Olympia, Greece: April 17, 2012 Day 3 of the Eastern Mediterranean Cruise
Contact me here                                 For the history of Olympia, click here. For books, click here.

I am an avid buff of Ancient History and Cultures and the Civilizations that made it happen. Coming to Greece that gave us so much, was a long awaited childhood dream - a sort of pilgrimage. After being baited with an evening glimpse of Rome on April 15, it was exhilarating to spend some time here in Olympia and take some nice photos. Due to the limited time on the tour, I kept shooting without really knowing all of what I was capturing. I figured that with the nGPS assist on my Nikon D7000 camera, I will be able to figure it all out later, when I got home.

After a sleepless overnight crossing of the Adriatic from Bari with the cruise ship rattling and shaking to peaces due to one broken engine and the second one running at full steam to stay on schedule, we arrived sick, shaken and broken before noon at the port of Katakalon. Around 1:00PM, we boarded the tour bus that would take us to Olympia, arriving before 2:000PM. The tour would last till 4:00PM when we returned to the ship.

Greater Olympia area has been inhabited since the Final Neolithic period (4300 - 3100 BC). See Note 1.

Ancient Olympia hosted the first athletic competitions in the world starting in 7th century B.C. The grounds of the Sanctuary at Altis were dedicated to Greek god Zeus, and judging from the collection of miniature votive offerings found during excavations around the altar of the Temple of Zeus, it was the main place of worship for ancient Greeks. The statue of Zeus was created circa 432 BC by Greek sculptor Phidias, and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The last Olympic Games were held in 393 AD when the Christian emperor Theodosius I forbade the celebration of pagan cults, which included the Games. In 426 CE, Theodosius II ordered the destruction of the sanctuary, and earthquakes in 522 and 551 devastated the ruins and left the Temple of Zeus partially buried. There is new evidence that that Olympia was finally destroyed and buried by a tsunami in the 6th century AD, conflicting with the evidence of the earthquake as single source event. An agricultural settlement grew over the ruins of Olympia, with a church and several modest workshops. This city was abandoned during the 7th century AD.

Over the centuries the river Alpheios, to the south of the sanctuary, folded and swept away the hippodrome, and the river Kladeios to the west destroyed part of the gymnasium. Following earthquakes and storms, a layer of silt was deposited up to 8 meters deep over the entire site. Olympia lay unnoticed until modern times when the English antiquarian, Richard Chandler, rediscovered it in 1766. The first excavation of the sanctuary at Olympia was carried out in 1829, by the French "Expedition Scientifique de Moree".

The first set of photos are inside the museum. The second set were taken at the Olympia archaeological site. There are close to 100 photos on this page. Enjoy.

1. Olympia Museum (1:47-2:58PM).
2. Olympia Archeological Site (3:10-4:03PM).
3. Olympic Victor Statues (separate page of the bases of long-gone statues I photographed).

Note: All the cruise photos were imaged with my Nikon D7000 DSLR Camera with Nikon 18-105mm DX VR Lens and Columbus nGPS mounted on the hot shoe. Nikon ViewNX2™ software connected with Google Maps™ was used to pinpoint the location of each photo as shown by the pins.

To view larger image, click on the small image and then press browser BACK BUTTON to return to this page.

 For the GPS camera photo route map of Olympia, click here.

All the photos and text (except for external text quotes) are Copyright © by Jack Lupic and no reproduction is permitted.


On the way to Olympia

The port of Katakalon with a long line of tour buses.
Old train station
Unidentified church in Fanaras, near Olympia.
Olympia Museum

This is probably one of the finest museums in Greece. Besides being located in the vicinity of the archeological site, it contains large collection of artifacts found at the site of ancient Olympia including traces of pre-Olympic settlements dating to the Final Neolithic period (4300 - 3100 BC).

Archaeological finds displayed on the right side of the Olympia museum entrance (1:47PM).   Archaeological finds displayed on the right side of the Olympia museum entrance (1:49PM).   Archaeological finds displayed on the right side of the Olympia museum entrance (1:50PM).
Hercules and the cleansing of the Augias stables. Hercules cleans the Augias stables by diverting the River Alpheus to pass through the stables. (from the metope friezes "the twelve labors of Heracles" found at the Temple of Zeus) (1:59PM).   Athena, Hercules, Atlas and the Hesperides golden apples. Herakles supporting the Heavens and Atlas extending towards him the golden Apples of Hesperides (from the metope friezes "the twelve labors of Heracles" found at the Temple of Zeus) (2:00PM).   West Pediment detail
West Pediment - Old Woman (1:59PM).   West Pediment of the Temple of Zeus (2:04PM ).   West Pediment detail with Apollo in the center.
Close-up of Apollo from the West Pediment (2:04PM).   West Pediment detail (2:05PM).   West Pediment - Theseus (2:05PM).
East Pediment from the temple of Zeus (1:59PM).   East Pediment detail
  East Pediment Seer and River god, Kladeos?
Archaeological map of Elis (2:07PM).   Finds of the Final Neolithic' to Early Helladic Periods from Olympia, 3100-2000BC. From the slopes of the Stadium and the excavation of the Museum.
  Infants' pithos burials in Altis - 2000BC. See note 1.
Typical pottery of the EH III - MH I Periods from the Altis.

In the case is displayed some of the rare, for the Altis, typical painted pottery of the end of the EH III period (2250 - 2000 BC.) and beginning of the MH period (2000 - 1900 BC.) (nos.1.1-6 and no.2). Only at Olympia does the fine Grey Minoan pottery have incised foreign decorative motifs (nos.3-5 and nos.6.1-12), and also foreign shapes (no.3). Along with the brown-black incised pottery of the Altis (nos.7.1-9 and no.8), it shows the close relations between Olympia and the CETINA Culture of the Dalmatian coast, and with other sites in Southern Italy, Sicily and Malta that were under the influence of this culture (Map I). (2:11PM) 

  Assorted Neolithic tools.


