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Ancient Olympia was an important sanctuary and center of worship for the god Zeus located in the western part of the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece. It was also the site of the Olympic Games, which were held every four years in ancient times and were one of the most important events in ancient Greek culture.

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The first Olympic Games were held in 776 BCE and became a major cultural and religious event, attracting athletes, poets, and other cultural figures from all over Greece. The games were not only a celebration of athletic achievement but also a symbol of unity and peace between the city-states of Greece.

In addition to the Olympic Games, Olympia was also home to several other important religious and cultural events. The sanctuary of Zeus contained several temples and altars dedicated to various gods and goddesses, and it was a popular destination for pilgrims who came to offer sacrifices and seek divine favor.

The site of ancient Olympia has been extensively excavated and several of the original buildings and structures have been restored, providing visitors with a glimpse into what life was like in ancient Greece. Visitors can see the remains of the stadium, where the Olympic Games were held, the Temple of Zeus, the Altar of Zeus, and the famous Olympic Flame that was kept burning in a special tower on the site.

Notable Structures

circa 600-500 BCE

The Bouleuterion, literally the Council House, of ancient Olympia is situated inside the sacred enclosure of the Altis, south of the temple of Zeus. Conceived as the meeting place for the Olympic Council, its construction started in the sixth entury BCE and completed in the fourth century BCE. Though, some minor additions and changes were made during the Roman period as well but the structure largely remained unchanged.

The Bouleuterion complex comprised of four major structures, one central square structure, flanked by two apsidal buildings and a later portico. The statue and the altar of Zeus was situated in the central square building between the two apsidal halls. This is where the judges and athletes took the sacred oath before the beginning of the games. An Ionian portico was added on the eastern side of the complex in the fifth century BCE.

circa 430 BCE

Workshop of Phidias
Oblong rectangular building, where the renowned Athenian sculptor Pheidias fashioned the colossal gold and ivory made (chryselephantine) statue of Zeus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Many objects used for the making of the cult statue of the god were found in the workshop (i.e. terra cotta moulds, tools etc.). In the fifth century CE the building was converted into an early Christian church (basilica).

The workshop where Pheidias meticulously crafted the chryselephantine statue of Zeus, renowned as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, stood immediately to the west of the Temple of Zeus. This rectangular workshop, constructed using shell-limestone, shared the same dimensions as the cella of the Temple of Zeus. This allowed the artist to assess the statue's appearance within its intended setting more accurately. The workshop's walls were adorned with gold, ivory, and glass panels, enveloping a wooden framework. It is likely that the statue was transported in separate pieces and then assembled inside the Temple of Zeus. Within the temple, Zeus was depicted in a seated position upon a golden throne embellished with scenes from mythology. The statue's face and exposed body parts were crafted from ivory, while the robe, made of gold, featured intricate glass flowers and semi-precious stones as adornments.

circa 350 BCE

South Stoa

circa 350 BCE

Echo Portico
The Echo Portico was a monumental colonnade located in the ancient sanctuary of Olympia in Greece. It was a long colonnade with a series of columns that were used to create a covered walkway. It was located near the center of the sanctuary and was used by visitors and athletes as a place to socialize and relax. The name "Echo Portico" comes from the acoustics of the space, which were such that sounds would echo back and forth between the columns. This made it a popular spot for reciting poetry and oratory, as well as for musical performances.

The Echo Portico was also an important architectural landmark in the sanctuary. The columns and architectural elements were decorated with elaborate carvings and sculptures, including scenes from Greek mythology and depictions of athletic events. The colonnade was likely built in the mid second century CE, and was one of the most impressive structures in the sanctuary.

Despite its size and grandeur, very little of the Echo Portico has survived to the present day, and much of what is known about it comes from ancient texts and descriptions by travelers and historians. Nevertheless, the Echo Portico remains an important example of ancient Greek architecture and design, and is a testament to the grandeur of the ancient Olympic sanctuary at Olympia.

According to traditional accounts the sounds here repeated seven times. It consisted of an outer Doric order colonnade. It was also known as the "painted-portico", because of its interior fresco decorations. In front of the portico, the monument of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Arsinoe (circa 284-264 BCE) were erected.

circa 337 BCE

The construction of the Philippeion began by Philip II after his victory in the battle of Chaironeia in 338 BCE. The monument was dedicated to Zeus. After Philip's death it was completed by his son, Alexander the Great.

