Ancient Olympia was never a town but a Panhellenic sanctuary, one of the greatest and most official of antiquity. It is situated in the idyllic pine wooded valley formed by the peacful river Alpheus and the rushing torrent of the Kladeus. Nort of the valley rises the hill of Kronion.
Where is Olympia Greece
It was in this place with its special and unique beauty "the fairest spot in Greece", as the ancients called it, that the first Greeks chose to worshipthe bodily beauty of youth. It was there that the harmonious male form was cultivated so nobly that it was put on an equal footing with the spirit.
From the most ancient, mythical times the child eating Kronos and his wife Rea (Earth), the mother of the gods, were worshipped in ancient Olyimpia, though later the tutelary god was Zeus.
The Olympic games were the greatest event in ancient Greece. History records that they were held continuously for 1200 years, from 778 BC until the 4th century AD. In 776 BC the Olympic Games acquired an official Panhellenic character and from then were held regularly every fourth year.
From then on Olympia was recognised as a sacred and unassailable place. A sacred truce was declared under which all acts of enmity should cease during the month while the Games were in progress. This was the first international peace of the ancient world . Each Olympiad as well as the Olympic victors were recorded regulary and the Games thus became used as a basis of ancient chronology.
Legend has it that the Olympic Games began at a much earlier date and that their founder was the hero Herakles and the first competitors were the 12 gods of Olympus. Anyhow it is the case that from 1500BC and prhaps even earlier Games were held at Olympia, first of a local nature, then Panheloponnesian and last Panhellenic.
Only Greeks took part in the Games. Women were forbidden to be present at them under penalty of death.
A month before they were due to start, the athletes assemled at Olympia for daily, systematic practice. Also long before the Games , the Olympic heralds used to go round the Greek cities announcing the sacred truce, the ceasing of all inimical acts and summoning the onlookers to come on a given date to Olympia. An immense crowd of people then set out for the holy place, which became the centre of a unique panhellenic gathering. The most renowned men in Greece, politicians, artists etc. met there as well as the common people. The public had an opportunity of attending various artistic exhibitions, the proclamation of homeric epics, speeches by orators and so forth..
The Olympic Contests were held between the end of July and the bginning of September and lasted 5 days. The first and last days were devoted to official ceremonies, sacrifies and other typical festivities.
The first and basic contest was the stadion race, that is for the fastest runner, and the Long race an endurance test. Then came wrestling, boxing and the "pankration", a mixture of wrestling and boxing. Next day came the chariot races in the hippodrome. An important contest was the pentathlon - jumping, discus throwing, running, javelin and wrestling. So was the race in full armour with wich the contests came to an end.
Victors in the contests, the Olympic Victors, were crowned with a wreath (kotinos) made from a branch of wild olive. They were greeted as the pride of their homeland and honoured on all sides. Theircompatriots set up statues of them in the agora and the victors themselves were entitled to place their own statue in the Sacred Altis of Olympia.
The last Olympic games were held in 393 AD. From that time on there begins the destruction and devastation of the Sanctuary. At 395 AD the Goths of Alaric despoiled Olympia of her valuable treasures. During the 6th Century AD destructive earthquakes ruined the splendid edifices. The catastrophe was completed by inundations of the rivers, the mud of which coverd the ruins all over.
The Games were renewed thanks the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The first took place in Athens in 1896 and there after in Paris (1900), St.Louis (1904), London (1908), Stockholm (1012), Antwerp (1920), Paris (1924), Amsterdam (1928), Los Angeles (1932), Berlin (1936), London (1948), Helsinki (1952), Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960)