    Assyrian bronze sheets

Of exceptional importance is a group of Assyrian bronze sheets that came to light in 1960 during the excavation of the Stadion. They carry representations rendered in relief by the hammering technique and depict subjects popular with the Assyrians: gods, priests leading animals to sacrifice, horses and processions of men. They are works of the Late Hittite-Assyrian cycle of Northern Syria and date probably to the 8th c. BC. They were reused in Greece at a later period (perhaps the 2nd quarter of the 7th c. BC.) for the decoration of the clothing of a female statue made on a wooden core. At that time the Assyrian sheets were joined onto later ones which were made and decorated by a Greek artist with incised representations (hoplites, animals and foliate ornaments). (2:13PM)  

Terracotta figurines
Mycenaean terracotta figurines were usually hand-made, and probably produced by potters in the same workshops. The flourishing production period covers the 14th and 13th centuries BC. Terracotta figurines represent mainly female figures in stylized positions corresponding to the letters of Greek alphabet Phi (Φ), Tau (T), and Psi (Ψ) [Fig.I]. (2:12PM)


  Finds from Kalosakas chamber tomb B. Ca. 1400-1300 BC.


  Miniature votive offerings at the altar of Zeus


Bronze figurines and votive tripods.

During the excavations in the Altis large quantities of cast bronze figurines o people and animals came to light The anthropomorphic figurines, mainly male and fewer female, depicted gods and heroes, charioteers. warriors or dancers. They came chiefly from Peloponnesian workshops and were either individual pieces or fittings on utensils, cauldrons or vases. They date from the 9th c. BC and multiplied considerably during the 8th - 7th c. BC. The miniature votive tripod vessels occurred chiefly in the Geometric period, at which time there was also a great increase in the numbers of cauldrons. (2:14PM)

  Bronze figurines of the Geometric period.

In the course of the 8th c. BC the bronze figurines of horses, which are among the most numerous votive offerings in the Sanctuary, acquired new features: the thighs, the bellies and necks attained greater plasticity, and particular emphasis was on to the rendering of the muzzles and incised details of the figurine. (2:14PM)


  Griffin and baby. Massive hammered bronze relief. ca. 630-620 BC.

This is the only preserved complete, massive, bronze relief in ancient Greek art. From a Corinthian workshop. (2:16PM)

Votive shields of sheath. Two miniature cast helmets are displayed on the left (2:17PM).   Various bronze shields and helmet
    Bronze Defensive Equipment
Arm guards, midriff guards and greaves. 7th c. BC.
Bronze Corinthian Helmets.
    A colossal limestone female head.
The colossal head may have belonged to a cult statue of Hera or have come from a figure of a Sphinx that formed an acroterion on the roof of some other Archaic building. (2:18PM)

Clay Eleian and Corinthian Vessels.


Parts of Terracotta Architecture from different buildings.
  Bronze tripod legs, legs of utensils and furniture (7th-5th c. BC). The bronze tripod legs and the legs of utensils and furniture. following Eastern models, often terminated in zoomorphic feet of lions, griffins, horses and even birds. The bronze feet of animals exhibited here came from different workshops in Greece (2:19PM).   Entablature of the Treasury of the Megarians - 6th C BC. See note 4. (2:22PM)
Terracotta Dolphin surfing the waves, 5c. BC.
  Terracotta head of Athena, 490 BC. The goddess wears an Attic helmet and a diodem decorated with lotus flowers (2:23PM).   Bronze Helmets.

Helmet no 1 is an Etruscan type and helmet no 2 is a Corinthian type, made in an Italian workshop. Both of them carry the same incised inscription Hieron I the son of Deinomenea, and the Syracusans to Zeus from Tyrrhenia al Cyme. They were votive offerings in the Sanctuary of Zeus by Hieron I, the tyrant of Syracuse and his fellow citizens after their victory at Cyme in Italy over the Tyrrhenians, in other words the Etruscans, in 474 BC. There is one other helmet with the same inscription in the British Museum. Note: Hieron won a chariot race at Olympia in 468 BC (2:24PM).


Baked clay statue depicting the abduction of Ganymede, a young Trojan prince, by the god Zeus to serve as his cupbearer as well as his catamite (480-470 B.C.) (2:24PM).

  Bronze horn and ear of a bull. Was made by the bronze sculptor Philesios and was a votive offering of the Eretrians after their victory over the Athenians at the beginning of the 5th c. B.C. (2:25PM).   Bronze statuette of a horse. Solid cast, it comes from a votive chariot. An outstanding work from an Argive workshop (Argos, Peloponnese) 470 BC (2:25PM).


The statue of Nike was a votive offering to Zeus from the Messenians and the Naupactians for their victory against the Spartans in the Archidameian war (most probably in 421 BC.). It was sculpted in Parian marble by Paeonios from Mende in Chalkidiki. The statue, 2.11 m. in height, stood at the southeast corner of the temple of Zeus on a triangular base, 8.81 m. high. The inscription on the base reads as following: The Messenians and the Naupactians dedicated to Olympia's Zeus a tithe [one tenth] their enemies) of the booty taken from their enemies and a little lower: Paeonios of Mende made this [statue] as well as the acroteria above the temple for which he won a prize. (2:25PM). For the statue reconstruction, click here,

  Depiction of the statue of Zeus of Olympia holding Nike in his right hand and a staff in his left hand.

Clay moulds from Pheidias' workshop.

