Artist's impression of ancient Olympia
|Population statistics (as of 2001)|
|Time zone:||EET/EEST (UTC+2/3)|
|Elevation (center):||63 m (207 ft)|
Olympia (Greek: Ολυμπία Olympí'a, older transliterations, Olimpia, Olimbia), a sanctuary of ancient Greece in Elis, is known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times, comparable in importance to the Pythian Games held in Delphi. Both games were held every Olympiad (i.e. every four years), the Olympic Games dating back possibly further than 776 BC. In 394 AD ( after exactly 1170 years ) emperor Theodosius I abolished them as they were then considered reminiscent of paganism. The first olympic games were in Olympia in honor of Zeus.
Remains of food and burnt offerings dating back to the 10th century BC give evidence of a long history of religious activity at the site. No buildings have survived from this earliest period of use. Also, the chared remains of a Homo Heidelbergensis body were found at Olympia.
The first Olympic festival was organized on the site by the authorities of Elis in the 8th century BC - with tradition dating the first games at 776 BC. Major changes were made to the site around 700 BC, including levelling land and digging new wells. Elis' power diminished and at the beginning of the 7th century BC the sanctuary fell into the hands of the Pisatans in 676 BC. The Pisatans organized the games until the late 7th century BC.
The earliest evidence of building activity on the site dates from around 600 BC. At this time the Skiloudians, allies of the Pistans, built the Temple of Hera. The Treasuries and the Pelopion were built during the course of the 6th century BC. The secular structures and athletic arenas were also under construction during this period including the Bouleuterion. The first stadium was constructed around 560 BC, it consisted of just a simple track. The stadium was remodelled around 500 BC with sloping sides for spectators and shifted slightly to the east. Over the course of the 6th century BC a range of sports was added to the Olympic festival. In 580 BC, Elis, in alliance with Sparta, occupied Pisa and regained the control over the sanctuary.
The Temple of Zeus was built in the middle of the 5th century BC, its size, scale and ornamentation was beyond anything previously constructed on the site. Further sporting facilities, including the final iteration of the stadium, and the hippodrome (for chariot-racing) were constructed. The Prytaneion was built at the north west side of the site in 470 BC.
In the late classical period further structures were added to the site. The Metroon was constructed near the Treasuries c.400 BC. The erection of the Echo Stoa, around 350 , separated off the sanctuary from the area of the games and stadium. The South Stoa was built BC at the southern edge of the sanctuary at approximately the same time.
The late 4th century BC saw the erection of the Philippeion. Around 300 BC the largest building on the site, the Leonidaion, was constructed to house important visitors. Due to the increasing importance of the games, further athletic buildings were constructed including the Palaestra (3rd century BC), Gymnasion (2nd century BC) and bath houses (c.300 BC). Finally, in 200 BC, a vaulted archway was erected linking the entrance to the stadium to the sanctuary.
During the Roman period the games were opened up to all citizens of the Roman Empire. A programme of extensive repairs - including to the Temple of Zeus - and new building took place. In 150 AD the Nympheum (or Exedra) was built. New baths replaced the older Greek examples in 100 AD and an aqueduct constructed in 160 AD.
The 3rd century saw the site suffer heavy damage from a series of earthquakes. Invading tribes in 267 AD led to the centre of site being fortified with robbed material from the site's monuments. Despite the destruction the Olympic festival continued to be held at the site until the last Olympiad in 393 AD, after which a decree from the Christian emperor, Theodosius I implemented a ban. The workshop of Pheidias was turned into a Basilica and the site was inhabited by a Christian community until the late 6th century. The first excavation of the sanctuary at Olympia was not carried out until 1829, by the French "Expedition Scientifique de Moree".
|Archaeological Site of Olympia*|
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|Criteria||i, ii, iii, iv, vi|
|Region**||Europe and North America|
|Inscription||1989 (13th Session)|
|* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.
Since the 1870s, the excavation and preservation of Ancient Olympia has been the responsibility of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens. The first major excavation of Olympia began in 1875, funded by the German government after negotiation of exclusive access by Ernst Curtius. Other archaeologists responsible for the dig were Gustav Hirschfeld, George Treu, and Adolf Furtwängler who worked alongside architects A. Boetticher, Wilhelm Dörpfeld, and Richard Borrmann. They excavated the central part of the sanctuary including the Temple of Zeus, Temple of Hera, Metroon, Bouleuterion, Philipeion, Echo Stoa, Treasuries and Palaestra. Important finds included sculptures from the Temple of Zeus, the Nike of Paeonius, the Hermes of Praxiteles and many bronzes. In total 14,000 objects were recorded. The finds were displayed in a museum on the site.
