Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece 1/2014

May 18, 2014

Arriving at the historic town of Olympia, the original home of the Olympic Games, Spring was clearly in the air. Flowers were blooming and lemon and orange trees were overloaded and dropping fruit on the ground. Tourist season had not yet begun so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We found a comfortable campsite (Camping Diana) just a few blocks from the entrance to the site of the ruins.

The actual site of Olympia at first glance looked like Hiroshima after the atomic bomb. Buried under up to 24 feet of alluvial deposits over the centuries it was rediscovered in 1766 and excavations began in 1829.

The first Olympic festival was organized by a King of Elis in the 8th century BC – with tradition dating it at 776 BC. (The Classical Period between the 5th and 4th centuries BC was the Golden Age of the site at Olympia.) From that time on the Olympic games were held every 4 years and acquired a panhellenic character which means that athletes from all Greek City-States participated.

Competing athletes had to be true-born free Greek men. They were required to travel to Elis, the organizing city, one month prior to the games. Here they were carefully screened for their physical ability, health, heritage, and character. They also went through extensive training to make sure they were fit and ready for the fierce competition. Interestingly, they trained and perhaps competed totally nude. The word “gymnasium” derives from the Greek word “gymnos”, which means “naked”.

During training and the events, men would anoint themselves with olive oil, sometimes slightly perfumed, and you can imagine as the dust collected what they might have looked like. Fortunately, the Greeks had invented strigils that were used to scrape off the dust, dirt, sweat and olive oil. There were different shapes of these strigils for different parts of the body and apparently they were used extensively until appropriate soaps were invented.

Women were not allowed to compete nor could they even watch the games. If they broke this prohibition, they were cast down from Mount Typaion. Apparently the Greeks had no idea what they were missing not being able to watch the women’s beach volleyball.

While wandering through the ruins, few buildings could even be identified except by placards. We did stop at Hera’s alter where the Olympic flame is lit ceremoniously every 4th year and there were still a few columns standing here and there. In a tribute to the Classic Olympics, the stadium was the location for the men’s and women’s shot put competition during the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Most of the true relics and art that had been found through extensive excavations were now housed in a nearby museum or had been carted off to the Archaeological Museum in Athens and other cities. Many beautiful marble statues were displayed in the on-site Olympic Archaeological Museum, along with an amazing collection of other artifacts including interesting pottery and Olympic game components that had survived. The photos below may give you a glimpse.

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2 Responses to “Olympia, Peloponnese, Greece 1/2014”

  1. Arriving at the historic town of Olympia, the original home of the Olympic Games, Spring was clearly in the air…. http://t.co/6EwedrkOpe

  2. RT @TurtleExp: Arriving at the historic town of Olympia, the original home of the Olympic Games, Spring was clearly in the air…. http://t…

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