An fallen column at the excavation site in Olympia

The quaint town of Olympia is located in the western Peloponnesus at the valley of the Alpheos River. In actuality, Olympia is not considered a town, but a sanctuary with buildings associated with the Olympic Games. It also signified a place to worship the Greek gods. Among these buildings are temples, monuments, altars, theaters and statues associated with the gods along with treasuries of Greek art (Olympia, Greece).

Throughout the ancient site of Olympia are many important monuments. Many consider the Temple of Zeus to be the most important of these monuments. The temple was dedicated to Zeus, the father of the gods, and an ivory and gold statue was erected in his honor. Aside the Temple of Zeus was the Temple of Hera, the wife of Zeus. Not only is this building historically important, but is it thought to be the oldest Doric building known. Within its walls was a table in which citizens would place garlands to be given to those who won the ancient Olympic Games (Olympia, Greece).

Other important aspects of ancient Olympia are the gymnasium, palaestra and the stadium. The gymnasium and palaestra were used to train and educate ancient Olympians. They followed a strict routine of physical training, as well as education in music, math, grammar and reading. The gymnasium was an open building with Doric columns on each of its sides and athletes also stayed under its shelter during hot and humid times to avoid overexposure to the weather (Pathways to Ancient Myth). The palaestra was used for gymnastics and other exercises and for practicing events such as wrestling, boxing and long jumping. The building was a square shape and had a courtyard with covered areas sectioned into rooms. These rooms were used to prepare athletes for events, preparations consisted of anointing the body with olive oil, powdering with dust and bathing. The ingredients were thought to protect the athlete from their opponents. There were also rooms for benches for educational lessons. The stadium at Olympia was the site of the first Olympic Games in 776 BC. Spectators watched the athletes from the hills on each side of the stadium. More than 40,000 onlookers are thought to have been present at the games in Olympia. The track was approximately 192.25 meters long and surrounding the track were water basins to prevent spectators from suffering from heatstroke. Wealthier spectators watched from embankments on the northern and southern ends and commoners and women viewed the games from the Kronos Hill. The Olympic Games were known for being the truce during which all people forgot their differences and united for in Olympic spirit (Let's Go).

Excavations of the site at Olympia began in 1829. Many of the artistic works and artifacts were taken from the site to museums such as the Louvre and to this day are available on exhibit. During these excavations the Greek government was informed about the removing of their ancient possessions and stopped the excavation. Later in the 19th century the German Institute of Archeology in Athens and the Ephorate of Antiquities in Olympia were permitted to conduct excavations at the site, some of which is still being conducted (Olympia).

Ancient Greece and Rome Encyclopedia. New York. Simon & Schuster Macmillan.

Let's Go. Greece Including Cyprus. New York. St. Martin's Press.

Olympia. Hellenic Ministry of Culture. http://www.culture.gr.

Olympia, Greece. Encarta Encyclopedia. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia.html.

Pathways to Ancient Myth. Calvin College. http://www.calvin.edu/academic/clas/pathways/olympia/owes.htm & http://www.calvin.edu/academic/clas/pathways/olympia/oeas1.htm.

Back to Top


Site created by Kimberly Hutto g8trkim@hotmail.com