There are many myths surrounding the origin of the ancient Olympic Games. The most popular legend describes that Heracles was the creator of the Olympic Games, and built the Olympic stadium and surrounding buildings as an honor to his father Zeus.
According to another legend, the Olympic Games began after a victory by Pelops against Oenomaos, King of Pissa. The myth tells of how Pelops' overcame the King and won the hand of his daughter Hippodamia.
She was a daughter of King Oenomaus and mother of Thyestes and Atreus, by Pelops (have a look at my Mythological Mycenae). Pelops wanted to marry Hippodamia. Oenamaus had pursued thirteen suitors of Hippodamia and killed them all after beating them in a chariot race. He did this because he loved her himself or, alternatively, because a prophecy claimed he would be killed by her son.
Pelops (or alternatively, Hippodamia herself) convinced Myrtilus (by promising him half of Oenomaus kingdom), Oenomaus' charioteer to remove the linchpins attaching the wheels to the chariot. Oenomaus died. Pelops then killed Myrtilus because he didn't want to share the credit for winning the chariot race, or because Myrtilus had attempted to rape Hippodamia. As Myrtilus died, he cursed Pelops.
So the Olympic Games started!
You may see Pelops and Hippodamia at my second pic taken in Olympia's Museum.
Unfortunately, the treasuries unearthed in the excavations begun in 1829 were taken to the Louvre Museum, but the ruins of the temples are imposing enough and the natural environment make the visit worth enough.
Telephone +30-624-22.517 / Fax: +30-626-22.529
Race on the original track
In the Stadium at ancient Olympia, you have to enjoy the experience and take advantage of the moment - line up on the track that was used by some of the greatest athletes of the ancient world and race someone. Many athletes in the ancient games competed naked, but please don't get too into the spirit. Keep the clothes ON. If you want to go barefoot, then its up to you.
At the foot of the Kronion Hill stretches the space formed by the wedge of land between the converging rivers of the Alfios and the Kladeos.
The Kladeos, a tributary of the Alfeios, flows around the area.
It is the river that flows from the north, through Olympia and empties into the Alfeios River. The river in winter is protected from the flooding of Ancient Olympia. In the Mycenaean period, the Kladeos area was flooded. The flood continued in the Middle Ages and went up to the German excavations of Olympia in 1875 where it buried Olympia with a height of 4 m.
The Temple of Zeus
The Temple of Zeus was on the Olympic grounds. It housed one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - the Statue of Zeus.
An earthquake destroyed the temple in Roman times, and here you can see the columns laying on the grounds, like dominos. The columns were typically made of "drums" of stone that were stacked one on the other until the column was complete. These columns lay here covered by silt until modern times.
Unfortunately, nothing remains of Zeus' statue...