Olympia was the site of the ancient Olympic Games, sports competitions held every four years throughout antiquity. Legend says that they began in the eighth century B.C., and they attracted participants and spectators from across ancient Greece, perhaps as many as 200,000 persons. They continued until the fourth century A.D. when they were banned by the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius I.

Olympia is west of the mountains of Arcadia, a couple of hours' drive towards the sea and in the midst of a broad plain.
There isn't much there besides the ancient ruins: the modern town is merely a long strip of hotels and souvenir shops.

But the ruins are spectacular.

There are ruins of ancient temples--it was, after all, a religious festival as well as a sports competition.

Most impressive is the vestige of the ancient stadium, where the athletes competed, and its arched entry through which they entered.

Also very impressive were these remnants of a huge ancient Temple of Zeus, built in the fifth century B.C. and dedicated to the king of the gods, but destroyed in an earthquake in the sixth century A.D. The temple once contained the enormous statue of Olympian Zeus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. You can see how, as the columns collapsed, they fell apart into their ringed sections.

Other ruins show the remnants of hostels, baths, and other facilities for competitors and guests. The one on
the left had a moat-like pool. The one on the right was converted to a Christian church in the Byzantine era.

The archeological museum at Olympia is truly impressive.

On the left: ancient Greek helmets. In the middle: a marble statue of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, with the infant god Dionysus. On the right: a painted capstone from an ancient roof.

Most impressive, to be sure, were the sculptures that survive from the pediments of the Temple of Zeus. These lifesized statues would have been placed under the triangular roof.


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