Olympia Site & Village Tourist Attractions
Olympia, lying in the angle between the rivers Alpheios and Kladeos, was a great Panhellenic sanctuary, the venue of the Olympic Games. German excavations from 1875 onwards, which led to the establishment of the present village of Olympia, brought to light the sacred precinct which was known in antiquity as the Altis (the sacred grove) and is now again planted with trees. Situated at the foot of the wooded Mt Kronos in an area of gentle hills, the site of ancient Olympia - one of the great achievements of archeological excavation - makes an impact on the present-day visitor which is fully commensurate with its importance in ancient times. A direct consequence of the excavation was the revival of the Olympic Games by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the first Games of modern times being held in Athens in 1896.
Potsherds of the third millennium B.C. and apsidal houses of the second millennium bear witness to the early settlement of the site. Later the houses gave place to a sanctuary of Zeus which was associated with the older cult of Hera. Olympia lay within the territory of King Oinomaos of Pisa, who was succeeded by Pelops after his victory in a chariot race and his marriage to Oinomaos's daughter Hippodameia. A column from the palace of Oinomaos and the grave mound of Pelops (who gave his name to the Peloponnese) were still being shown to visitors when Pausanias visited the site in the A.D. second century.
The Olympic Games probably began as a local funerary celebration in honor of Pelops. The Greeks believed that Herakles had laid down the regulations for the Games and had specified the length of the stadion as 600ft/192 m. The first historical reference to the Games is in 776 B.C., when a treaty between kings Iphitos of Elis and Lykourgos of Sparta provided for an Olympic truce (ekecheiria) during the summer Games.
From 776 B.C. onwards lists were kept of the winners in the foot race round the Stadion, giving rise to the Greek system of chronological reckoning by olympiads (i.e. periods of four years). Other events were added later - in the eighth century the two-stade race, the long-distance race and the pentathlon, in the seventh century boxing, chariot-racing and the pankration, in the sixth century a race with weapons. The winners received a branch from the sacred olive-tree, but could also expect substantial material rewards (for example meals at public expense) on their return to their native city. The finishing line of the race round the Stadion was originally near the temple of Zeus, in front of which, facing the runners, was Paionios's statue of Nike (Victory) - underlining the religious significance of the race, victory in which was granted by Zeus, the supreme god of the Greek pantheon. Only in the fourth century B.C. was the Stadion moved 80m/88yd east and separated from the Altis.
After their heyday in the fifth century B.C. the Games gradually declined; the religious element became steadily less prominent, and eventually the Games were contested by professional athletes. They were finally banned by the Emperor Theodosius, and came to an end in A.D. 393 after an existence of more than a thousand years.
Branch railroad line Pyrgos-Olympia.
Areas in an around Olympia were damaged by forest firest in August of 2006, although the ancient site of Olympia and museum were left intact.