Olympia is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, and together with Mycenae and Delphi, attract thousands of visitors from all over the world, coming to admire firsthand, the monuments of the Greek history and glory.
Built inside a green valley, Olympia offers visitors the feeling of magic and the greatness of the ancient times, here at the birth place of the Olympic Games and the Olympic idea.
The modern town of Olympia is well suited to cater to the visitors with some very nice hotels.
From Athens to Olympia is about 4.5 hours of driving so an overnight stay in the city is strongly recommended.
Olympia was occupied from the prehistoric years and owes its name the Olympian gods, who resided in this area. It was a very important ancient religious and sacred city.
There are a large number of myths as to how the Olympic Games were created and established, with the name and the figure of Heracles dominating the stories. It was believed that it was Heracles who designed and created the sacred surrounding wall.
The first official Olympic Games took place in 776 B.C. where Koroibos was the winner of the running race. Over the next centuries, the Olympic Games continued their glorious existance, especially in the 4th and 6th century, which was a golden period for the Olympic Games and Olympia.
After the death of Alexander the Great, the sacred presence of Olympia lost its religious importance and started to decrease. During the Roman occupation Olympia and the Games met moments of glory and an increase of its importance until the Byzantine ruling, when it lost all the importance due to the belief that the games were thought to be dedicated to pagan gods.
This resulted in their decline and they were actually stopped by the emperor Theodosius the Great. The final nail in the coffin came from the Emperor Theodosius B’, when he ordered the destruction of all of the ancient temples in Olympia.
During the years and with the help of nature, the ancient ruins of Olympia were covered by the mud of the river, and passed into the twlight, where they were forgotten by everyone.
The first attempts of excavations started in 1723 by the French without luck. Later over the years, more attempts were made, though again without any luck, until the last attempt of excavation by Germans archaeologists in 19th century. These excavations were a huge success and brought to light most of the impressive and important archaeological findings.
Ancient Olympia Museum
The Archaeological 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 terracottas, bronze, stone, mosaics and minor objects.
The Archaeological Museum of Olympia, supervised by the Seventh Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, was reorganized in 2004 to meet modern museological standards.
Important exhibits include:
• The sculptured ornaments from the Temple of Zeus
• Hermes of Praxiteles
• Nike of Paionios
• Zeus and Ganymedes
• Bronze breast-plate with incised decoration
• The Helmet of Miltiades
• Bronze battering-ram
• Bronze horse.
Museum Telephone +30 26240 22529
For more information please also visit www.culture.gr.
Useful Phone Numbers
Municipality of Ancient Olympia: Tel +30 26240 22250, 22549
Archaeological Museum of Olympia: Tel +30 26240 22529
Medical Center: Tel +30 26240 22222
Bus Service to Pyrgos: Tel +30 26210 22592
Train Connections to Pyrgos: Tel. +30 26210 22500
Police: Tel. +30 26240 22100
Sources: aroundpeloponnese.com, olympia-greece.org, archaiologia.gr, nylou.com