Excavation was continued in a more limited way by Dörpfeld between 1908 and 1929 but a new systematic excavation was begun in 1936 on the occasion of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin under Emil Kunze and Hans Schleif. Their excavation focus was on the area to the south of the stadium, the South stoa, bath complex and gymnasion.
Between 1952 and 1966, Kunze and Schleif continued the excavation joined by architect Alfred Mallwitz. They excavated Pheidias' workshop, the Leonidaion and the north wall of the stadium. They also excavated the southeast section of the sanctuary and out of approximately 140 debris pits found many bronze and ceramic objects along with terracotta roof tiles.
Mallwitz took charge of the excavations between 1972 and 1984 revealing important dating evidence for the stadium, graves, and the location of the Prytaneion. From 1984 to 1996, Helmut Kyrieleis took over the site and the focus shifted to the earlier history of the sanctuary with excavation of the Prytaneion and Pelopion.
The Olympic flame of the modern-day Olympic Games is lit by reflection of sunlight in a parabolic mirror in front of the Temple of Hera and then transported by a torch to the place where the games are held. When the modern Olympics came to Athens in 2004, the men's and women's shot put competition was held at the restored Olympia stadium.
The town has a train station and is the easternmost terminus of the line of Olympia-Pyrgos (Ilia). The train station with the freight yard to its west is located about 300 m east of the town centre. It is linked by GR-74, and the new road was opened in the 1980s; the next stretch N and NE of Olympia opened in 2005. The distance from Pyrgos is 20 km, about 50 km SW of Lampeia, W of Tripoli and Arcadia and 4 km north of Krestena and N of Kyparissia and Messenia. The highway passes north of the ancient ruins. A reservoir is located 2 km southwest, damming up the Alfeios River. A road from Olympia and Krestena was closed in the late-1990s. The area is hilly and mountainous; most of the area within Olympia is forested.
Panagiotis Kondylis, one of the most prominent modern Greek thinkers and philosophers, was born and raised in Olympia. When Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, died in 1937, a monument to him was erected at ancient Olympia. Emulating Evangelis Zappas, whose head is buried under a statue in front of the Zappeion, his heart was buried at the monument.
The districts of the municipality of Archaia Olympia are listed below, the villages within the districts given in brackets:
|Year||Communal population||Municipal population|
Olympia, Greece is twinned with:
OLYMPIA, the scene of the famous Olympic games, is on the right or north bank of the Alpheus (mod. Ruphia), about i r m. E. of the modern Pyrgos. The course of the river is here from E. to W., and the average breadth of the valley is about 4 m. At this point a small stream, the ancient Cladeus, flows from the north into the Alpheus. The area known as Olympia is bounded on the west by the Cladeus, on the south by the Alpheus, on the north by the low heights which shut in the Alpheus valley, and on the east by the ancient racecourses. One group of the northern heights terminates in a conical hill, about 400 ft. high, which is cut off from the rest by a deep cleft, and descends abruptly on Olympia. This hill is the famous Cronion, sacred to Cronus, the father of Zeus.
The natural situation of Olympia is, in one sense, of great beauty. When Lysias, in his Olympiacus (spoken here), calls it " the fairest spot of Greece," he was doubtless thinking also - or perhaps chiefly - of the masterpieces which art, in all its forms, had contributed to the embellishment of this national sanctuary. But even now the praise seems hardly excessive to a visitor who, looking eastward up the fertile and well-wooded valley of Olympia, sees the snow-crowned chains of Erymanthus and Cyllene rising in the distance. The valley, at once spacious and definite, is a natural precinct, and it is probable that no artificial boundaries of the Altis, or sacred grove, existed until comparatively late times.
