Return to Home Page Harrys Greece Guide

olympia ruinsOlympia Birthplace of the Olympic Games Page 4

During its more than millennial history, the Games were directed by Eleans (as in the name of the modern province, Elia, which means 'olive'). Only men and boys whose mother tongue was Greek were allowed to compete; barbarians were allowed in as spectators, but no slaves. Married women were also barred, and even forbidden to cross the river while the games were going on, at threat of being hurled from a rock. In later years Romans were admitted. A sacred oath was sworn by the contestants on the Altar of Zeus Orkeios (the latter word meaning 'oath') to observe all the rules of the Games, with any subsequent infractions redounding not only on themselves but upon their families and native towns as well.)

The Games Banned  393 AD

The Games were terminated by an official decree of Roman Emperor Theodosios the Great, in 393AD after having become decadently commercial and overly professional, with bribery common, though his reason for closing the Games had more to do with his conversion to Christianity and consequent crackdown on 'pagan' events. His successor ordered the destruction of the temples, and later barbarian invasions, earthquakes and the changing of the course of the Alpheios River completed the destruction, covering it with 7meters/23feet of silt and sand, until its excavation by German archaeologists in the 1870s. The Olympic Games were not revived until 1896, in Athens.

The Olympia Site museum (open Mon noon-7pm, Tues-Sun 8am-7pm; winter Mon 10:30am-5pm,Tues-Sun 8:30-5;6 euros admission). Sometimes signposted as the New Museum, it lies north of the sanctuary about 200 meters. Along with the Hermes of Praxiteles, the most famous of the individual sculptures is the Head of Hera, also dating from the 4th century BC and found in the Temple of Hera. The Nike of Paionos is larger--originally 10 meters high. There are some fine bronze items, including the Persian Helmet which the Athenians captured at the Battle of Marathon, and the helmet of Miliadhes who was an Athenian general; finds from the workshop of Pheidias, including the cup with his name inscribed; statuary and sculpture from the Temple of Zeus, the frieze of the Twelve Labors of Hercules ; and much more.

More Olympia Birthplace of the Olympic Games Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8