Olympia, Greece

Birthplace of the Olympics, the town of Olympia is located between the Kladeos and Alpheios Rivers in the western Peloponnese peninsula. Olympia is home to a sanctuary of ancient structures built over centuries at Kronos Hill. The sanctuary, known as Altis, is a treasure chest of ancient Western civilization dating back to the Geometric, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods of Greece. As a result, thousands of tourists flock to Olympia every year to take in the awe-inspiring ruins of the ancient world.

The monumental Temple of Zeus sits in the center of the sanctuary and is the largest temple in Peloponnese. Constructed in 450 BC by the Eleans, the temple was dedicated to Zeus. In a peripteral hexastyle, the temple was constructed with 13 columns at each side. Made of limestone and stucco, the columns are 10.40 metres high with a base of 2.25 metres in diameter. The east side depicts a chariot race between Oinomaos and Pelops, while the west side depicts the battle between the Centaurs and the Lapiths. Zeus dominates the composition as he is the master of the sanctuary. The Temple of Zeus is the finest representation of Doric architecture.Ancient, Olympia, GreeceThe Temple of Hera was constructed during the same time period as the Temple of Zeus. Hera was Queen of the Olympians and wife to Zeus. In a similar peripteral hexastyle, this temple was flanked with 16 columns on each side. However, the temple was divided into three chambers: the opisthodomos, pronaos and the cella. It is said the Olympic victor’s crown of olives were displayed in the cella chamber. It is in this temple that the first Olympian torch was lit. Today, several months before the Olympics begin, an acting ceremonial priestess lights the torch and carries it to an altar in the Olympic stadium. It’s a tradition the Greeks have continued in commemoration of their ancestors.

The Archaeological Museum of Olympia houses sacred finds from excavations of the Altis. It is one of the most renowned museums in Greece and its exhibitions range from the prehistoric era to Early Christian. One of the most extraordinary exhibitions is the 42 sculptured figures from the Temple of Zeus. These life size figures carved from marble were used to decorate the two pediments of the temple. It is a masterpiece of ancient Greek art. Another treasured marvel at the museum is the Nike of Paionios. This statue is carved from Parian marble and depicts a winged woman. The inscription at the base indicates the victory of the Messenians against the Spartans. It dates back to 420 BC and was the work of the famed sculptor Paionios.

Because of the historical significance of Olympia, it is a popular point of interest for travellers. From ancient Olympia, one can walk to the Modern Town Village Olympia. This town has a small population of 1,000; however, it is set up with many restaurants and accommodations for tourists. Accommodations include hotels, hostels and campgrounds. It is always recommended to book at least two months in advance due to the high level of tourism.


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