The importance of Olympia in the history of Greece is religious and political. The religious associations of the place date from the prehistoric age, when, before the states of Elis and Pisa had been founded, there was a centre of worship in this valley which is attested by early votive offerings found beneath the Heraeum and an altar near it. The earliest extant building on the site is the temple of Hera, which probably dates in its original form from about moo B.C. There were various traditions as to the origin of the games. According to one of them, the first race was that between Pelops and Oenomaus, who used to challenge the suitors of his daughter Hippodameia and then slay them. According to another, the festival was founded by Heracles, either the well-known hero or the Idaean Dactyl of that name. The control of the festival belonged in early times to Pisa, but Elis seems to have claimed association with it. Sixteen women, representing eight towns of Elis and eight of Pisatis, wove the festal robe for the Olympian Hera. Olympia thus became the centre of an amphictyony, or federal league under religious sanction, for the west coast of the Peloponnesus, as Delphi was for its neighbours in northern Greece. It suited the interests of Sparta to join this amphictyony; and, before the regular catalogue of Olympic victors begins in 77 6 B.C., Sparta had formed an alliance with Elis. Aristotle saw in the temple of Hera at Olympia a bronze disk, recording the traditional laws of the festival, on which the name of Lycurgus stood next to that of Iphitus, king of Elis. Whatever may have been the age of the disk itself, the relation which it indicates is well attested. Elis and Sparta, making common cause, had no difficulty in excluding the Pisatans from their proper share in the management of the Olympian sanctuary. Pisa had, indeed, a brief moment of better fortune, when Pheidon of Argos celebrated the 28th Olympiad under the presidency of the Pisatans. This festival, from i which the Eleans and Spartans were excluded, was afterwards struck out of the official register, as having no proper existence. The destruction of Pisa (before 572 B.e.) by the combined forces of Sparta and Elis put an end to the long rivalry. Not only Pisatis, but also the district of Triphylia to the south of it, became dependent on Elis. So far as the religious side of the festival was concerned, the Eleans had an unquestioned supremacy. It was at Elis, in the gymnasium, that candidates from all parts of Greece were tested, before they were admitted to the athletic competitions at Olympia. To have passed through the training (usually of ten months) at Elis was regarded as the most valuable preparation. Elean officials, who not only adjudged the prizes at Olympia; but decided who should be admitted to compete, marked the national aspect of their functions by assuming the title of Hellanodicae. Long before the overthrow of Pisa the list of contests had been so enlarged as to invest the celebration with a Panhellenic character. Exercises of a Spartan type - testing endurance and strength with an especial view to war - had almost exclusively formed the earlier programme. But as early as the 25th Olympiad - i.e. several years before the interference of Pheidon on behalf of Pisa - the four-horse chariot-race was added. This. was an invitation to wealthy competitors from every part of the Hellenic world, and was also the recognition of a popular or spectacular element, as distinct from the skill which had a merely athletic or military interest. Horse-races were added later. For such contests the hippodrome was set apart. Meanwhile the list of contests on the old racecourse, the stadium, had been enlarged. Besides the foot-race in which the course was traversed once only, there were now the diaulos or double course, and the " long " foot-race (dolichos). Wrestling and boxing were combined in the pancration. Leaping, quoitthrowing, javelin-throwing, running and wrestling were combined in the pentathlon. The festival was to acquire a new importance under the protection of the Spartans, who, having failed in their plans of actual conquest in the Peloponnese, sought to gain at least the hegemony (acknowledged predominance) of the peninsula. As the Eleans, therefore, were the religious supervisors of Olympia, so the Spartans aimed at constituting themselves its political protectors. Their military strength - greatly superior at the time to that of any other state--enabled them to do this. Spartan arms could enforce the sanction which the Olympian Zeus gave to the oaths of the amphictyones, whose federal bond was symbolized by common worship at his shrine. Spartan arms could punish any violation of that " sacred truce " which was indispensable if Hellenes from all cities were to have peaceable access to the Olympian festival. And in the eyes of all Dorians the assured dignity thus added to Olympia would be enhanced by the fact that the protectors were the Spartan Heraclidae.
Olympia entered on a new phase of brilliant and secure existence as a recognized Panhellenic institution. This phase may be considered as beginning after the establishment of Elean supremacy in 572 B.C. And so to the last Olympia always remained a central expression of the Greek ideas that the body of man has a glory as well as his intellect and spirit, that body and mind should alike be disciplined, and that it is by the harmonious discipline of both that men best honour Zeus. The significance of Olympia was larger and higher than the political fortunes of the Greeks who met there, and it survived the overthrow of Greek independence. In the Macedonian and Roman ages the temples and contests of Olympia still interpreted the ideal at which free Greece had aimed. Philip of Macedon and Nero are, as we shall see, among those whose names have a record in the Altis. Such names are typical of long series of visitors who paid homage to Olympia. According to Cedrenus, a Greek writer of the firth century (2uvoIits `Ivropu,)v, i. 326), the Olympian festival ceased to be held after A.D. 393, the first year of the 293rd Olympiad. The list of Olympian victors, which begins in 776 B.C. with Coroebus of Elis, closes with the name of an Armenian, Varastad, who is said to have belonged to the race of the Arsacidae. In the 5th century the desolation of Olympia had set in. The chryselephantine statue of the Olympian Zeus, by Pheidias, was carried to Constantinople, and perished in a great fire, A.D. 476.