The little moulds exhibited here were intended for the rendering glass ornamental components. Most of them have the shape of an anthemion leaf, but there are also star-shaped ones. Typical are soma glass inserts (no.11) which came from clay moulds. The cubical base (no.21) was used as a working surface for objects being processed. (2:27PM)

Bronze and lead objects

The bronze and lead objects found in Pheidias workshop were either craftsmen's implements or ornamental components of the cryselephantine statue of Zeus. Most of them were bronze spatulas and awls. Typical of the bronze implements were a little goldsmith's hammer and a double lead axe used probably for working glass (2:28PM).

  Hermes and the Infant Dionysus.


  Hermes and the Infant Dionysus

Eleian Drinking and Incense Vessels, 3-4c. BC (2:33PM).

  Various Vessels (2:33PM).   Red-Figure Eleian Bell Krater vessel to mix wine and water - 4C BC. The scene shows two meanads with a satyr between them (2:33PM)
The first eight Roman era statues below were found at the monumental fountain called "The Nymphaeum of Herodes Atticus" (also called "The Exedra of Herodes Atticus") erected in Olympia Sanctuary in c. 153 CE. Statues from this period do not glorify athletes but the Roman imperial family.

The fountain should really be called "The nymphaeum of Regilla" since only her name was found there. At this fountain (its wall held niches for 15 statues and the circular naiskoi one statue each) a number of statues of Regalia's family members and other notable Romans were found and are exhibited in the museum at Olympia. For the fountain, see photos of 3:34PM and 3:36PM and note 6 below.

For more info on Aspasia Annia Regilla, click here.

Headless statue of Aspasia Annia Regilla, the wife of Herodes Atticus.  
  Head of M. Appius Bradua, from a statue in the nymphaeum of Regilla at Olympia, c. 153 CE. He was second son of Herodes Atticus and Aspasia Annia Regilla. (2:35PM).    Faustina the Elder
was a Roman Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. Born 100 AD - died 140AD. (2:36PM)
Statue of Athenais, the second daughter of Regilla and Herodes Atticus.
  Statue of Marcus Aurelius (head missing). Marcus Aurelius was the adopted son and heir apparent of the reigning emperor at the time, Antoninus Pius, married to his daughter Faustina the Younger. (2:36PM).   Statue of the Bull, 2nd c. AD.
This bull stood in the center of the nymphaeum of Regilla; the Greek inscription reads, "Regilla, priestess of Demeter, dedicated the water and the things around the water to Zeus" (2:37PM).
Portrait head from the statue of Lucius Verus, 2nd half of 2nd c. AD. (2:38PM)   Emperor Hadrian.
  Statue probably of Poppaea Sabina (30–65 AD), second wife of Emperor Nero, as a Priestess, from 1st Century AD.
Glass in Antiquity. Glass appeared around 5000 years ago in the Mediterranean region. In Greece, it was first mentioned on tablets of Pylos and Mycenae around 6th c. BC (2:39PM).   Iron tools of everyday use.
In this case are displayed iron tools from the Sanctuary of Olympia. Hoes, mattocks, hammers and tongs have the same forms as the tools of today and are witnesses to the life led by people in the sanctuary from Classical to Early Christian years. (2:40PM)
  Olympia Museum
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Olympia Archeological Site
Model of the archaeological site in the Olympia museum. For larger image, click on the image or here.
The white center building is the temple of Zeus. On the right is the Stadium.
  Poster at the entrance to the archeological grounds (3:10PM).   The Gymnasium (Gymnasion)
  The Prytaneion (Council House) poster (3:13PM).
The Prytaneion.
Almost square building; in the northwest corner of the Sanctuary of Zeus (Altis), at the northwest corner of the Temple of Hera.
  The Prytaneion (5th cent. B.C.)
The Prytaneion  (Council House) was the permanent residence of the Prytaneis, the high priests. Inside the Prytaneion was the ever-burning fire of Hestia, goddess of hearth and home. When sacrifices were made at Olympia, fire was taken from Hestia's hearth to ignite the sacrificial fire at any of the other altars (3:21PM).
  The Prytaneion with section of a Corinthian column. This photo was taken on the way back to the site exit (3:58PM).
The Palaestra at Olympia is part of the Gymnasium at the sanctuary. This sixty-six metre square building dates to the end of the third or beginning of the 2nd century BC.  It was devoted to the training of wrestlers and other athletes.

I loved the Judas trees bursting with delicate pink blossoms. The trees only bloom for a few short weeks in Spring. We were there at the right time  (3:15PM).

  The Philippeion: Temple of Philip II of Macedon and his family including Alexander.

The Philippeion in the Altis of Olympia was an Ionic circular memorial of ivory and gold, which contained statues of Philip's family, Alexander the Great, Olympias, Amyntas III and Eurydice I. It was made by the Athenian sculptor Leochares in celebration of Philip's victory at the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC). It was the only structure inside the Altis dedicated to a human (3:15PM).

   Poster at The Philippeion.
The Philippeion.

Doric Temple of Hera, built in the 6th c. BC. It is the oldest temple, preceding the temple of Zeus.

   Doric Temple of Hera, built in the 6th c. BC.
Temple of Hera (3:40PM).     An actress as high priestess Ino Menegaki lights the Olympic flame at the Temple of Hera during the Lighting Ceremony of the Olympic Flame at Ancient Olympia on May 10, 2012 in Olympia, Greece. See Huffington Post news release here.   The Leonidaion (built in 330 BC), a large hostel, occupied the southwestern part of the Altis (Olympia Sanctuary).  In the background are the baths of Leonidaion  (3:26PM).

Temple of Zeus.

