There is no other ancient site that has more relevance on today’s world than Olympia.
Itinerary & Prices
The only way to visit Ancient Olympia in a day trip is by hiring a self-driven car, hiring a taxi, or, by taking our private day trip, preferably with the extra expense of a local guide.
– Starting from your hotel at 06.45am, we stop at Corinth canal for a short photo-stop, and arrive at Olympia +/- 10.45am.
– Meet the tour guide (recommended) and spend 3 hours with her, visiting the archaeological museum, and the ancient site. It’s the size and the history of Olympia that makes it so long.
– When you finish with the sightseeing, relax having lunch in the peaceful setting of the modern Olympia town, and
– At +/- 16.00 start the return trip and arrive in Athens before 20.00.
The trip is costly, and this is the reason that there is no price for 2 passengers. Persuade friends to join you and share the cost of this day trip. The price includes: transportation, road tolls, and taxes. The entrance fees, and the lunch mentioned, are not included. A local professional tour guide can be arranged at the extra cost.
COMBINE Olympia with Nafplion. Mycenae and Epidaurus, or, with Polylimnio, Navarino, and ancient Messene, a place, generally accepted as the most beautiful archaeological site in Greece, unknown to foreign visitors.
History of Olympia
Listen to Prof. Hale’s excellent lecture, and include Olympia in your itinerary.
Olympia became the most important religious and athletic centre in Greece, and must be included in everybody’s itinerary. The only way to visit Ancient Olympia in a day trip is by hiring a self-driven car or a taxi, or by taking our private day trip, preferably with the extra expense of a local guide. There are a lot of myths and interesting stories about Olympia and the Olympic Games that the tour guide will talk about.
The professional tour guide will speak about:
* The four Pan-Hellenic Games, (the Games at Olympia were one of them. The other three were, the Isthmian, the Pythian and the Nemean Games).
* Ancient Olympia was not a city as such. It was only the sanctuary, the stadium, the sports facilities, the VIP hostel, and the administration buildings,
* The city that was responsible for the organization of the ancient Olympic Games, was ILIS, +/- 30kms from Olympia,
* The temple of Zeus, that housed one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, the statue of Zeus, made by the Pheidias.
* The structures in the “sacred” sanctuary were dedicated to the gods, except the Philippeion and the villa of Nero.
* The Zannes, being the statues of the cheaters. (Emperor Nero was the biggest cheater of the ancient Olympic Games).
* The amazing organization of the ancient Olympic Games, similar and even better than today’s organization.
* The females had their own Games. They called them Heraia Games, and were organized in favour of goddess Hera, Zeus’ wife and sister.
* Learn the story of Kallipateira, the mother that disguised herself as a man in order to watch her son competing and winning in the Games.
* The story of Kyniska, the tomboy Spartan princess, a chariot owner, that became the first female Olympic winner.
* The lighting of the Olympic flame and the torch relay celebrated every year (summer, winter, youth Olympics, etc.).
* Following the Baron’s last wish, his heart was buried at Olympia, at the base of the monument in the I.O.A. grounds.
* The emblems (the five Olympic rings) of the modern Olympic Games, revived by Baron Pierre De Coubertin.
The ancient Olympic Games started about 3000 years ago, when Hippodameia, daughter of the local King, Oinonaos, married Pelops, the local hero that decided to name the whole peninsula after his name and called it Peloponessus (= Pelop’s island). However only in 776 BC the first Olympic Games’ win was recorded, and that year marks the first Olympiad. Since then, every four years the Olympic Games were held attracting athletes of Greek origin from all the Greek city states. At Olympia, the victors’ prize was an olive branch wreath. A month before the opening ceremony, until a month after the closing day of the games, the Olympic truce was in effect and all hostilities were suspended, for the spectators to visit Olympia and return safely from Olympia to their city states.
The history of the Olympic Games.
The first recorded win in the ancient Olympic Games was in 776 B.C. and since then, the Games were held, between August 6 and September 19, with the utmost regularity every four years for over 1000 years, devoted to Zeus. The four years period in between two Olympic Games was called an Olympiad and was used as a meter of chronology. The spirit of sport and friendly rivalry was the ideal of these Olympic games. The “Olympic truce”, that is the ceasing of fighting in the whole Greek world for as long as the Olympic games were on, was strictly observed with one or two excemptions. The Spartans in 420 BC were excluded from the games on the ground of truce breaking. In 426BC emperor Theodosius II ordered the destruction of the temples and the Altis was burnt.
Taking part in the Games was a great honor for the athlete and his native city. The athletes were men of Greek origin that had not commited crime of sacrilege(had done something unholly). The athletes competed in nude.Women were strickly forbiden to watch the games, with the excemption of the priestess of Demeter Chamyne. Violation of this rule was punishable by death. According to Pausanias, the only time this rule was broken and the death sentence was not carried out, was the case of Kallipateira, daughter of the Rhodian Diagoras, who came to the stadium disguised as the trainer to encourage her son Peisidorus who was taking part in the games. In her enthusiasm for his victory jumping over the trainers’ enclosure wall, her chiton fell down revealing her feminity. The Hellanodikai, spared her life out of respect to her family, the Diagorides, who had three generations of Olympic winners: her father Diagoras, her brothers Eukleas and Kallianaktas nad her son Peisidorus. This incident was the reason for passing the law, which compelled the trainers to attend the stadium nakes, like the athletes..