The Olympian temple of Zeus is said to have been dismantled, either by the Goths or by Christian zeal, in the reign of Theodosius II. (A.D. 402-450). After this the inhabitants converted the temple of Zeus and the region to the south of it into a fortress, by constructing a wall from materials found among the ancient buildings. The temple was probably thrown down by earthquakes in the 6th century A.D.
The German excavations were begun in 1875. After six campaigns, of which the first five lasted from September to June, they were completed on the 20th of March 1881. The result of these six years' labours was, first, to strip off a thick covering of earth from the Altis, the consecrated precinct of the Olympian Zeus. This covering had been formed, during some twelve centuries, partly by clay swept down from the Cronion, partly by deposit from the overflowings of the Cladeus. The coating of earth over the Altis had an average depth of no less than 16 ft.
The work could not, however, be restricted to the Altis. It was necessary to dig beyond it, especially on the west, the south and the east, where several ancient buildings existed, not included within the sacred precinct itself. The complexity of the task was further increased by the fact that in many places early Greek work had later Greek on top of it, or late Greek work had been overlaid with Roman. In a concise survey of the results obtained, it will be best to begin with the remains external to the precinct of Zeus.
I. Remains Outside The Altis A. West Side. - The wall bounding the Altis on the west belongs probably to the time of Nero. In the west wall were two gates, one at its northern and the other at its southern extremity. The latter must have served as the processional entrance. Each gate was 7rp6(rrvXos, having before it on the west a colonnade consisting of a row of four columns. There is a third and smaller gate at about the middle point of the west wall, and nearly opposite the Pelopion in the Altis.
West of the west Altis wall, on the strip of ground between the Altis and the river Cladeus (of which the course is roughly parallel to the west Altis wall), the following buildings were traced. The order in which they are placed here is that in which they succeed each other from north to south.
I. Just outside the Altis at its north-west corner was a Gymnasium. A large open space, not regularly rectangular, was enclosed on two sides - possibly on three - by Doric colonnades. On the south it was bordered by a portico with a single row of columns in front; on the east by a double portico, more than a stadium in length (220 yds.), and serving as a racecourse for practice in bad weather. At the south-east corner of the gymnasium, in the angle between the south and the east portico, was a Corinthian doorway, which a double row of columns divided into three passages. Immediately to the east of this doorway was the gate giving access to the Altis at its north-west corner. The gymnasium was used as an exercise ground for competitors during the last month of their training.
2. Immediately adjoining the gymnasium on the south was a Palaestra, the place of exercise for wrestlers and boxers. It was in the form of a square, of which each side was about 70 yds. long, enclosing an inner building surrounded by a Doric colonnade. Facing this inner building on north, east and west were rooms of different sizes, to which doors or colonnades gave access. The chief entrances to the palaestra were at south-west and south-east, separated by a double colonnade which extended along the south side.
3. Near the palaestra on the south a - Byzantine church forms the central point in a complex group of remains. (a) The church itself occupies the site of an older brick building, which is perhaps a remnant of the " workshop of Pheidias " seen by Pausanias. (b) North of the church is a square court with a well in the middle, of the Hellenic age. (c) West of this is a small circular structure, enclosed by square walls. An altar found (in situ) on the south side of the circular enclosure shows by an inscription that this was the Heroum, where worship of the heroes was practised down to a late period. (d) East of the court stood a large building, of Roman age at latest, arranged round an inner hall with colonnades. These buildings probably formed the Theocoleon, house of the priests. (e) There is also a long and narrow building on the south of the Byzantine church. This may have been occupied by the 4cuSpimrae, those alleged " descendants of Pheidias " (Pausanias v. 14) whose hereditary privilege it was to keep the statue of Zeus clean. The so-called " workshop of Pheidias " (see a) evidently owed its preservation to the fact that it continued to be used for actual work, Large ®Altar, 4: 7'.; Zeus N. Wall‘' Festal Square .
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and the adjacent building would have been a convenient lodging for the artists.
4. South of the group described above occur the remains of a large building shown by its inscription to be the Leonidaeum, dedicated by an Elean named Leonidas in the 4th century B.C., and probably intended for the reception of distinguished visitors during the games, such as the heads of the special missions from the various Greek cities. It is an oblong, of which the north and south sides measure about 250 ft., the east and west about 230. Its orientation differs from that of all the other buildings above mentioned, being not from N. to S., but from W.S.W. to E.N.E. Externally it is an Ionic peripteros, enclosing suites of rooms, large and small, grouped round a small interior Doric peristyle. In Roman times it was altered in such a way as to distribute the rooms into (apparently) four quarters, each having an atrium with six or four columns. Traces existing within the exterior porticos on north, west and east indicate much carriage traffic.