Doric, peripteral temple with six columns at the narrow and thirteen columns at the long sides (64,12 X 27,68 m., and h. 20,25 m.). It was the model,("canon") of the doric order temple. Libon the Elean was the architect of the monument. In the cella was positioned the colossal gold-and-ivory made cult statue of Zeus (h: 12 m.), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world fashioned by the renowned Athenian sculptor Pheidias. The two pediments were decorated with marble sculptures depicting mythological scenes: East pediment: The contest between Pelops and Oinomaos. West pediment: The fight between Lapiths and Centaurs. The labours of Hercules were depicted on the twelve interior slabs ("metopae"). The temple was destroyed by the earthquakes of 522 and 551 A. D. From the poster at the temple.
Temple of Zeus. (470 - 457 B.C.).
The single restored column at the Temple of Zeus. See note 8 (3:28PM).
Ruins of the Temple of Zeus.
Panoramic view of Temple of Zeus (two photos)
Panoramic view of Temple of Zeus (two photos)
Ruins of the Temple of Zeus. In the rear appears to be a hearth for baking.
  Entrance to the Temple of Zeus with steps on the right. This photo was taken on the way back to the site exit (3:52PM).   Model of the Zeus Sanctuary in Olympia from the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. See this link.
Pheidias' Zeus (Bode-Museum, Berlin). A very detailed description of the sculpture and its throne was recorded by the traveler Pausanias, in the 2nd century AD. In Zeus' right hand there was a small statue of crowned Nike, goddess of victory, also chryselephantine, and in his left hand, a sceptre inlaid with gold, on which an eagle perched. Source: Wikipedia. At his feet is the Little Owl, the favourite of Greek birds.

Archeologists John and Elizabeth Romer note that Pheidias was twice indicted for stealing some of the precious materials with which he made his two gigantic statues; at Athens, he was accused of taking some of the ivory scales from the snake that stood beside Athena Parthenos; at Olympia, of stealing some of the gold of Zeus's cloak. Pericles' enemies found a false witness against Phidias, named Menon. Phidias died in prison, although Pericles' companion, Aspasia, was acquitted of her own charges. Source: Wikipedia.
Le Jupiter Olympien (Olympian Zeus whom Romans later renamed Jupiter).
[A.–C. Quatremère de Quincy, Le Jupiter olympien, Paris, de Bure, 1815, frontispice et titre. Bibliothèque d’Art et d’Archéologie-Jacques Doucet]
Reproduction of an 1815 French poster with an artist's rendition of the statue of Zeus at Olympia. CREDIT: Public domain.
Source: LiveScience.
To supplement four photos below, see Olympic Victor Statues (separate page of the bases of long-gone statues I photographed).  
Base of Olympic Victor Statue with the dedicatory inscription honoring Julius the Athenian. 3:32PM.

I have a separate page on the translation of the inscription on this base.

  On the left side of the path are a number of bases that held the statues of Olympic Victors.
  Base of Olympic Victor Statue with the dedicatory inscription. 3:53PM.
Base of Olympic Victor Statue with the dedicatory inscription.
   Prehistoric building at Olympia

In the Prehistoric period, Kronos, Rhea, Gaia, Themis, Eileithyia, Hercules Idaios and other deities were venerated at the foot of the Kronios hill, at the very site occupied by the Altis in later times. Here excavations revealed a primitive sanctuary and possibly a settlement of the Early Helladic III period (2300-2000 BC); the site was continuously occupied until the Late Helladic III period (1600-1100 BC (3:33PM).

  View looking northwest at the Exedra of Herodes Atticus built in A.D. 160. This semicircular area was a large water fountain, a nymphaeum, that actually provided water to the whole sacred area. Looking from the north side of the Temple of Hera (3:34PM).
Olympia's Treasuries.
Looking from the north-east side of the Temple of Hera. on the right is part of primitive sanctuary and possibly a settlement of the Early Helladic III period (2300-2000 BC) (3:35PM).
  Close-up of an olive tree with ripe olives. Although this has nothing to do with Archaeology, it is as much a part of Greece as the Olympic Games.
  Side view looking west northwest at the Exedra of Herodes Atticus (semi-circular area is visible).
Olympia's Treasuries side view. One Temple of Hera Column on the  left (3:39PM).   The Treasuries west of the Olympic Stadium.
  The Treasuries west of the Olympic Stadium.
The Treasuries west of the Olympic Stadium.
  The Plan of the Treasuries.
  The Olympic Stadium.
Five photo Olympic Stadium Panorama.
For larger, 7758 x 1753 pix photo, click here.
The photos were stitched with Hugin Panorama photo stitcher.
Six photo panorama from the Olympia's Tresuries & Temple of Hera (right) to north of the Olympic Stadium (left). The entrance to the stadium is to the far left where there is a lineup of tourists. Top part of the entrance arch is visible.
For larger, 4403 x 675pix photo, click here.
The photos were stitched with Hugin Panorama photo stitcher.

STADIUM (Middle of the 5th' cent. B.C.)
The present (final) position of the Stadium is that of Classical times. (Track dimensions between the stone starting and finishing lines: 192. 27 X 213.50 m.). The embankments did not have stone seats, except for the preserved platform ("exedra") for the judges at the Olympic games ("Hellanodikae") on the south one. On the north embankment visible is the altar of Demeter Hamyne. The capacity of the Stadium is estimated to 45.000 spectators. A monumental entrance ("Krypte") was erected at the west side of it in the Late Hellenistic period. Text from the poster at the stadium.

