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Destinations / Peloponnese / Ancient Olympia

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Olympia was the most glorious sanctuary of ancient Greece dedicated to Zeus. It was the venue for the Olympic Games of the most important celebration of Greeks during most of the antiquity. Corresponding great sport events were the Pythia that were organized in honor of Apollo in Delphi, Isthmia in honor of Poseidon in the Isthmus of Corinth and Nemea, also in honor of Zeus in his sanctuary in Nemea.

Destinations Peloponnese Ancient Olympia

In Olympia, in the magnificent temple of the god, there was the golden ivory statue of Zeus, a work of Pheidias, which was known in antiquity as one of the seven wonders of the world, while his frieze (Metope) was adorned by the twelve works of Hercules. The starting point of the Olympic Games is placed in 776 BC. and they were taking place every four years. During the Hellenistic period several edifices, mainly secular, such as Gymnasium and Palaestra, were erected, and in the Roman years, they were transformed into the existing ones. Thermal houses, luxurious residences and the aqueduct were also built in the Roman era.

The operation of the sanctuary continued in the first Christian years on Constantine’s day.  In 393 AD took rlace the last Olympic Games and shortly thereafter the emperor of Byzantium Theodosius I, with a decree, forbade definitely their execution because they were considered pagan, while Theodosios II was the final destruction of the sanctuary (426 AD).
Destinations Peloponnese Ancient Olympia

Destinations Peloponnese Ancient Olympia

The beginnings of Olympia are little known. The oldest evidence of human presence in the region dates back to the 4th millennium B.C. due to the large number of shells found on the northern slope of the Stadium. Additionally, on the southern foothills of the Kronion hill, findings have been identified that show that the first sacred and prehistoric cults developed there. For the period of the 3rd millennium BC, the findings of that period, which were found, are a large tumulus (2150-2000 BC) and arched buildings of the settlement (2150-2000 BC).

In the 10th century the sacred site of Alteus is formed with the establishment of Jupiter’s worship. During this period, Olympia became a sacred place that attracted many pilgrims. This dense stream of visitors is testified by the large number of votive offerings that arrived at Olympia not only from the surrounding area but also from the Peloponnese and Sterea Ellada. In the 8th century the reputation of Olympia grew as far as it reached to the East and Mesopotamia and to the West and down Italy. An important time point in Olympia’s history was the year 776 BC. where, according to the tradition, the Spartan king Lycurgus, must have made an agreement with the king of Helida, Iphitos, for the celebration of worship in Olympia together with establishing sport events. Part of the deal was that during the Olympic Games there would be a ceasefire across Greece.

Destinations Peloponnese Ancient Olympia

Destinations Peloponnese Ancient Olympia

In the 5th century, the glamour of Olympia reached such a point that political, philosophical and artistic groups were gathering there because there were large audiences to disseminate their ideas. During the 4th century, importance was given to building activity to improve facilities and create accommodation spaces for visitors.

In 393 AD the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I ordered the closure of all Greek sanctuaries without any information what specific places he meant. Nevertheless, in the years to come, the space has remained particularly popular. The site was later destroyed by natural causes and in the 9th century the site was abandoned and deserted. Over the years, it was covered with mud due to the stream of the river Cladeos and the erosion of the soil of the Cronius hill.

Tracing the steps of Hercules in the Peloponnese and Delphi – 10 days

Get ready for an amazing 10-day / 9-night, high-end Culture Route program that combines astonishingly the private tour of the impressive Greek Mythology of seven of the twelve tribes of Heracles in the Peloponnese.

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