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Ancient Olympics - Courtyard of the Palaestra

Ancient Olympics - Courtyard of the Palaestra Archeological Wonders Sports Ancient Places and/or Civilizations

Cities around ancient Greece had places for athletes to practice combative sports, such as wrestling.  Such places were called palaestra.

The facilities at ancient Olympia also included a palaestra.  This image depicts its remains.

We learn more about this place, which was so important to ancient Olympians, from the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports:

The palaestra is situated west of the Altis enclosure, near the Kladeos river. Built in the third century BC as part of the gymnasium complex, it was used to practice boxing, wrestling and jumping.

This almost square building (66.35 x 66.75 metres) stands 0.70 metres lower than the gymnasium. At its centre was an open court, forty one metres square, surrounded by a Doric colonnade of 72 columns and laid with fine sand on which the athletes trained.

The columns and lower courses of the walls were of stone, the upper courses of the walls of brick and the entablature of wood. Round the court were rooms of various sizes, most of them with Ionic porches, in which the athletes anointed their bodies with oil (elaiothesion) or powdered them with dust (konisterion), undressed and washed.

Some of the rooms retain stone benches, used by orators and philosophers for teaching and social intercourse. An Ionic colonnade lined the elongated space in the south wing.

Originally, the palaestra had two entrance doors on its south side, but a Doric propylon with four columns on the facade was added later on the north side. This became the main entrance to the building, while a small doorway also on the north side allowed access to the adjacent gymnasium.

The palaestra was excavated and studied by the German School in recent years. Only the lower, stone-built parts are preserved, and thirty-two of the seventy-two columns of the internal peristyle have been restored.

Click on the image for a better view of the palaestra ruins at Olympia.


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

 

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