The site of Olympia

P0197 Olympia was not a city, but a sacred area surrounded by a wall (the Altis) with a few temples and around it a limited accommodation for sportive events, including a running track and a horse track, The sanctuary was situated in the region Elis. Even in Roman times, when it was at its largest, it was no more than a square kilometer great. There were hotels for the visitors and baths for the athletes, but the site was not permanently occupied.

The site was situated on the north bank of the Alpheios river, about 15 km from the sea, and in reach of the small ancient boats. It was in the river plain, just south of the Kronos hill. To the west the Kladeos river rushed down from the hills. The plain was filled with olive trees and vines and also full of grassy meadows. In the fourth century AD, the Kladeos changed its course and destroyed part of the gymnasion. After the games had come to an end in the early fifth century, the the sanctuary suffered from major earthquakes in the sixth century. Floods - according to recent research caused by tsunamis - demolished the southern part of the sanctuary and buried it under four meters of silt. For many centuries nobody knew where Olympia had been.

The site was identified by the English antiquarian Richard Chandler in 1776 and fully excavated by a Prussian expedition under the direction of E. Curtius a hundred years later (1875-1881). Both Chandler and the Germans were inspired and helped by the very precise account given by Pausanias. Excavations are still taking place and now Olympia is one of the major tourist attractions of Greece.

Below is a list of the buildings at Olympia, but you can also start from the map.

1. Temple of Zeus 13. Eastern Roman baths
2. Temple of Hera 14. Gymnasion (training complex)
3. Tholos of Philippos 15. Palaistra (wrestling grounds)
4. House of the magistrates 16. Baths of the Kladeos
5. Fountain of Herodes Atticus 17. Roman hotels
6. Treasuries 18. Heroön (Temple of the Heroes)
7. Temple of Rhea 19. Workshop of Pheidias
8. The Zanes 20. Hotel of Leonidas
9. Altar of Zeus 21. Southern baths
10. Colonnade of Echo 22. Council house
11. Running track 23. Southern colonnade
12. Horse track

© KU Leuven, 2012