SITE IN TIME
Olympia is located 10km inland in the territory of Elis in the northwestern Peloponnese,
just near the confluence of Alpheios with the river Kladeos. Peloponnese, where Olympia
lies, was considered to be the island of Pelops, the mythical figure whose life was
traditionally linked to the site of Olympia.
Near the point where the two rivers meet, there rises a low hill covered with pines.
This bears the name of Kronos, the father of Zeus, and surrounds the flat area of
the shrine, the name of which was "Altis", meaning grove
(alsos) in the Elian dialect.
The ancient writers tell us that Altis used to be shaded with olive-trees.
Greeks honored Zeus and other deities at altars located in the Altis.
The cults of Kronos, Rhea, Gaia, Eileithyia, Themis and Idaian Herakles were also
worshiped at Olympia since the earlier times. From the sixth century and on, the Altis
was adorned with temples, elaborate shrines, and statues. The Altis was the center of all
religious activities during the Olympic festival.
The site of Olympia developed from a local cult center to a Panhellenic sanctuary
throughout the course of the centuries.
- In the Geometric and Archaic periods
(10th-6th centuries BC), the site was reorganized to meet the increasing needs
created by the visitors of the site. In the early 6th century BC, the first temple,
dedicated to Hera, was erected. A series of structures with votive offerings were
dedicated to the sanctuary by various Greek cities, in of which many were
wealthy Greek colonies.
- In the Classical era (5th and 4th centuries BC), the sanctuary
complex was reorganized to accommodate the most magnificent temple of the site: the
temple of Zeus, containing the most famous cult statue of Zeus, made by the famous sculptor
Pheidias. The site was supplied with a number of new secular buildings and athletic
- In the late Classical (4th century BC) and Hellenistic
periods the site was decorated
with buildings dedicated by Philip II of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great,
and other wealthy donors. New elaborated practice areas, such as the Gymnasium
and the Palaistra, were erected.
- In the Roman period the sanctuary acquired an
international fame and enjoyed imperial benefits. Following the political crisis
in the late Roman period, the decline of Olympia was accelerated.
In AD 393, Theodosios I, the emperor of east Roman empire, put an end to the Olympic games.