Video frame capture: West of Stadium.
  Part of the Treasuries with entrance arch to Stadium, left (3:44PM).    The Stadium looking from North to South.
In the foreground (northern slope of the Stadium) is the base of the altar to Demeter Chamyne. In the background on the southern slope of the Stadium is a stone platform, the exedra, on which the Hellanodikai, the judges, would sit (3:48PM).
A monumental entrance ("Krypte") was erected at the west side of the Stadium in the Late Hellenistic period. Immediately outside the Krypte, the entrance to the stadium and along the treasury terrace is a row of sixteen pedestals, which supported the Zanes. These were bronze statues of Zeus, none of which has survived, created from the fines imposed on athletes for cheating at the Olympic Games (3:51PM).   The river Kladeos flows through Olympia and empties into the river Alfeios. The river in the winter is protected from the flooding of Ancient Olympia. In the Mycenaean period, the Kladeos area was flooded. The flood continued in the Middle Ages and went up to the German excavations of Olympia in 1875 where it buried Olympia with a height of 4 m. (4:03PM).   Temple of Zeus excavations (1875-1876), east side — northern half to northeastern corner — with excavation crew wearing the traditional attire, the tsolia. In front of the building there are statue bases. Aristotelis and Dimitrios Romaïdis photograph.
The valley of Olympia before the excavations.
At the left the conical Kronion hill (height ca. 123m.) dominates the north side of the sanctuary (A. Boetticher, Olympia 1886).
Drawing by H. Haeberlin (1876) showing the workers in the first excavations of the Sanctuary.
Plan of the sanctuary of Olympia, Greece.
Data from Nikolaos Kaltsas, Olympia, Athens, 2004 (3rd ed.), fig. 14, p. 16–17. Released into worldwide public domain by the author.
For larger, 2000x1264pix image, click on the image above or here.
  • 1: NE Propylon
  • 2: Prytaneion
  • 3: Philippeion
  • 4: Heraion
  • 5: Pelopion
  • 6: Nympheum of Herodes Atticus
  • 7: Metroon
  • 8: Zanes
  • 9: Crypt (arched way to the stadium)
  • 10: Stadium
  • 11: Echo stoa
  • 12: Building of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe
  • 13: Hestia stoa
  • 14: Hellenistic building
  • 15: Temple of Zeus
  • 16: Altar of Zeus
  • 17: Ex-voto of Achaeans
  • 18: Ex-voto of Mikythos
  • 19: Nike of Paionios
  • 20: Gymnasion
  • 21: Palaestra
  • 22: Theokoleon
  • 23: Heroon
  • 24: Pheidias' workshop and paleochristian basilica
  • 25: Baths of Kladeos
  • 26: Greek baths
  • 27 and 28: Hostels
  • 29: Leonidaion
  • 30: South baths
  • 31: Bouleuterion
  • 32: South stoa
  • 33: Villa of Nero
  • I: Sicyon
  • II: Syracuse
  • III: Epidamnus?
  • IV: Byzantium?
  • V: Sybaris?
  • VI: Cyrene?
  • VII: Unindentified
  • VIII: Altar?
  • IX: Selinunte
  • X: Metapontum
  • XI: Megara
  • XII: Gela
  1. THE PREHISTORIC PERIOD AT OLYMPIA (scanned from a poster at the archaeological site)
    The first traces of human activity at Olympia have been located in deep levels on the north side of the Stadium, where remains of coarse utility wares were found, without buildings, dating to the Final Neolithic period (4300 - 3100 BC). The following period (Early Helladic I. 3100 - 2700 BC.) is represented by a very few fragments of vases of the "fruit stand" type, while on the other hand abundant typical Early Helladic II pottery (2700 - 2250 BC.), which has been observed all over the north slope of the Stadion, at the site of the Prytaneion in the Allis, in the deep levels beneath the New Museum of Olympia as well as at the locality of Trani Lakka, some 250 m NE of the Museum, attest to an extensive habitation and intense human activity at this time Furthermore the construction in this same period of the huge ritual tumulus below the Pelopion in the Altis is evidence of the great importance of the site of Olympia as early as the 3rd millennium BC, which was very probably the seat of a central authority which controlled the general region. During the cultural regression that followed immediately after, at the beginning of the Early Helladic III period (ca. 2250 BC.), a settlement with apsidal houses grew up in the locality of the New Museum and at the end of this period (ca. 2050 BC.) a hill burial tumulus was constructed, now preserved beneath the museum foundations (below gallery X). In the Altis, also, in the middle of this period people began to live near the great tumulus in apsidal houses, on the floors of which were found, among other things many vases with incised designs and shapes foreign to Greece. According to recent research these indicate relations with the CETINA Culture of the Dalmatian coast. It therefore appears that Olympia was already an important trading station for the bearers of this culture, who developed in the Adriatic and Ionian seas a trading network that spread as far as Malta, Sicily and S. Italy. The last traces of habitation in the Allis date to Middle Helladic I. These consisted of meager rectangular dwellings built directly on top of the ruins of the apsidal houses. The seven infant burials in large pithoi in this period (EH III and MH I) found in the Allis are evidence of the custom of the inhabitants of burying their infants near or under their houses. This poor settlement was soon abandoned due to the danger of flooding and the area of the Altis was not inhabited again. Indications of habitation dating to the MH II (1900 - 1700 BC.) and MH III (1700 - 1600 BC.) periods can be seen on the north slope of the Stadion and at the prehistoric settlement on the hill of Oinomaos, about a kilometer east of the Stadion.

