The Archaeological Museum of Olympia is one of the most important museums in Greece. It presents the long history of the most celebrated sanctuary of antiquity, the sanctuary of Zeus, father of both gods and men, where the Olympic games were born.
The museum's permanent exhibition contains finds from the excavations in the sacred precinct of the Altis dating from prehistoric times to the Early Christian period. Among the many precious exhibits the sculpture collection, for which the museum is most famous, the bronze collection, the richest collection of its type in the world, and the large terracottas collection, are especially noteworthy.
The museum building comprises exhibition rooms, auxiliary spaces and storerooms. The vestibule and twelve exhibition rooms contain objects excavated in the Altis. The auxiliary spaces (lavatories) are located in the museum's east wing; a separate building between the museum and the archaeological site houses a book and souvenir shop.
Finally, part of the east wing and the basement are dedicated to storage and conservation of terracottas, bronze, stone, mosaics and minor objects.
The Archaeological Museum of Olympia was reorganized in 2004 to meet modern museological standards. The collections are displayed in a modern way. A chronological order, easy to understand information panels and subtle lighting, make visiting a museum in Ancient Olympia an enjoyable event.
Open 8.00-19.00. Entrance fee 5 Euro.
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There were 42 figures decorating the 2 pediments of the temple, 12 metopes and the lion-headed water spouts running along the lengths of the temple. It is one of the best surviving ensembles from ancient Greek works of art. They belong to the "austere style" and date to the 1st half of the 5th century B.C.
The eastern pediment depicts the chariot race between Pelops and Oinomaos, and the central figure which dominates the work is of Zeus. The western pediment depicts the abduction of the Lapith women by Centaurs, and has Apollo as its central figure. The metopes bear the relief representation of Hercules' labours. These sculptures were made during the 5th century B.C.
The statue depicts a winged woman. An inscription on the base states that the statue was dedicated by the Messenians and the Naupactians for their victory against the Lacedaemonians (Spartans), in the Archidamian (Peloponnesian) war prabably in 421 B.C. It is the work of the sculptor Paionios of Mende in Chalkidiki, who also made the acroteria of the Temple of Zeus.
Nike, cut from Parian marble, has a height of 2m, but with the tips of her (now broken) wings would have reached 3m. In its completed form, the monument with its triangular base (about 9m high) would have stood at the height of 11m, giving the impression of Nike triumphantly descending from Olympos. It dates from 421 B.C.
The 12 meter high statue by Phideas, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, which was removed to Constantinople by Theodocious and destroyed in a fire. The seated statue occupied the whole width of the aisle of the temple built to house it.
Perhaps the greatest discovery in terms of finding out about this wonder came in 1954-1958 with the excavation of the workshop at Olympia where Phidias created the statue. Tools, terracotta molds and a cup inscribed "I belong to Pheidias" were found here, where the traveller Pausanius said the Zeus was constructed.
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The temple dedicated to the cult of Hera is found on the southern slopes of Cronos Hill. Construction of the Heraion began in the middle of the 7th century BC; the commencement of the construction of monumental buildings in the 7th century marked the increasing importance of Olympia as a Pan-Hellenic sanctuary. The Heraion is one of the oldest examples of monumental temple architecture in Greece .
Doric peripheral temple with 6 columns in front and 13 columns along the side, the Temple of Zeus measuries 64.12m x 27.66m. It was designed by Libon, an architect from Eleia, and built between 470 and 456 BCE using spoils from the 472 BCE war between Eleia and Pisa (which had resulted in Pisa's destruction). The Temple of Zeus was further built on a raised platform, giving it a commanding presence for the entire city.
The stadium of Olympia was built in the 4th c BCE to the East of the sanctuary.
It is 212.54 meters (600 Olympic feet) long, and 28.50m wide. It was never lined with seats and the spectators watched the games from the embankments. Today the starting and finishing lines are visible, along with the stone seats of the Hellanodikes (the judges
The Palaestra, erected during the 3rd century BCE, was used for the practice of wrestling, boxing and long jumping.Much of the colonnade surrounding the central court of the Palaestra has been reconstructed.The Palaestra is located to the west of the Altis, near the Kládeos river. It is south of the Gymnasium and adjoining it.
The palaestra is oriented precisely to the cardinal points and is very symmetrical in plan. Like all palaestra, the palaestra at Olympia is centered around a large courtyard covered with sand for use as a boxing or wrestling surface. Along all four sides of the palaestra are rooms that opened onto the porticoes.
The building is entered through the south side through two separate doorways, each with Corinthian columns distyle in antis, thus immediately establishing symmetry within the plan of the structure.
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Hera's altar is the location of where the Olympic flame is lit every four years for the modern Olympic games. This tradition was not started in 1896 when the games were renewed. The idea of using the sun to light an Olympic flame at the site of the ancient Olympiad and transporting it to the location of the modern Olympics was begun in 1936 during the Berlin games. In 2004, the Olympic torch passed through six continents on its tour around the world before ending up in Athens.
One of the masterpieces of ancient Greek art. Hermes, as Pausanias informs us, is depicted carrying the infant Dionysos.
Made from Parian marble it stands 2,10m in height. It is thought to be an original of the great sculptor and it is dated to ca. 330 B.C.
Important finds included sculptures from the Temple of Zeus, the Nike of Paeonius, the Hermes of Praxiteles and many bronzes were made in 1875.
The Temple of Hera is an important monument of the ruins of Doric architecture. The Temple of Hera was destroyed by an earthquake in the early 4th century AD, and never rebuilt. In modern times, the temple is the location where the torch of the Olympic flame is lit, by focusing the rays of the sun.
The Temple located in the north of the altis (the sacred precinct), is the oldest peripteral temple at that site, and one of the earliest Doric temples in Greece. There may have been an older cult place in the same location. The temple was erected circa 600 BC.
The temple measures 50 x 18m at stylobate level; such elongated proportions are a common feature of early Doric architecture. It has a peripteros of 6 by 16 columns.
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Dedication by Miltiades, as the inscription informs us "Miltiades dedicates to Zeus". It is the same helmet worn by the Athenian general in the battle of Marathon, where he defeated the Persians, and thus offered it to Zeus as a sign of gratitude.
The hemlet that the Athenian general Miltiades dedicated to Olympian Zeus after his victory over the Persians in the battle of Marathon.
The most outstanding building in Olympia is the Temple of Zeus, built by Livon. The Temple of Zeus at Olympia, is considered to be built in 470-456 BC, was the very model of the fully-developed classical Greek temple of the Doric order.
The temple stood in the most famous sanctuary of Greece, which had been dedicated to local and Pan-Hellenic deities and had probably been established towards the end of the Mycenaean period. The Altis, the enclosure with its sacred grove, open-air altars and the tumulus of Pelops, was first formed during the tenth and ninth centuries BCE, when the cult of Zeus joined the established cult of Hera.
The main structure of the building was of a local limestone that was unattractive and of poor quality, and so it was coated with a thin layer of stucco to give the appearance of marble.
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Access to the Stadium was along a vaulted passage and, to the South, was the Vouleutirion where the Olympic Senate met.
The entrance to the Stadium from the north-east corner of the Altis was a privileged one, reserved for the judges of the games, the competitors and the heralds. Its form was that of a vaulted tunnel, 100 Olympian feet in length.
It was probably constructed in Roman times. To the west was a vestibule, from which the Altis was entered by a handsome gateway.
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