B. South Side. - Although the limits of the Altis on the south (i.e. on the side towards the Alpheus) can be traced with approximate accuracy, the precise line of the south wall becomes doubtful after we have advanced a little more than one-third of the distance from the west to the east end of the south side. The middle and eastern portions of the south side were places at which architectural changes, large or small, were numerous down to the latest times, and where the older buildings met with scant mercy.
1. The Council Hall (Bouleuterium, Paus. v. 23) was just outside the Altis, nearly at the middle of its south wall. It comprised two separate Doric buildings of different date but identical form, viz. oblong, having a single row of columns dividing the length into two naves and terminating to the west in a semicircular apse. The orientation of each was from west-south-west to east-north-east, one being south-south-east of the other. In the space between stood a small square building. In front, on the east, was a portico extending along the front of all three buildings; and east of this again a large trapeze-shaped vestibule or fore-hall, enclosed by a colonnade. This bouleuterium would have been available on all occasions when Olympia became the scene of conference or debate between the representatives of different states - whether the subject was properly political, as concerning the amphictyonic treaties, or related more directly to the administration of the sanctuary and festival. Two smaller Hellenic buildings stood immediately west of the bouleuterium. The more northerly of the two opened on the Altis. Their purpose is uncertain.
2. Close to the bouleuterium on the south, and running parallel with it from south-west by west to north-east by east, was the South Colonnade, a late but handsome structure, closed on the north side, open on the south and at the east and west ends. The external colonnade (on south, east and west) was Doric; the interior row of columns Corinthian. It was used as a promenade, and as a place from which to view the festal processions as they passed towards the Altis.
3. East of the bouleuterium was a triumphal gateway of Roman age, with triple entrance, the central being the widest, opening on the Altis from the south. North of this gateway, but at a somewhat greater depth, traces of a pavement were found in the Altis.
' C. East Side. - The line of the east wall, running due north and south, can be traced from the north-east corner of the Altis down about three-fifths of the east side, when it breaks off at the remains known as " Nero's house." These are the first which claim attention on the east side.
1. To the south-east of the Altis is a building of 4th-century date and of uncertain purpose. This was afterwards absorbed into a Roman house which projected beyond the Altis on the east, the south part of the east Altis wall being destroyed to admit of this. A piece of leaden water-pipe found in the house bears NER. AVG. Only a Roman master could have dealt thus with the Altis, and with a building which stood within its sacred precinct. It cannot be doubted that the Roman house - from which three doors gave access to the Altis - was that occupied by Nero when he visited Olympia. Later Roman hands I again enlarged and altered the building, which may perhaps have been used for the reception of Roman governors.
2. Following northwards the line of the east wall, we reach at the north-east corner of the Altis the entrance to the Stadium, which extends east of the Altis in a direction from west-south-west to east-north-east. The apparently strange and inconvenient position of the Stadium relatively to the Altis was due simply to the necessity of obeying the conditions of the ground, here determined by the curve of the loweslopes which bound the valley on the north. The German explorers excavated the Stadium so far as was necessary for the ascertainment of all essential points. Low embankments had originally been built on west, east and south, the north boundary being formed by the natural slope of the hill. These were afterwards thickened and raised. The space thus defined was a large oblong, about 234 yds. in length by 35 in breadth. There were no artificial seats. It is computed that from 40,000 to 45,000 spectators could have found sitting-room, though it is hardly probable that such a number was ever reached. The exact length of the Stadium itself - which was primarily the course for the foot-race - was about 210 yds. or 192.27 metres - an important result, as it determines the Olympian foot to be 0.3204 metre or a little more than an English foot (I. 05). In the Heraeum at Olympia, it may be remarked, the unit adopted was not this Olympian foot, but an older one of 0.297 metre, and in the temple of Zeus an Attic foot of 1.08 English foot was used. The starting-point and the goal in the Stadium were marked by limestone thresholds. Provision for drainage was made by a channel running round the enclosure. The Stadium was used not only for foot-races, but for boxing, wrestling, reaping, quoit-throwing and javelin-throwing.
The entrance to the Stadium from the north-east corner of the Altis was a privileged one, reserved for the judges of the games, the competitors and the heralds. Its form was that of a vaulted tunnel, 100 Olympian feet in length. It was probably constructed in Roman times. To the west was a vestibule, from which the Altis was entered by a handsome gateway.
