The gymnasion of Olympia

Originally, the gymnasion at Olympia was merely an open area near the river, which was used for training. The earliest building, the palaistra, was constructed just south of the training grounds in the third century BC. The colonnades around the gymnasion date from about 100 BC. The eastern colonnade measured exactly one stadion, which allowed the sprinters to train here when the weather was bad. Along this colonnade, there were rooms where the athletes could stay overnight during the games. The interior court contained other running tracks and space to throw the discus and the javelin. Of the western colonnade nothing remains. Probably this part of the gymnasion is swept away by the river.

Even when no games were going on, Olympia was a popular sanctuary. In between the games, the gymnasion was a meeting place for pelgrims, teachers and tourists from all over Greece.

One month before the games started, the athletes were expected in Elis. Two of the three gymnasia in this city (not yet that of Olympia) were available for them to train. The preliminary competitions took place here as well, as only the best athletes could take part in the actual games.

© KU Leuven, 2012