games symbolizes the abduction of Zeus’ fire from Prometheus. It is turned on and off in the beginning and the end of the Olympic Games and the torch race from Olympia to the city of the Olympics, symbolizing the message of love and brotherhood, in the spirit of the ancient Olympic spirit. The first official ceremony, with concave mirror and lighting of the flame from the sun, invocating God Apollo, took place for Germany in 1936, followed from a torch realy to the German capital. Previously, the torch ceremony took place for the 1896 Athens Olympics and the 1906 Interim Olympic Games. The first Olympic flame was lit at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.

Olympia’s Museums

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Characterized as one of the most important museums in the world, with findings from the Early Bronze Era until the 7th century AD, Olympia’s Museum is definitely a must.

 

Else known as the New Museum, this wonderful museum was designed from Patroklos Karantinos and was built between 1966 and 1975. The pre-existing neoclassical-style museum, Olympia’s Old Museum, was erected with funds from the national benefactor Andreas Syngros in 1885. However, due to major damages from earthquakes of the wider region, and the need for a bigger museum to exhibit the wealth of findings from the continuing excavations by the German Archaeological Institute, the New Museum was necessary. The exhibits were gradually moved from the Old Museum and the New Museum was inaugurated in 1982 from Melina Merkouri, then Minister of Culture. S. Triantis undertook the difficult task of mounting the statue of Nike by Paionios, which was presented to the public only in 1994.

 

Hermes of Praxiteles is the first reason you should visit the impressive Archaeological Museum of Olympia. The permanent exhibition of the museum showcases priceless objects from excavations that took place in the sacred area of Altis. The bronze collection, the richest in the world, consists from weapons, figurines and pottery items while the statue chamber will impress you with the craftsmanship of Ancient Greeks. The gallery of the sculptor Phedias is yet another interesting space dedicated to the talent of this persona who created the chryselephantine statue of Zeus, one of the seven wonders in the world. Every archaeological museum in the world would envy the collection of Olympia’s museum. From the helmet of General Miltiades, who dedicated it to the sacred sanctuary after his victory at the Marathon (490 B.C.), the masterpieces of sculptor Phedias, the creator of the chryselephantine statue of Zeus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, to the Nike of Peonios from Praxiteles, the winged statue of the goddess who brings the news about the victory of the Messenians and the Naupactian against the Spartans, and the sculptures from Zeus’ temple, the masterpieces of Olympia’s museum are one-of-a-kind. Undeniably, all twelve rooms will excite even the most unsuspected minds.

 

Once there, culture enthusiasts should definitely visit the Museum of the History of the Ancient Olympic Games. Hosting over 400 ancient works, this unique museum exhibits’ cover a large chronological spectrum from the second millennium BC up to the 5th century. A.D. If you wish to discover the history of the Olympic Games, you cannot afford to miss this museum.

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