3. The Hippodrome, in which the chariot-races and horse-races were held, can no longer be accurately traced. The overflowings of the Alpheus have washed away all certain indications of its limits. But it is clear that it extended south and south-east of the Stadium, and roughly parallel with it, though stretching far beyond it to the east. From the state of the ground the German explorers inferred that the length of the hippodrome was 770 metres or 4 Olympic stadia.
D. North Side. - If the northern limit of the Altis, like the west, south and east, had been traced by a boundary wall, this would have had the effect of excluding from the precinct a spot so sacred as the Cronion, " Hill of Cronus," inseparably associated with the oldest worship of Zeus at Olympia. It seems therefore unlikely that any such northern boundary wall ever existed. But the line which such a boundary would have followed is partly represented by the remains of a wall running from east to west immediately north of the treasure-houses (see below), which it was designed to protect against the descent of earth from the Cronion just above. This was the wall along which, about A.D. 157, the main water-channel constructed by Herodes Atticus was carried.
Having now surveyed the chief remains external to the sacred precinct on west, south, east and north, we proceed to notice those which have been traced within it.
II. - Remains Within The Altis The form of the Altis, as indicated by the existing traces, is not regularly rectangular. The length of the west side, where the line of direction is from south-south-east to north-north-west, is about 215 yds. The south side, running nearly due east and west, is about equally long, if measured from the end of the west wall to the point which the east wall would touch when produced due south in a straight line from the place at which it was demolished to make way for " Nero's house." The east side, measured to a point just behind the treasure-houses, is the shortest, about 200 yds. The north side is the longest. A line drawn eastward behind the treasure-houses, from the Prytaneum at the north-west angle, would give about 275 yds.
The remains or sites within the Altis may conveniently be classed in three main groups, viz. - (A) the chief centres of religious worship; (B) votive buildings; (C) buildings, &c., connected with the administration of Olympia or the reception of visitors.
A. Chief Centres of Religious Worship. - i. There are traces of an altar near the Heraeum which was probably older than the great altar of Zeus; this was probably the original centre of worship. The great altar of Zeus was of elliptic form, the length of the lozenge being directed from south-south-west to north-north-east, in such a manner that the axis would pass through the Cronion. The upper structure imposed on this basis was in two tiers, and also, probably, lozenge-shaped. This was the famous " ash-altar " at which the Iamidae, the hereditary gens of seers, practised those rights of divination by fire in virtue of which more especially Olympia is saluted by Pindar as mistress of truth." The steps by which the priests mounted the altar seem to have been at north and south.
2. The Pelopium, to the west of the Altar of Zeus, was a small precinct in which sacrifices were offered to the hero Pelops. The traces agree with the account of Pausanias. Walls, inclined to each other at obtuse angles, enclosed a plot of ground having in the middle a low tumulus of elliptic form, about 35 metres from east to west by 20 from north to south. A Doric propylon with three doors gave access on the south-west side.
The three temples of the Altis were those of Zeus, Hera and the Mother of the gods. All were Doric. All, too, were completely surrounded by a colonnade, i.e. were " peripteral." 3. The Temple of Zeus, south of the Pelopium, stood on a high substructure with three steps. It was probably built about 470 B.C. The colonnades at the east and west side were of six columns each; those at the north and south sides (counting the corner columns again) of thirteen each. The cella had a prodomos on the east and an opisthodomos on the west. The cella itself was divided longitudinally (i.e. from east to west) into three partitions by a double row of columns. The central partition, which was the widest, consisted of three sections. The west section contained the throne and image of the Olympian Zeus. The middle section, next to the east, which was shut off by low screens, contained a table and stelae. Here, probably, the wreaths were presented to the victors.
The third or easternmost section was open to the public. This temple was most richly adorned with statues and reliefs. On the east front were represented in twenty-one colossal figures the moment before the contest between Oenomaus and Pelops. The west front exhibited the fight of the Lapithae and Centaurs. The statement of Pausanias that the two pediments were made by Paeonius and Alcamenes is now generally supposed to be an error. The Twelve Labours of Heracles were depicted on the metopes of the prodomos and opisthodomos; and of these reliefs much the greater part was found - enough to determine with certainty all the essential features of the composition. It was near this temple, at a point about 38 yds. E.S.E. from the south-east angle, that the explorers found the statue of a flying goddess of victory - the Nike of Paeonius.
