Olympia is the place where the very first Olympic Games were organized. These Games were held in honour of Zeus, once every four years, as part of a religious festival. They were greatly respected and even had the power to suspend wars for a period of three months.
In the beginning these games had a local character and only Greeks from the area of Olympia could take part. Over time, however, they got a Pan-Hellenic character and Greeks from all over the then known Greek world would travel to Olympia in order to be part of this feast. The highest moral award for an Olympic winner was a wreath made out of the branches of a wild olive tree. Victory symbolized by a wreath meant rather more than sponsors, deals and advertising campaigns. The Olympic winners won immortal fame.
The archaeological site
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to run the original Olympic track. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity! Other spots of interests are the training facilities where the athletes would warm up their muscles, the hotel for VIPs’ only and the place where the Olympic flame is lit twice every four years.
The archaeological museum
The Archaeological Museum of Olympia houses the most important finds of the excavations, which began in 1875 by the German archaeologists.
Some of the highlights are the original marble sculptures of the Zeus temple, the metopes of the temple which depict the 12 labours of Hercules (the idol of all muscle –men in ancient times), the Nike statue and the late-classical Hermes statue which has the perfect proportions. Don’t forget to walk around the statue because his “behind” is really worthy of seeing as well. Other finds of interest are the ancient “strigils”, scrapers. In ancient times the athletes would get really dirty since they would rub themselves with olive oil and sand to protect their skin from the sun. After training they would use these scrapers as a kind of peeling.
Hermes of Praxiteles
The museum of the history of the Olympic Games
Here you will find “ancient Playmobil”, small stylized statuettes of animals which were actually the offerings of the poor people. If you didn’t have the money to sacrifice a real animal to Zeus, you could buy a little votive offering at one of the ancient souvenir stands in Olympia and dedicate this to Zeus.