Greece- Land of Gods and Heroes Day 7

Friday, November 12, 2021

Today was a trip to Olympia, which is another UNESCO World Heritage site, and was about a two hour drive from our hotel. The weather was perfect and Olympia did not disappoint.

Olympia is where the first Olympic games took place 2800 years ago. It was the home to the ancient Sanctuary of Zeus. We walked among well-preserved altars, temples, theater, and marble statues. Our guide was such a wealth of information and so good at explaining the history of the area. In this post are our favorites from the museum and the grounds of Olympia.

Our first stop was the museum. We’ve included a few of the highlights from the museum. We have much more from the museum but this post would be way too long!

These are tripod cauldron attachments that are found on the handles. They were made from bronze and date from the 8th century BC.

Below is a statue of Zeus carrying a young Ganymedes to immortality from Troy to Olympus. It is a Greek terracotta sculpture made by Phidias, around 435 BC.

Zeus carrying Ganymedes

Sculpted out of marble is the Nike of Paeonios. It was a votive offering to Zeus from the Messenians and the Naupactians victory against the Spartans in the Archidameian war. It stood at the SE corner of the Temple of Zeus.

Nike of Paeonios

The West Pediment from the Temple of Zeus shows a fight between centaurs and Lapiths. They are battling over the abduction of the Lapitih women. Apollo, in the center, presides over all!

The East Pediment from the Temple of Zeus depicts the chariot race of Pelops and Oinomaos and a 10 foot tall Zeus is in the center and the chariot teams are on each side.

Probably the most famous is the sculpture by Praxiteles of Hermes and the Infant Dionysus, 4th century BC. Hermes is holding the infant Dionysus in his left arm and was dangling grapes in his missing right arm. It was found in the ruins of the Temple of Hera in 1877.

As we entered the Olympia common grounds we saw archaeologists digging and excavating! It was tedious work as we watched.

From the 5th century BC.

Our first view of the ruins of Olympia

The Philippeion is the only circular building. It had 18 Ionic columns on a 3-stepped marble base and is supported on a stone entablature (moldings). It was built by Philip of Macedon to mark his triumph over the Greeks. This was the first temple one saw when entering the sacred site. Inside stood statues of Philip and his family which includes his son, Alexander the Great!

The Philippeion

The Temple of Hera was the oldest structure on the site. The Temple originally honored Hera and Zeus before the Temple of Zeus was built. Inside was once a large statue of Hera on a throne with Zeus beside her and the temple once housed a statue of Hermes and was topped with the Disk of the Sun, and both of these are housed in the museum.

Disk of the Sun

The statue of Hermes in the museum is the Praxiteles of Hermes from up above.

The Nymphaion was once a curved fountain that was lined with 2 tiers of statues of emperors, some we saw in the museum. This fountain served as an aqueduct and helped cool individuals in the heat. It was built around 150 AD.


The Altar of Hera is where athletes light the Olympic torch since 1936 and links the original Olympics to the modern games. The torch is lit by using a curved cauldron-shaped mirror and it focus’ the rays of the sun that ignites a flame. This ceremony is done a few months before the games begin.

Altar of Hera

The Stadium was first built during the 5th century BC and had a capacity of 45,000 spectators. It was where the ancient Olympic games were held.

The racetrack is 640 feet. There was a stone drain around the track that opened at intervals into small basins where rain water collected.

Water collection drain

We lined up on the original marble paved starting line and either walked or ran down and back!

Our Olympic winners!

Our female, our male, and our honorary winners!

The Temple of Zeus was located in the center of ancient Olympia. It was a huge temple dedicated to Zeus who was the king of the gods and patron of the Games. It was built in the 5th century BC. It fell in the 6th century AD. Most of the temple was made of limestone not marble.

The Metroon was a temple dedicated to Rhea, the mother of the gods and nearby was the Altar of Zeus. They don’t know the exact location of the Altar of Zeus. At this altar the Olympians would daily sacrifice animals to Zeus.

The Leonidaion was once a large building that was a luxurious accommodation for distinguished visitors and officials to the Olympic games.

The Gymnasium was a training area for foot racing, javelin and discus throwing.

After leaving ancient Olympia we had lunch in town.

It was a full day at Olympia!

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