4. The Temple of Hera (Heraeum), north of the Pelopium, was raised on two steps. It is probably the oldest of extant Greek temples, and may date from about 1000 B.C. It has colonnades of six columns each at east and west, and of sixteen each (counting the corner columns again) at north and south. It was smaller than the temple of Zeus, and, while resembling it in general plan, differed from it by its singular length relatively to its breadth. When Pausanias saw it, one of the two columns of the opisthodomos (at the west end of the cella) was of wood; and for a long period all the columns of this temple had probably been of the same material. A good deal of patch-work in the restoration of particular parts seems to have been done at various periods. Only the lower part of the cella wall was of stone, the rest being of unbaked brick; the entablature above the columns was of wood covered with terracotta. The cella - divided, like that of Zeus, into three partitions by a double row of columns - had four " tongue-walls," or small screens, projecting at right angles from its north wall, and as many from the south wall. Five niches were thus formed on the north side and five on the south. In the third niche from the east, on the north side of the cella, was found one of the greatest of all the treasures which rewarded the German explorers - the Hermes of Praxiteles (1878).
5. The Temple of the Great Mother of the Gods (Metroum) was again considerably smaller than the Heraeum. It stood to the east of the latter, and had a different orientation, viz. not west to east, but west-north-west to east-south-east. It was raised on three steps, and had a peripteros of six columns (east and west) by eleven (north and south), having thus a slightly smaller length relatively to its breadth than either of the other two temples. Here also the cella had prodomos and opisthodomos. The adornment and painting of this temple had once been very rich and varied. It was probably built in the 4th century, and there are indications that in Roman times it underwent a restoration.
B. Votive Edifices. - Under this head are placed buildings erected, either by states or by individuals, as offerings to the Olympian god.
1. The twelve Treasure-houses on the north side of the Altis, immediately under the Cronion, belong to this class.
The same general character - that of a Doric temple in antis, facing south - is traceable in all the treasure-houses. In the cases of several of these the fragments are sufficient to aid a reconstruction. Two - viz. the 2nd and 3rd counting from the west - had been dismantled at an early date, and their site was traversed by a roadway winding upward towards the Cronion. This roadway seems to have been older at least than A.D. 157, since it caused a deflexion in the watercourse along the base of the Cronion constructed by Herodes Atticus. Pausanias, therefore, would not have seen treasure-houses Nos. 2 and 3. This explains the fact that, though we can trace twelve, he names only ten.
As the temples of ancient Greece partly served the purposes of banks in which precious objects could be securely deposited, so the form of a small Doric chapel was a natural one for the " treasurehouse " to assume. Each of these treasure-houses was erected by a Greek state, either as a thank-offering for Olympian victories gained by its citizens, or as a general' mark of homage to the Olympian Zeus. The treasure-houses were designed to contain the various civa8$µara or dedicated gifts (such as gold and silver plate, &c.), in which the wealth of the sanctuary partly consisted. The temple inventories recently discovered at Delos illustrate the great quantity of such possessions which were apt to accumulate at a shrine of Panhellenic celebrity. Taken in order from the west, the treasure-houses were founded by the following states: 1, Sicyon; 2, 3, unknown; 4, Syracuse (referred by Pausanias to Carthage); 5, Epidamnus; 6, Byzantium; 7, Sybaris; 8, Cyrene; 9, Selinus; 10, Metapontum; 11, Megara; 12, Gela. It is interesting to remark how this list represents the Greek colonies, from Libya to Sicily, from the Euxine to the Adriatic. Greece proper, on the other hand, is represented only by Megara and Sicyon. The dates of the foundations cannot be fixed. The architectural members of some of the treasure-houses have been found built into the Byzantine wall, or elsewhere on the site, as well as the terra-cotta plates that overlaid the stonework in some cases, and the pedimental figures, representing the battle of the gods and giants, from the treasure-house of the Megarians.
2. The Philippeum stood near the north-west corner of the Altis, a short space west-south-west of the Heraeum. It was dedicated by Philip of Macedon, after his victory at Chaeronea (338 B.C.). As a thank-offering for the overthrow of Greek freedom, it might seem strangely placed in the Olympian Altis. But it is, in fact, only another illustration of the manner in which Philip's position and power enabled him to place a decent disguise on the real nature of the change. Without risking any revolt of Hellenic feeling, the new " captain-general " of Greece could erect a monument of his triumph in the very heart of the Panhellenic sanctuary. The building consisted of a circular Ionic colonnade (of eighteen columns), about 15 metres in diameter, raised on three steps and enclosing a small circular cella, probably adorned with fourteen Corinthian half-columns. It contained portraits by Leochares of Philip, Alexander, and other members of their family, in gold and ivory.
