The Stadion, also known as the Panathenaic Stadion, lies between two low hills northeast of the Olympieion and southeast of the National Garden. The present Stadion, built of marble, is the largest building in Athens, with seating for 60,000 spectators. Although entirely modern it has the same form and occupies the same site as its ancient predecessor, in which the Panathenaic games were held.
The ancient Stadion was built about 335 B.C. by the conservative politician Lykourgos, who also rebuilt the Lykeion and the Theater of Dionysos. 500 years later (A.D. 140-144) it was provided with new marble seating by Herodes Atticus.
The track was 204m/669ft long by 33.36m/109ft wide. Four double herms from the ends of the track were recovered by excavation. The races were run over a distance of a stade or stadion (in Athens 185m - 607ft); in the two-stade race the runners turned at these herms. Herodes Atticus, who was born in Marathon in A.D. 101 and died there in 177, was one of the great Maecenases of antiquity who rose to high dignities under Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. He was famous for his munificence, financing the Stadion and the Odeion which bears his name in Athens, the renovation of the Stadion at Delphi, the provision of a water supply and the building of a nyphaeum at Olympia and the renovation of the spring of Peirene at Corinth. In A.D. 133 Herodes Atticus erected on the hill of Ardettos, southwest of the Stadion, a temple of Tyche, in which the members of the Heliaia (lawcourt) swore their annual oath. He also had his tomb built on the hill on the northeast side of the Stadion; and the remains of a long structure found on the hill have been identified with this monument.
Although the Stadion was completely ruined and covered with earth and rubble its situation was known even before the excavation carried out by Ernst Ziller in 1869. Under the town plan drawn up by Schaubert and Kleanthes in 1832 Stadiou Street was intended to run straight from Omónia Square to the Stadion instead of turning right into Syntagma Square as it does today. The plan was changed but the street name remained as it was.
When the Stadion was rebuilt for the first Olympic Games of modern times (1896) it was financed, as in the days of Herodes Atticus, by a wealthy private citizen. Yeoryios Averoff, who thus - like other modern Greeks, particularly those who have made their money abroad - continued the ancient tradition of the euergetes ("benefactor"). The modern Stadion, like the ancient one, has 47 tiers of seating and a rounded southeast end, the sphendone.
Ardettos Hill, Greece
Transit: Trolleybus: 2, 4, 11, 12 (Stadion).