Olympia is a small town 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. Olympia is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The site of Olympia, in a valley in the Peloponnesus, has been inhabited since prehistoric times. In the 10th century B.C., Olympia became a center for the worship of Zeus. 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.
The archaeological site is a major tourist attraction, and has two museums: one of them devoted to the ancient and modern games while the other one, the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, presents the long history of the most celebrated sanctuary of antiquity, the sanctuary of Zeus, where the Olympic games were born.
The museum, one of the most important museums in Greece, features a permanent exhibition contains finds from the excavations in the sacred precinct of the Altis (ancient religious site) dating from prehistoric times to the Early Christian period.
Among the many precious exhibits the sculpture collection, for which the museum is most famous, the bronze collection, the richest collection of its type in the world, and the large terracottas collection, are especially noteworthy.
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.
The first Olympic festival was organized on the site in the 8th century BC, with tradition dating the first games at 776 BC.
The classical period, between the 5th and 4th centuries BC, was the golden age of Olympia. A wide range of new religious and secular buildings and structures were constructed.
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.
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). A program of new buildings and extensive repairs, including to the Temple of Zeus.
During the Roman period, the games were opened up to all citizens of the Roman Empire.
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.
Two earthquakes devastated Olympia 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 meters deep, long thought to be the result of river flooding. Modern research hypothesizes instead, based on the presence of mollusks and gastropod shells, that the site was buried by ocean waters resulting from repeated tsunamis.
The first major excavation of Olympia began in 1875, funded by the German government. 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.
The ancient Olympic Games were originally a festival, or celebration of and for Zeus; later, events such as a footrace, a javelin contest, and wrestling matches were added.
The Olympic Games itself were a series of athletic competitions among representatives of city-states and one of the Panhellenic Games of ancient Greece. They were held in honor of Zeus, and the Greeks gave them a mythological origin.
The first Olympics is traditionally dated to 776 BC. They continued to be celebrated when Greece came under Roman rule, until the emperor Theodosius I suppressed them in AD 393 as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as the State religion of Rome. The games were held every four years, or olympiad, which became a unit of time in historical chronologies.
During the celebration of the games, an Olympic Truce was enacted so that athletes could travel from their cities to the games in safety.
The Olympic Truce is a tradition originating from Ancient Greece that dates back to 776 BC. A "truce" was announced before and during the Olympic Games to ensure the host city state (which initially was city Elis) was not attacked and athletes and spectators could travel safely to the Games and peacefully return to their respective countries.
The prizes for the victors were olive leaf wreaths or crowns. The games became a political tool used by city-states to assert dominance over their rivals. Politicians would announce political alliances at the games, and in times of war, priests would offer sacrifices to the gods for victory. The games were also used to help spread Hellenistic culture throughout the Mediterranean.
The ancient Olympics had fewer events than the modern games, and only freeborn Greek men were allowed to participate, although there were victorious women chariot owners. As long as they met the entrance criteria, athletes from any Greek city-state and kingdom were allowed to participate, although the Hellanodikai, the officials in charge, allowed king Alexander I of Macedon to participate in the games only after he had proven his Greek ancestry.
The games were always held at Olympia rather than moving between different locations as is the practice with the modern Olympic Games. Victors at the Olympics were honored, and their feats chronicled for future generations.
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.
How to visit Olympia
We at Monterrasol Travel welcome you to see Olympia during multiday private car tour. Contact us if you would like to customize your tour to Olympia.
We have developed several tours that visiting this beautiful place. But, if you have a special conditions or any from these tours fit you, please do not hesitate to contact us, we can organize a tour exactly as you would like. And remember, we have no problems to take you from almost any place where you stay, hotel or private accommodation.
This off-season balanced tour is aimed for people who interesting in the history of Greece, to walk that ancient historical places where are roots of culture of our civilization. During this tour we will visit 6 places that are on the list of UNESCO. Many other we going to visit places now expecting to be on UNESCO list; such places are prepared, available for public for fraction of cost, and are on so called UNESCO tentative list.
This 14 days tour will allow you to meet amazing south Balkans countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and of course beautiful Greece. The route will pass through Trebinje, Podgorica, Durres, Ioannina, Nafpaktos, Olympia, Sparta, Nafplio and other towns. We will see old castles, monasteries, archaeological sites, and amazing coastal line. At summer time we will stop on beaches to take a rest, refresh and enjoy the crystal clear water.
This off-season tour is for people who would like to get to know deeply the history of Greece and walk that ancient historical places where are roots of culture of our civilization. Around the world such places are on the list of UNESCO. And many other places now expecting to be on UNESCO list; such places are prepared, available for public for fraction of cost, and are on so called UNESCO tentative list.
During this tour we going to visit main UNESCO places and UNESCO tentative list places, located in Greece mainland. Greece is so rich with history that visit all UNESCO places in one tour will take very long time. Because of that we, Monterrasol Travel, created this tour to be able to visit the main UNESCO places in one tour.
In this tour we will travel 15 days by Adriatic coast of Montenegro and Albania, and discover Greece mainland and Peloponnese. Meet during the tour ancient monasteries and castles, enjoy amazing beaches, touch stones of old places in 3 countries.
Discover Greece in big 15 days tour. During this all seasons Greece tour from Igoumenitsa, we will visit most of main attractions of Greece mainland and Peloponnese peninsula. Prepare yourself for beautiful beaches, old castles and monasteries, , and ancient archaeological places. Visit Delphi oracle, say hello to Sparta and king Leonidas.
Balkan route from Dubrovnik to Athens in 16 days. Visit Bosnia, Montenegro, pass hills of Albania, and discover fortresses and ancient towns of Greece. Bosnian old towns and monasteries, Montenegro oldest monastery, hills of Albania, and discover greek fortresses, beaches, monasteries and archaeological sites.
This off-season tour is focused on people who would like to get to know deeply the history of Greece and walk that ancient historical places where are roots of culture of our civilization. Around the world such places are on the list of UNESCO. And many other places now expecting to be on UNESCO list; such places are prepared, available for public for fraction of cost, and are on so called UNESCO tentative list.
During this tour we going to visit most of UNESCO places and UNESCO tentative list places, located in Greece mainland. Greece is so rich with history that visit all UNESCO places in one tour will take very long time. Because of that we, Monterrasol Travel, created this tour to be able to visit the most of UNESCO places in one tour.
From 1 Feb 2019 we load on our site the description of new place: Monemvasia, Greece. We have visited this beautiful place few times and we definitely like to be there, and we are welcome you to have a trip there with us!
Monemvasia is a town and a municipality in Laconia, Greece. The town is located on a small island off the east coast of the Peloponnese. The island is linked to the mainland by a short causeway 200m in length. Its area consists mostly of a large plateau some 100 meters above sea level, up to 300 m wide and 1 km long, the site of a powerful medieval fortress. The town walls and many Byzantine churches remain from the medieval period.