OLYMPIA: HOST OF THE GAMES (Illustration) Famous Historical Events Social Studies Sports Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Geography

This illustration, from 1891, depicts an artist's impression of how Olympia may have looked during the ancient Olympic Games. Archaeological excavations began at the site, circa 1891. Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


Festival games were held in Olympia, in the section of Greece called Elis. (Elis is in the northwestern Peloponnesus.) Getting more rain than other parts of this dry country, Elis has more trees and forests. It also has beautiful groves. One of those groves, called Altis, was a sacred place.

Located in the valley between the rivers Alpheus and Kladeos, the grove of Altis represented holy - hence, neutral - ground. It was home (be patient with this slow-loading Greek web site) to the great sanctuary of Zeus, chief god of the Greeks, whom the ancients believed lived on Mount Olympus.

A smaller sanctuary, dedicated to Hera (the wife of Zeus) was part of the sacred site. The area, where Greeks traveled to honor their gods, was also a perfect place to honor their top athletes. Included in the temple of Zeus (on the East Pediment) was a depiction of the chariot race between Oinomaos and Pelops.

For more than 1,000 years - in war or peace - Greeks gathered in Olympia for the Olympic festival. According to Hippias (a sophist who lived in Elis and, in the 5th century B.C., compiled a list of initial victors), the games began in about 776 B.C.

They ended, in 393 or 394 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I closed all ancient pagan sanctuaries and banned all associated games. His successor, Theodosius II, had the temples demolished in 426. Thereafter, earthquakes and floods buried the remains until German archaeologists began uncovering Olympia's ruins around 1829.

Let's take a trip to Olympia (today a small town of about 1,800 people who farm and tend to the tourists) to view what remains of the original Olympic stadium (and its surroundings).

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 01, 2005

Updated Last Revision: Mar 18, 2015

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"OLYMPIA: HOST OF THE GAMES" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 01, 2005. Jan 19, 2020.
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