Olympia Ruins (World Heritage)

By | August 15, 2021

The venue for the ancient Olympic Games is one of the central places of worship in classical antiquity. Most of the ruins date from the 7th to 4th centuries BC. At that time, Olympia was given the shape that it would keep for many centuries. During this time the monumental Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera, treasure houses, the Buleuterion and the stadium were built. From 776 BC. The Olympics were held in honor of Zeus. They were finally banned as a pagan cult in the 5th century.

Olympia Ruins: Facts

Official title: Olympia ruins
Cultural monument: next to Delos, Delphi and Athens an important cult center of classical antiquity; Excavation area between the rivers Kladeos and Alfios as well as the Kronos hill, the structures include, among others. the Zeus temple with 10.4 m high shell limestone columns, the strictly Doric Hera temple (Heraion), the mother temple (Metroon) with 6×11 Doric columns, the treasure houses at the foot of the Kronos hill, the Prytaneion, the gymnasium with a stadium-like structure, 220×120 m square, the bathing facilities, the workshop of Pheidias, the ancient guest house built by Leonidas (Leonidaion), the Bunte or Echo Hall and the stadium with an Olympic track
Continent: Europe
Country: Greece, Peloponnese
Location: Olympia, east of Pirgos
Appointment: 1989
Meaning: Center of the veneration of Zeus and cradle of the Olympic Games

Olympia Ruins: History

776 BC Chr. Beginning of the ancient Olympic games
708 BC Chr. the first ever pentathlon
from 520 BC Chr. Gun run competition
around 457 BC Chr. Completion of the Zeus Temple
from 384 BC Chr. Chariot race with foals
at 67 Construction of the villa of Emperor Nero
393 last ancient olympics
420 Transport of the cult image of the ruler Zeus to Byzantium
475 Destruction of the cult image of the ruler Zeus
1875 first systematic excavations by German archaeologists
1896 first modern Olympics in Athens
2004 As part of the Olympic Games in Greece, Olympia is the venue for the shot put competitions
2008 Scientists at the University of Mainz use geophysical measurements to locate the ancient Olympic racecourse (hippodrome), the existence of which was previously only known from written sources

The dream of peaceful competition

A look at history sometimes evokes a longing for past times, in which some things seemed to be organized in such an exemplary way. This certainly applies to some aspects of the Olympic Games, which originated in the Greek world of the first millennium BC. As early as the 8th century BC, the time from which the first reliable records are available with the lists of winners of the Olympic Games, people from the immediate vicinity met in the fertile landscape of the holy district of Olympia for joint competitions. For the duration of this festival all armed forces were prohibited in the country, wars were interrupted especially for this. Joint ceremonies and peaceful trials of strength were practiced – even if only for a few days.

Following on from old cultic traditions in this area, the religious character of the competitions was initially in the foreground. The initially one-day competitions were determined by the worship of gods, sacrifices and processions, which provided the framework for initially purely local games. Eventually, over the centuries, the duration of the festival was extended to five days, and the attendance had expanded to the entire Greek world of the time. The Hera temple, built with wooden pillars, was joined by a Zeus temple in the fifth century BC, which quickly developed into the main sanctuary of the Greek world. Its interior was adorned with a cult image from the hand of the famous Athenian Pheidias, a twelve-meter-high statue of the father of the gods as the enthroned ruler of the world, Made entirely of gold and ivory and adorned with a variety of ornaments. Even then it was counted among the “Seven Wonders of the World”. In the following century, too, Olympia experienced brisk construction activity, which led to the construction of further temples and competition facilities. The games now not only lasted for several days, the number of disciplines held also increased. The old winners lists show that initially the stadium run over a distance of 192.28 meters was the only type of competition, later the canon expanded to include the run over 24 stadiums, the pentathlon, the fist and wrestling match as well as the chariot race with a team of four. Historians say that around 350 BC Philip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, won three chariot races.

The importance of Olympia, which has changed in the course of time, is also manifested in the fact that the participating cities had treasure houses built in which valuable consecration gifts were kept, but which were certainly also intended to serve as monuments to demonstrate their own greatness and power. The games became increasingly secular, which is expressed not least in the spatial separation of places of worship and competition facilities. A new stadium built in the middle of the fourth century BC offered space for over 40,000 spectators, equestrian statues and memorials sang the high song of the winners and participants and stood next to the once exclusive worship of gods. With the Leonidaion, according to philosophynearby, the most prestigious hostel in Greece was built at the time, and bathing facilities were gradually built.

With the prohibition of the Olympic Games by Emperor Theodosius I in 394, the history of the Olympic Games of antiquity, which goes back well over a thousand years, ended, a tradition that was not resumed until 1896 with the first modern Olympic Games in Athens. The dream of an interruption of the wars during the Olympic Games is still waiting to be fulfilled. It was not just the uncovering of the corruption in the event that the Olympics in Salt Lake City were awarded and the recurring doping offenses committed by athletes that damaged the reputation of “clean sport”, because rule violations were committed in ancient times. At that time, a kind of “athletes’ code” provided for penalties for those who violated the rules and bribed opponents, for example.

Olympia Ruins