Ancient Olympia, Peloponnese

Olympia Ancient Stadium, Museum & Archeological Site – Olympia town, Peloponnese

The archeological site of Ancient Olympia is one of the most popular sites to visit in the Peloponnese. Birthplace to the Olympic Games and the home of the Olympic Flame. Comprising of the ancient site, the stadium and the Olympia museum, there is so much to see and admire here, that visitors should give themselves at least half a day to truly begin to explore and experience ancient Olympia.

The Archeological Museum of Olympia, one of the most important museums in Greece, presents the long history of the most celebrated sanctuary of antiquity, the sanctuary of Zeus, father of both gods and men, where the Olympic games were born. The museum’s permanent exhibition contains finds from the excavations in the sacred precinct of the Altis dating from prehistoric times to the Early Christian period.Among the many precious exhibits the sculpture collection, for which the museum is most famous, the bronze collection, the richest collection of its type in the world, and the large terracottas collection, are especially noteworthy. The museum building comprises exhibition rooms, auxiliary spaces and storerooms. The vestibule and twelve exhibition rooms contain objects excavated in the Altis. The auxiliary spaces (lavatories) are located in the museum’s east wing; a separate building between the museum and the archaeological site houses a book and souvenir shop. Finally, part of the east wing and the basement are dedicated to storage and conservation of terracotta’s, bronze, stone, mosaics and minor objects. The collections are displayed in a modern way. A chronological order, easy to understand information panels and subtle lighting, make visiting a museum in Ancient Olympia an enjoyable family event.

Tickets Rates: Museum Full Entrance Ticket: 6 euro, Reduced: 3 euro, Special ticket package (Museum + Archeological Site): Full: 9 euro, Reduced: 5 euro, Free admission days Sundays in the period between 1 November and 31 March, the first Sunday of every month, except for July,  August and September, 27 September at the International Tourism Day.  Museum Operations Hours: Monday: 10.30-17.00, Tuesday-Sunday: 08.30-15.00

Site Operation Period: All year. Location: Olympia town, Ilia region unit, Peloponnese

The History of Ancient Olympic Games in Olympia Site

776 BC – 728 BC, One event
In the beginning there were only one event, a single foot race. The race was called the “Stadio” and was the only event for 13 Olympics. An approx. 185 meters race, the first times on a straight strip of grass. The first athlete ever to win an Olympic race was named Koribus who received a wreath of wild olive leaves as his prize. This prize was through the centuries not only an honor for the winner but also for his family and city.
724 BC – 712 BC, More races
The straight “Stadio” was changed to an oval racing track and an one-lap sprint was called a “Stadium” which name today is used for a sports arena all over the world. New running events were added from the 14th Olympics, two laps (approx. 370 meters) and in the next Olympiad a 12 laps race. In the 16th Olympiad the long distance race 24 laps started.
708 BC, Other sports are introduced
In 708 BC, at the 18th Olympiad, when more city states participated, especially the Spartans the first combat sport was introduced: Wrestling. At the same games pentathlon were introduced: Jumping, javelin, running, discus and wrestling, all performed in the same afternoon.
688 BC, Boxing is introduced
At the 20th Olympiad in 688 BC one of the most popular Olympic sports even today was introduced: Boxing. The gloves were made of straps of soft ox-hide. The boxing matches had no time limit and ended if the fighter fell to the ground or one of the fighters held up one or to fingers to show that he admitted defeat. There were no weight categories, opponents were chosen by random.
680 BC, Equestrian sports
Equestrian sports was introduced in 680BC. The stadium was to small for the Four Horse Chariot Race so the horse racing was held at the hippodrome next to the stadium.
648 BC, Pangration, a different fighting art
A new sport event that was introduced at the 33rd Olympics in 648 BC, , which not exists today at the Olympics, was Pangration. A combination of boxing and wrestling, a sport of rather violent and unrestrained nature in ancient Greece. The sport exists still but today with modified rules.
632 BC, the Olympics is extended
632 BC the Olympic Games was extended to seven days. The games was still in honor of the goods so the first day was for preparatory ceremonies and sacrifices. The next five days was the competition and the seventh day was the award of prizes and the feasting. In 632 was also boxing and wrestling contests for boys introduced.
500 BC, 50 events
There were more than 50 events.

The Olympia Ancient Stadium

The stadium of Olympia, situated east of the sacred Altis enclosure, was where the ancient Olympic Games and the Heraia, the women’s games in honor of Hera, were held. Before the sixth century BC the running events were held on a flat area along the treasuries’ terrace, east of the great altar of Zeus. A first stadium (Stadium I) was formed in the Archaic period (mid sixth century BC) by leveling the area south of the Kronios hill inside the Altis. The west short side of the stadium faced the altar of Zeus, to whom the Games were dedicated. In the late sixth century BC a new stadium (Stadium II) was created east of its predecessor, with a racetrack extending beyond the treasuries’ terrace; an artificial bank, three meters high, was formed along the south side, while the hill side formed a natural seating area along the north. The stadium received its final form (Stadium III) in the fifth century when the great temple of Zeus was built. The racetrack is 212.54 meters long and 30-34 meters wide. Two stone markers 192.27 meters apart – that is one Olympic stadio or six hundred Olympic feet (1 foot=32.04 meters), indicate the starting and finishing lines. On the south bank is a podium for judges, and opposite this, on the north bank, the altar of Demeter, whose priestess was the only woman allowed to watch the games. The stadium could accommodate approximately forty-five thousand people, but the banks never had permanent seats. There were a few stone seats for the officials, and wooden benches may have been added in Roman times when the stadium was repaired (Stadium IV-V). A stone drain round the track opened at intervals into small basins where rain water collected. A vaulted entrance for the athletes, thirty-two meters long, the so-called Krypte, was built in the late third century BC and a monumental portico was added to its west extremity in the Roman period. A large number of votive offerings, mostly of bronze, were found inside the wells along the embankments. Originally there to supply the spectators with drinking water, these wells, which date to the Archaic period, were subsequently used as votive pits. The early German excavations first investigated the race track, but the recent German excavations of 1952-1966 uncovered the entire monument. In 2004, the ancient stadium of Olympia will re-live its former glory, since it hosted the shot put event of the Athens Olympic Games.

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