It is the only circular building in the Altis and it is encircled by a colonnade. The outer columns of Ionis order with bases in the Attic Ionic style supported an Ionic entablature of shell-limestone, while in the interior, attached to the wall stood nine Corinthian semi-columns and in the middle, opposite the entrance a seci-circular pedestal. The top of the roof, which was laid with clay-tiles ended in a bronze poppy, which held the beams together.

Philippeion was a heroon built in order to glorify the Macedonian dynasty, of which five chryselephantine statues were setup in the interior,crafter by the famous sculpture of antiquity, Leochares.

The partial restoration work of Philippeion, finished in 2005 CE, was executed by the German Archaeological Institute. The restoration project included some architectural elements, which were brought back to Greece from the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The undertaking was realized by the generous sponsoring of the Foundation A.G. Leventis.

circa 330 BCE

The Leonidaion (Λεωνίδαιον), dating back to the end of the fourth centure BCE around 330 BCE, is a large rectangular building (measuring approx. 75x81 meters). It was built to accommodate the officials. It was named after the architect, who also financed the construction, Leonides from Naxos. The rooms are arranged between an interior peristyle court of Doric order and an outer Ionic colonnade consisting of 138 decorated columns. During the Roman period the central court was converted in to an open air swimming pool.

In the late third century CE the still utilised Leonidaion was destroyed in an earthquake and its wreckage used in the construction of a wall built to protect the site from the Herules in the Late Antiquity.

circa 50-250 CE

South-West Building of Leonidaion Baths
The large building complex dates back to the Imperial period. It consisted of a central court with colonnade (peristyle) and an open air swimming pool, three large halls and smaller auxiliary chambers. The niches of the monumental facade were adorned with statues statues. It was a meeting place for the athletes, who were training in the big halls of the structure.

circa 150 CE

The Nymphaeum in Olympia was a monumental fountain complex located in the ancient sanctuary of Olympia in Greece. The Nymphaeum was likely built in the second century CE, and was one of the most impressive structures in the sanctuary. The construction of the nymphaeum and the connecting short aqueduct was financed by Herodes Atticus and his wife Regilla to the sanctuary.

The Nymphaeum consisted of several monumental fountains and water features, including a large central pool surrounded by columns and decorative sculptures. The water was supplied to the Nymphaeum through an aqueduct from a nearby spring, and was used for various purposes, including providing drinking water for the athletes and visitors to the sanctuary. The niches of the semi-circular, two-story building, were adorned with statues of Herodes Atticus, emperor Antoninus Pius, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and members of their families.

The Nymphaeum was also a popular gathering place, and visitors would have gathered here to socialize and enjoy the cooling sprays of water during the hot summer months. Despite its size and grandeur, very little of the Nymphaeum has survived to the present day, and much of what is known about it comes from ancient texts and descriptions by travelers and historians. Nevertheless, the Nymphaeum remains an important and impressive example of ancient Greek water engineering and architectural design.

circa 250-550 CE

Leonidaion Baths
The small and relatively well preserved bath complex, part of an extensive and devastated building complex, was a guest room. Mosaics and a perfect wall heating system are still preserved. In the fifth and sixth century CE the building was converted in to a wine factory. A kiln (furnace) was used for glass manufacturing.

circa 50 CE

Villa of Nero
The Villa of emperor Nero, located in the south-east of ancient Olympia, is one of the several ancient Roman villas constructed during the 1st century CE for the Roman emperor Nero. The Villa of Nero in Olympia, is an elaborately built villa with a peristyle court, several chambers, gardens and a luxurious bath; the so-called "octagon". The mosaics and the arched roofs of the baths are still well-preserved. In the first century CE, the building had replaced the Sanctuary of Hestia as well as other buildings of Classical period (circa fifth to fourth centuries BCE). During the third century CE, the south-east building underwent alterations. The edifice was recognized as temporary residence for the emperor Nero, who had lived at the Sanctuary during his participation to the Olympic Games of 67 CE. Archaeological excavations reveal the presence of a lead water pipe bearing the inscription "ner. aug.", an abbreviation of the name Nero Augustus.


Southern Baths


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