  2. OLYMPIA IN THE MYCENAEAN PERIOD (scanned from a poster at the museum)
    In the last phase of the Bronze Age, also known as the Late Helladic or Mycenaean period (ca. 1600 - 1100 BC.), the NW Peloponnese, with Elis north of the Alpheios river and western Achaia as its core, appears to have formed an integral cultural entity situated at a considerable distance from the large Mycenaean centers of the time. During the LHI - 118 periods (1600 - 1400 BC.) the regions south of the Alpheios were active, while in the following LHIIIA I period (1400- 1300 BC.), when the palace centers in the Argolid and neighbouring Messenia were flourishing. There is no evidence for a similar status in lowland Elis ("blessed by Zeus and spacious", in Homer's words). For ail that there were no palatial buildings in the cities of Elis and Pisa, the rivers of Elis, the Peneios and Alpheios, favoured the establishment of Mycenaean settlements of a rural nature. The valley of Olympia ranks among the places that were particularly preferred for settlement by the Mycenaeans at the nodal confluence of the Alpheios and its tributary the Kladeos. This is attested by archaeological excavation, which has brought to light only burial sites in the district. The pottery production of these sites follows in a general way the typology and decoration which characterizes that of the Mycenaean centers, but displaying interesting local peculiarities from as early as the end of the 15th c. and during the following 14th, 13th and 121h centuries BC The most important evidence of habitation in Mycenaean times close to the Sacred Altis comes from the organized cemetery around the New Museum of Olympia (ca 1400 - 1200 BC.). However, the settlement to which it belonged has not yet been located. The other finds of this period are sporadic and come from the site of the Stadion, the area of the Olympic Academy, the Railway Station of the modem town, the hill of Drouva W of the Old Museum. and from isolated burials some 800 m NE of the New Museum (Trani Lakka). The overall data and the excavated sites in the wider area of Olympia lay the foundations for a deeper exploration of the past during this particular period, which was to be eclipsed some centuries later by the growth and operation of the famous Sanctuary of Zeus.
  3. THE EARLY HELLADIC II PELOPION TUMULUS (scanned from a poster at the museum)
    The Pelopion in the heart of the Altis was the very important cult site of the hero Pelops in the Classical period. The site at that time consisted of a low elevation, which was surrounded by a Pentagonal wall with a propylon at the southwest corner. On the north side of the propylon the great German archaeologist W. Dôrpfeld had uncovered in 1929 at a depth of about 2 m a curving row of upright river stones, which he interpreted as the precinct of a very ancient and very large tumulus which he dated to the 2nd half of the 2nd millennium BC, in other words the Mycenaean period. This huge tumulus, the "Pelopion I", was taken by Dôrpfeld to be the cenotaph of the hero Pelops. The extensive excavations carried out from 1987 to 1994 in the general area of the Pelopion largely change the previous picture of the tumulus. lt was discovered that the original surface of the circular tumulus consisted of unworked stone slabs, and the pottery gathered showed that the tumulus, with a diameter of 27 m at its base, dates to the Early Helladic II period, about 2500 BC. The tumulus below the Pelopion is the oldest monument in the area of the Sanctuary of Olympia as well as being the largest and oldest of all the large prehistoric tumuli known hitherto in central and southern mainland Greece. In size it can only be compared with the Early Helladic II tumulus at Lerna in the Argolid which was constructed on top of the "House of Tiles". Since no traces of burial have been found in the tumulus, however, as at Lerna, it is thought to have served for the cult of some unknown deity, perhaps of fertility. And for the inhabitants of the subsequent village of apsidal houses it also probably had a cultic significance, which is also implied by an "altar" and a large shallow ash pit on the east side of the tumulus with remains of rituals.
    After the destruction of the apsidal dwellings in the Altis, at the end of the Early Helladic III period, the inhabitants of the subsequent "rectangular" houses at the beginning of the Middle Helladic period (MH I, 2000 - 1900 BC.) no longer respected the large tumulus, for they used the clayey earth from it for building their homes, which however they very soon abandoned and the site of the Altis was permanently deserted.
    Nevertheless the highest part in the centre of the great tumulus continued to remain visible even in the Early Iron Age (from 1050 BC.), this probably being the reason for constructing the Protogeometric Sanctuary in exactly this place at the confluence of the Alpheios and Kladeos rivers.

  4. TREASURY OF THE MEGARIANS (scanned from a poster at the museum)
    The entablature of the Treasury has been restored together with the pediment, on which is depicted in relief a Gigantomachy made of limestone. The scene. containing five pairs of gods and Giants fighting, is preserved in fragments and only the figure of the Giant in the middle has survived almost complete. He is shown wounded and about to fall to the ground under the blows of Zeus, the whom only a leg is preserved. The other gods would have been Athena and Poseidon on the left and Heracles with Ares an the right. Sea monsters or serpents were depicted in the two corners of the pediment. Probably from an Eleian workshop. It is dated to the end of 6th c. BC. The Megarians had attached a shield taken from the spoils of their victory over Corinthians. On the epistyle is the inscription MEΓAPEΩN (of the Megarians), which is from the Roman period.
  5. Famous visitors: Plato and Aristotle, and before them, in the 6th century BC, Thales of Miletus and Hieron of Syracuse were to compete in the games, and so was Alcibiades, Alexander the Great and Nero. Thales died of sunstroke in the stadium during the games of 548 BC. Source: Olympia, Greece Online City Guide.
  6. Aspasia Annia Regilla, the wife of Herodes Atticus, rich Greek aristocrat who served as a Roman Senator, dedicated a monumental fountain called "The Nymphaeum of Herodes Atticus" (also called "The Exedra of Herodes Atticus") in Olympia Sanctuary in c. 153 CE. The fountain should really be called "The nymphaeum of Regilla" since only her name was found there. At this fountain (its wall held niches for 15 statues and the circular naiskoi one statue each) a number of statues of Regalia's family members and other notable Romans were found and are exhibited in the museum at Olympia. Regilla was priestess of Demeter Chamyne at Olympia in 153 CE; this priestess was the only woman officially allowed to view the games. Text source: Barbara McManus, 2007:

    1. Inscribed statue of a bull. This bull stood in the center of the nymphaeum; the Greek inscription reads, "Regilla, priestess of Demeter, dedicated the water and the things around the water to Zeus."

    2. Statue of Annia Faustina, the oldest daughter of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger.

    3. Head of M. Appius Bradua. Bradua was a Roman senator who was the maternal grandfather of Regilla.

    4. Statue of Athenais. Athenais was the second daughter of Regilla and Herodes Atticus.

    5. Statue of Faustina the Elder. Faustina was the wife of the reigning emperor at the time, Antoninus Pius, and a relative of Regilla.

