The Archaeological site of Olympia

One of the most important archeological sites in Greece, which Unesco has declared a World Heritage Site (

The Sanctuary of Olympia

Life began in the Sacred Altis (Grove) at Olympia in prehistoric times (2300-2100BC). Gradually, from the eighth century BC until late Roman times the most characteristic ensemble of facilities for athletics and buildings for worship in the ancient world was organised in the verdant sanctuary at Olympia.

Although only a small number of the countless ex-votos that adorned the Altis have survived and are now displayed in the Olympia Archaeological Museum, and although on the site itself only some of the larger buildings have been partially restored, such as the Heraion, the Palaistra and the Crypt (Secret Entrance) leading into the Stadium, today’s visitors can easily imagine the majestic beauty of the buildings that once stood in this awe-inspiring place.

A wall, separating the temples and religious edifices from the secular buildings, surrounded the sanctuary.

Outstanding among the monuments was the Temple of Zeus, designed by the architect Livonas. A peripteral temple in the Doric rhythm was built of local shelly limestone coated with stucco apart from the metopes, the pediments and the sculptures, which were of marble.

At the far end of the central aisle of the cella, seated on a throne was the chryselephantine (ivory and gold) statue of Zeus created by the sculptor Pheidias.

The Temple of Hera, earlier than that of Zeus is dated to 600 BC. It too is peripteral in the Doric rhythm. In 1877 the statue of Hermes a work of Praxiteles, was discovered in its cella.

The Metroon is a Doric peripteral temple of the early fourth century BC.

The Prytaneion of the Eleians.

The Philippeion, a splendid marbles circular building with Ionic columns and a conical roof with a large palmette akroterion at its apex.

At the foot of Kronios Hill were the Treasuries small edifices dedicated by the various city-states. To the east of the Treasuries lay the famous Stadium, the largest of its day with a capacity of 45000 spectators and a track for foot races 192,27 m long. The Stadium I snow entered via the Crypt (Secret Entrance) a vaulted roofed passage with Hellenistic propylon, constructed in Roman times.

Other buildings outside the precinct of the Altis were the Palaestra (3rd century BC) where athletes exercised in wrestling, boxing and jumping. A square building with peristyle court was located next to the Thermae (Baths) close to the river Kladeos. North of the Palaestra and contiguous with it is the Gymnasium, an open space surrounded by stoas on all four sides. Here athletes practised running when the weather was bad.

Pheidia’s workshop, which was converted into an Early Christian basilica in the fifth century; the Theekoleon residence of priests and functionaries of Olympia; the Bouleuterion; Nero’s House and Arch; the Leonidaion the largest building at Olympia erected in the fourth century BC, and used as a guest house, completed the installations in the Altis.

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