Organization of the Games.
The highest dignitaries of the Games were the 12 Hellanodikai (umpires), responsible for organizing the games and application of the rules. They had the authority to disqualify individuals because of violation of the rules and to impose fines and punish those concerned. They were helped by the alytai( a kind of policemen), the mastigophoroi(whippers) and the ravdouchoi( staff bearers). All of them answered to the alytarch(chief of police). Being part of religious ceremonies, there were also, the theokoloi, who conducted the sacrifices, the spondoforoi, assigned to travel throughout the Greek world to announce the Games and the celebrations, the seers that gave prophecies and had special prestige, the priests for special sacrifices, the flute players, the dancers and the head of ceremonies.
Ten months before the begining of the Games, the Hellanodikai stayed in a special building where they were informed of their duties and learned the rules of the Games. The athletes had to announce to them their participation one year before the Games began. One month before the Games they had to come to Olympia with their trainers in order to prepare themselves.
The Games lasted five days. During the first day the opening ceremony was carried out. The athletes registered and in front of the Zeus Orkios, they and their tariners, took a vow(orkos). They vowed that “they compete fairly and without violating the rules”. The Hellanodikai also took a vow to be honest and fair in their judgements. The second day included horse and chariot races in the hippodrome and the pentathlon. The third day was the most important. It included glorious rites devoted to the worship of Zeus in the morning. There was a large festive procession of priests, athletes, the Hellanodikai, and notables of Ellis and of the other Greek cities. In the afternoon the foot races were held. The fourth day the so called heavy events – wrestling, boxing, the pankration and the race in armor took place. The fifth and last day the festive awarding of the prizes was carried out in front of the statue of Zeus. The crowning of the winners took place amongst the applause, the hymns and songs of the friends and relatives and the celebrations would last until the next morning. The Olympic winner received as a prize an olive tree crown as well as other important prizes in kind and money and the victory gave the athlete great fame during his lifetime and posthumously. A victory ode was written especially for him as well as a statue of the athlete was made. The statue portrayed the ideal of the “good and honest” man. His native city participated in his victory and his proud fellow citizens knocked down part of the city walls through which he made his entry.
The Events: In total the Olympic Games consisted of 10 events: running, pentathlon, jumping, discus, javelin, wrestling, boxing, the pangkration, chariot racing, and horse racing.
The foot – race is the oldest contest that took place in Olympia. The athletes were running nude, in an area around 600 feet (192.27m), called one Stadion . This distance gave its name to the area used for the performance of the event. The stadiums, were situated on hillsides or in small valleys, thus enabling the spectators to follow the events. Later and as the crowd of spectators grew, artificial slopes were built and the spectators sat on the ground. The stadium at Olympia had a capacity of 45,000 spectators. There are no records of the achievements of the athletes during Archaic times as there were no means of the keeping of time.
Pentathlon The pentathlon was a combination of events. It included jumping, running, javelin, discus and wrestling. The athlete had to combine many qualities and skills of the body.
Jumping Similar to the long jump. The athlete jumped into a pit holding halters in his hands.
Discus An event loved by the Greeks most and known from Homeric poems. A moment of discus throwing is captured in the famous statue of the Discus-thrower, opposite the Panathinaic Stadium, in Athens.
Javelin One of the favorite events of many mythical heroes. We find the “ekevolon” javelin throwing which was judged by the distance the javelin was thrown, and the “stohastikon” javelin throwing where the javelin was thrown at a specific target.
Wrestling It is refered to for the first time in Homer’s Labors for Patroclos. One of the pentathlon events but also independent in the Panhellenic games. Even today it is called Greek – Roman wrestling.
Boxing One of the oldest events, as shown by the early reference to the event by Homer and the representation of two children boxing on the mural from Akrotiri in Santorini.
The Pangkration A combination of wrestling and boxing, it was considered as the most worthy event for men in the games.
The horse races Took place in the hippodrome, a space used for the horse races. The horse races comprised of various events and were conducted with horses, chariots and quadriga.The most spectacular event was the quadriga race, an event in which the most prominent historic personalities had competed.
Independently of the Olympic games, THE HERAIA, foot races for women only in honor of Hera, were also taking place in Olympia. These games were also held every four years . The women ran having their hair loose, dressed in short tunics. There is a perfect image at a statue in the Athens Archaeological museum of a girl taking part in the games.
LISTEN TO THE LECTURE AND VISIT OLYMPIA
In the video Prof. Hale speaks about the sanctuary and the history of Olympia, a place that is still in our lives.
Ancient Olympia is a UNESCO site that must be included in everybody’s itinerary.