    6. Statue of Hadrian. Hadrian was the previous emperor and adoptive father of the reigning emperor at the time, Antoninus Pius.

    7. Head of a youthful member of the imperial family. The museum label identifies this as the head of Lucius Verus, who had been adopted by Antoninus Pius along with Marcus Aurelius. However, the head seems too young for Verus, who was a grown man at this time.

    8. Statue of Marcus Aurelius (head missing). Marcus Aurelius was the adopted son and heir apparent of the reigning emperor at the time, Antoninus Pius, married to his daughter Faustina the Younger.

    9. Statue of Regilla (head missing). Regilla was the priestess of Demeter Chamyne at Olympia, wife of Herodes Atticus, and dedicator of this monumental fountain, though it is often called "the nymphaeum of Herodes Atticus" by modern scholars.

    10. Statue of man wearing a toga (head missing). This is usually identified as a statue of Appius Annius Gallus, a distinguished Roman senator related to Faustina the Elder, and father of Regilla.

  7. Nike, the Messenger of the Gods. The Ancient Greeks considered that it was the gods who decided to grant victory to an athlete. Victory was often represented in the form of a winged female character known as Nike, which means “victory” in Greek. As the servant or messenger of the Gods, Nike flew down to the chosen person, to bring them their divine reward in the form of a wreath or ribbon.
  8. The Statue of Zeus by Pheidias. This statue, created by the master sculptor Pheidias around 430 BC,was one of the wonders of the ancient world. It is described as depicting Zeus on his throne, holding a small Nike in his hand. Made of ivory and gold over a wooden frame (chryselephantine), the statue was so large it reached the roof of the temple. It was moved to Constantinople and destroyed when the Lauseion, the building that housed it caught fire in 476AD.
  9. In about 420 AD the colossal statue of Zeus was taken to Constantinople (now called Istanbul) to form part of the collection of the Chamberlain Lausus. It took pride of place in his private museum of ancient statues, a collection destroyed by fire in 475 AD. However the evidence is clear that the magnificent bearded face of Zeus was used in Christian art as the prototype for the mature Christ Pantokrator (Ruler of All). It is through those images of Christ as Judge and Ruler, seated and bearded, holding a book in his left hand, that we still have a tangible link back to the ancient Olympic Games. Text from PDF article: The Temple of Zeus at Olympia. © Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia, 2000.
  10. Famous Athletes:
    ASTYLOS OF KROTON: Astylos of Kroton in southern Italy won a total of six victory olive wreaths in three Olympiads (488-480 BC) in the stade and the diaulos (twice the stade) events. In the first Olympiad, he ran for Kroton and his compatriots honoured and glorified him. In the two successive Olympiads, however, he took part as a citizen of Syracuse. The people of Kroton punished him by demolishing his statue in their city and converting his house into a prison.

    MILON OF KROTON: Milon, a pupil of the philosopher Pythagoras, was one of the most famous athletes in Antiquity. He came from the Greek city of Kroton in southern Italy. He was six times Olympic wrestling champion. He first won in 540 BC, in the youth wrestling event, and then five times in men's wrestling. This is a unique achievement even in today's competition context. He also won seven times in the Pythian Games, nine times in the Nemean Games, ten times in the Isthmian Games and innumerable times in small competitions. In the 67th Olympiad (512 BC), in his seventh attempt for the championship, he lost to a younger athlete, Timasitheus. There are many accounts of his achievements.

    MELANKOMAS OF KARIA: Melankomas of Karia was crowned Olympic boxing champion in 49 BC, and was a winner in many other events. He went down in history for the way in which he fought. His movements were light, simple and fascinating. He would defeat his opponents without ever being hit himself, nor ever dealing a blow. He was reputed to fight for two days holding his arms out without ever lowering them. He attained his excellent competitive form through continuous and strenuous exercise.

    LEONIDAS OF RHODES: Leonidas of Rhodes was one of the most famous runners in Antiquity. His was a unique achievement, even by today's standards. For four consecutive Olympiads (164-152 BC), he won three races, - the stade race, the diaulos race and the armour race. He won a total of 12 Olympic victory wreaths. He was acclaimed as a hero by his compatriots.
  11. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), OBAE, OBAE, OLY´MPIA
    OLY´MPIA (όλύμπια), usually called the Olympic games, the greatest of the national festivals of the Greeks. It was celebrated at Olympia in Elis, the name given to a small plain to the west of Pisa, which was bounded on the north and north-east by the mountains Cronion and Olympus, on the south by the river Alpheus, and on the west by the Cladeus, which flows into the Alpheus. Olympia does not appear to have been a town, but rather a collection of temples and public buildings, a full description of which does not come within the plan of this work.
  12. Books:

    Recommended book purchased by me at the Olympia muesum:
    "Olympia: the archaeological site and the museums" by Olympia Vikatou - 2006 - 173 pages. Buy it from ABE Books.
    Table of Contents: Sacred Place: civility, quiet concentration, smiling plain amidst low peaceful hills, protected from the savage north wind, from the hot south wind, and below - the sea, from which flows the moist maritime air, rising up along the valley of the Alpheios. There no more inspiring place in Greece that can so sweetly and with such persistence encourage peace and reconciliation. Olympia, the most brilliant, the most revered Pan-Hellenic Sanctuary, dedicated to Zeus, father of gods and mankind, is near the western coast of the Peloponnese, in the magic valley of the river Alpheios, in the most beautiful place in Greece according to Lysias. Below the Kronion hill, where the little river Kladeos joins the plentiful waters of the mythical river Alpheios, in a place that even now is imbued with Olympic beauty and calm, lies the sacred grove of Olympia, the Altis. Here Zeus and the other divinities were worshipped. Here the Olympic Games were born; here the great values common to all mankind and the pure ideals of sports and the Olympic spirit saw the light of day. Here, with their goal the high ideal of harmony of body and mind, men learned to compete, following the rules of fair play, for the reward of glory alone. Its symbol was the humble crown (stephane) of wild olive, the kotinos, the victor's prize in the Games. The historical course of the Sanctuary is inextricably bound to the Olympic Games, which were held every four years under the watchful eye of the ruling god, Zeus the Thunderer. Indeed, Olympia owes her uniqueness and her splendour to these Games, which, with their ideals, for more than a thousand years forged generations and generations of Greeks, giving a new dimension to human nature.


