Ancient Olympia Greece, The Games of Herakles.

by Steven Sklifas
Ancient Olympia. Peloponnese. Greece.
Ancient Olympia. Peloponnese. Greece.

The 4th century BC circular Philippeion, a votive monument dedicated to Zeus. Ancient Olympia, Peloponnese. Greece. The building was named and begun by King Philip of Macedon after his victory at Chaironeia in 338 BC and completed by his son Alexander the Great. Part of the stylobate and three columns of the structure have been restored, originally it had 18 Ionic exterior columns and 9 engaged columns with Corinthian capitals in the cella.

Ancient Olympia is magically set in a lush valley between two rivers in the western Peloponnese prefecture of Elia, southern Greece.

The birthplace and spiritual home of the Olympic Games, Ancient Olympia continues to captivate as it did for a thousand years from 776 BC, when Greeks assembled in war and peace to celebrate the games and life.

Dedicated to the Ancient Greek God Zeus, the games which according one legend was initiated by Ancient Greek Hero Herakles to celebrate the completion of his 12 labours were held here every fours year’s from 776 BC onwards for over a thousand years and amazingly the winner’s name of each event is recorded.

Amidst its shady groves of pine, olive and blooming Judas trees, Olympia’s evocative ruins of its celebrated past are on show, including the remains of the Palaestra where the athletes trained, the stadium where the foot races were held and the hippodrome where the horse events took place.

The renowned 2nd century AD Greek traveller, geographer and historian Pausanias remarked that although there are many wonderful things in Greece, there is a ’unique divinity’ about the mysteries of Ancient Olympia.

Ancient Olympia. Peloponnese. Greece.

The golden apples of the Hesperides metope from the pronaos of the Temple of Zeus. Ancient Olympia, Peloponnese Greece. Now in the Archaeological museum, this is the best preserved of the metopes and depicts Atlas having returned from heaven holding out apples to Herakles. Athena, as a peaceful goddess, with an easy movement of her hand helps the hero who still supports the sky.

At its centre, in the sacred sanctuary, the great 5th century Temple of Zeus lays in ruins. Its colossal Doric columns lay toppled in the ground unmoved since being destroyed by massive earthquakes in the 6th century. Comparable in size to the Parthenon,

The Temple of Zeus housed the long-lost 12-metre high golden statue of Zeus, created by the Greek sculptor Pheidias and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Finally, its marvellous museum is full of world-class exhibits and masterpieces of antiquity, including 5th century BC statue of the winged Nike by the sculptor Paionios of Mende and the Praxiteles’ marble statue of Hermes, possibly the finest figurative sculpture ever made.

Ancient Olympia is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

All images, text and content are Copyright Steven Sklifas.

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