3. The Exedra of Herodes Atticus stood at the north limit of the Altis, close to the north-east angle of the Heraeum, and immediately west of the westernmost treasure-house (that of Sicyon). It consisted of a half-dome of brick, 54 ft. in diameter, with south-southwest aspect. Under the half-dome were placed twenty-one marble statues, representing the family of Antoninus Pius, of Marcus Aurelius, and of the founder, Herodes Atticus. In front of the halfdome on the south, and extending slightly beyond it, was a basin of water for drinking, 711 ft. long. The ends of the basin at northnorth-west and south-south-east were adorned by very small open temples, each with a circular colonnade of eight pillars. A marble bull; in front of the basin, bore an inscription saying that Herodes dedicates the whole to Zeus, in the name of his wife, Annia Regilla. The exedra must have been seen by Pausanias, but he does not mention it.
C. It remains to notice those features of the Altis which were connected with the management of the sanctuary or with the accommodation of its guests.
r. Olympia, besides its religious character, originally possessed also a political character, as the centre of an amphictyony. It was, in fact, a sacred 7raacs. We have seen that it had a bouleuterium for purposes of public debate or conference. So also it was needful that, like a Greek city, it should have a public hearth or prytaneum, where fire should always burn on the altar of the Olympian Hestia, and where the controllers of Olympia should exercise public hospitality. The Prytaneum was at the north-west corner of the Altis, in such a position that its south-east angle was close to the north-west angle of the Heraeum. It was apparently a square building, of which each side measured 100 Olympian feet, with a south-west aspect. It contained a chapel of Hestia at the front or south-west side, before which a portico was afterwards built. The dining-hall was at the back (north-east), the kitchen on the north-west side. On the same side with the kitchen, and also on the opposite side (south-east), there were some smaller rooms.
2. The Porch of Echo, also called the " Painted Porch," extended to a length of 100 yds. along the east Altis wall. Raised on three steps, and formed by a single Doric colonnade, open towards the Altis, it afforded a place from which spectators could conveniently view the passage of processions and the sacrifices at the great altar of Zeus. It was built in the Macedonian period to replace an earlier portico which stood farther back. In front of it was a series of pedestals for votive offerings, including two colossal Ionic columns. These columns, as the inscriptions show, once supported statues of Ptolemy and Berenice.
3. The Agora was the name given to that part of the Altis which had the Porch of Echo on the east, the Altar of Zeus on the west, the Metroum on the north, and the precinct of the Temple of Zeus on the south-west. In this part stood the altars of Zeus Agoraios and Artemis Agoraia.
4. The Zanes were bronze images of Zeus, the cost of making which was defrayed by the fines exacted from competitors who had infringed the rules of the contests at Olympia. These images stood at the northern side of the Agora, in a row, which extended from the north-east angle of the Metroum to the gate of the private entrance from the Altis into the Stadium. Sixteen pedestals were here discovered in situ. A lesson of loyalty was thus impressed on aspirants to renown by the last objects which met their eyes as they passed from the sacred enclosure to the scene of their trial.
A copious supply of water was required for the service of the altars and temples, for the private dwellings of priests and officials, for the use of the gymnasium, palaestra, &c., and for the thermae which arose in Roman times. In the Hellenic age the water was derived wholly from the Cladeus and from the small lateral tributaries of its valley. A basin, to serve as a chief reservoir, was built at the north-west corner of the Altis: and a supplementary reservoir was afterwards constructed a little to the north-east of this, on the slope of the Cronion. A new source of supply was for the first time made available by Herodes Atticus, c. A.D. 157, At a short distance east of Olympia, near the village of Miraka, small streams flow from comparatively high ground through the side-valleys which descend towards the right or northern bank of the Alpheus. From these side-valleys water was now conducted to Olympia, entering the Altis at its north-east corner by an arched canal which passed behind the treasure-houses to the reservoir at the back of the exedra. The large basin of drinking-water in front of the exedra was fed thence, and served to associate the name of Herodes with a benefit of the highest practical value. Olympia further possessed several fountains, enclosed by round or square walls, chiefly in connexion with the buildings outside the Altis. The drainage of the Altis followed two main lines. One, for the west part, passed from the south-west angle of the Heraeum to the south portico outside the south Altisjwall. The other, which served for the treasure-houses, passed in front of the Porch of Echo parallel with the line of the east Altis wall.
See the official Die Ausgrabungen zu Olympia (5 vols., 1875-1881); Laloux and Monceaux, Restauration de l'Olympie (1889); Curtius and Adler, Olympia die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen (1890-1897), I. " Topographie and Geschichte," II. " Baudenkmaler," III. " Bildwerke in Stein and Thon " (Treu), IV. " Bronzen " (Furtwangler), V. " Inschriften " (Dittenberger and Purgold).
(R. C. J.; E. GR.)