  1. Ancient Olympics. Faculty of Arts – Department of Ancient History BELGIUM.
  2. Olympia: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
  3. Olympia hypothesis: Tsunamis buried the cult site on the Peloponnese. Science Daily.
  4. Olympia hypothesis Tsunamis buried the cult site on the Peloponnese
  6. History of Excavations at Olympia. PDF file.
  7. Ancient Greek athletes
  8. The Olympic Games in Ancient Greece. The British Muesum. PDF file.
  9. The Olympic Games in Antiquity. The Olympic Museum, 2nd edition 2007. PDF file.
  10. Olympia History. Olympia, Greece Online City Guide.
  11. Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism Olympia. Site content by Olympia Vikatou, archaeologist.
  13. History of the Hellenic Nation, National Geographic 2012 (128 p.) - PDF format.
  14. McManus Images XIII
  15. The 12 Labours That Turned Herakles (Hercules) To Hero.
    The beloved son of Zeus and, the mortal, Alkmene, Herakles (disputedly also known as Hercules) was the archetype for bravery and strength in the ancient world and one of the heros of Greek Mythology. But he also suffered from a violent temper. In his youth he became enraged and slew his own (and/or his brother's in some versions) children. To pay for this grievous act, he was told he would have to go to the court of his cousin Eurystheus (who utterly despised Herakles) and perform whatever tasks would be assigned to him. These tasks became the famous 12 labours of Herakles.
  16. Ancient Greek Olympics and Women including the Origin of the Olympics
  17. Greek Inscriptions - Athens, Tire, Documents, Inscribed, Boeckh, and Public
    Excerpt: THE OLYMPIC GAMES, MYTHICAL HISTORY [5.7.6] These things then are as I have described them. As for the Olympic games, the most learned antiquaries of Elis say that Cronus was the first king of heaven, and that in his honor a temple was built in Olympia by the men of that age, who were named the Golden Race. When Zeus was born, Rhea entrusted the guardianship of her son to the Dactyls of Ida, who are the same as those called Curetes. They came from Cretan Ida – Heracles, Paeonaeus, Epimedes, Iasius and Idas.
  20. Olympic victor monuments and Greek athletic art
  21. Greek Inscriptions in Olympia
  22. Seven Wonders of the Ancient World


  • London 2012 Olympics from the BBC Latest news, sports and programmes
  • Olympic Flame Lit In Ancient Olympia To Begin Torch Relay Ahead Of 2012 London Games (VIDEO). By DEMETRIS NELLAS. A.P. 05/10/12 07:39 AM ET.
    An actress as high priestess Ino Menegaki lights the Olympic flame at the Temple of Hera during the Lighting Ceremony of the Olympic Flame at Ancient Olympia on May 10, 2012 in Olympia, Greece. ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece -- The flame that will burn during the London Games was lit at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics on Thursday, heralding the start of a torch relay that will culminate with the opening ceremony on July 27. Actress Ino Menegaki, dressed as a high priestess, stood before the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera, and after an invocation to Apollo, the ancient Greeks' Sun God, used a mirror to focus the sun's rays and light a torch.
  • Olympic Flame arrives in the UK. by British Council Turkey May 18, 2012.
  • Ancient Olympics Sex, Sport, and Sacrifice — World Archaeology. May 28, 2012 by Neil Faulkner.
    Would a modern visitor to the ancient Olympics find much that was familiar, or would he (sic: no women allowed) be phased by culture shock?
    In the Olympic Stadium, there were no stands and no shade: you sat on a grassy bank under the searing heat of the midsummer sun. Naked athletes competed in foot-races, the pentathlon, horse- and chariot-races, and three combat sports – wrestling, boxing, and the almost no-holds-barred pankration, the crowd’s favourite, because there were virtually no rules and it was all blood and pain. Half the Olympic programme was given over to religious ritual: processions, hymn-singing, incense-burning, gory animal sacrifice, and strange incantations by exotically attired priests.
  • BBC News - Thieves loot Greece's Ancient Olympia museum, 17 February 2012.
    Armed robbers have stolen dozens of artefacts from a Greek museum dedicated to the history of the early Olympics. Two masked men smashed display cabinets and took more than 60 objects after overpowering a guard at the museum in Olympia, officials said. The town's mayor said the items, mostly bronze and clay statuettes, were of "incalculable" value. Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos has tendered his resignation, but it has so far not been accepted. He visited the site which is on a forested hilltop in western Greece. The BBC's Mark Lowen in Olympia says the robbery - the second major museum theft this year - raises fresh questions about museum security. Hundreds of thousands visit Olympia - the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games - every year.

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Olympia Museum (top center) and Olympia Archaeological Site Map (Hybrid)
Nikon ViewNX2™ software in conjunction with Google Maps™ was used to pinpoint the location of each photo as shown by the pins.
Map Copyright Google and other contributors

Olympia Archaeological Site Map (Hybrid)
Nikon ViewNX2™ software in conjunction with Google Maps™ was used to pinpoint the location of each photo as shown by the pins.
Map Copyright Google and other contributors

Last update: March 18, 2016
Copyright © MMXII - MMXV Jack Lupic // All rights reserved


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