Olympia Archaeological Site

Olympia Reconstruction



Tel. 26240 22742

Open: Apr- Oct 8am- 7pm daily

Nov- Mar 8:30am- 3pm Tue- Sun

10:30am- 5pm Mon

Closed: public holidays


Museum of history of the Olympic Games

Open: Nov- Mar 8:30am- 3pm Mon

12:30pm- 5pm Tue- Sun

Apr- Oct 12pm- 7:30pm Mon

8:30am- 7:30pm Tue- Sun



Description of Olympia Archaeological Site

Olympia Archaeological Site is a site a birthplace of Olympic Games. The best time to visit the site is late spring then the flowers are blooming, early summer or autumn. August is hottest and driest month of the year. The legend states that the first games were initiated in 776 BC by Hercules himself. Games were held till 393 AD then Christian emperor Theodosius I banned them.


Tens of thousands Greeks from all over Greece and its colonies gathered every Olympiad (i.e. every four years) to participate in these prestigious religious and sport event. All hostilities had to stop for period of games between city- states to compete fairly to honor gods. Only men were allowed to compete and watch the games. In fact that is one of the reasons why athletes competed naked. Events included boxing, wrestling, running, chariot races, the discus and javelin throw, broad jump and others. For viewers who wanted to participate in the games pancration was held, an all- out boxing- wrestling match between spectators. Victors were awarded with simple laurel of wild olive and a right to erect a statue in their honor. These statues numbered in thousands. Poets sang songs to honor heroes and hometowns received their victorious athletes with honor and lavish attention.


The main church of Olympia complex is Temple of Zeus where a 40 feet (12 meters) statue of Zeus once stood. Made from marble, ivory, ebony and gold, this wonderful statue was a work of Phidias and was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The fate of the statue is uncertain. Some blame its loss on invading barbarian tribes that stole and vandalized much of the site, stealing gold and anything of value. Others blame it on Byzantine emperor Theodosius I who brought it to Constantinople where it was destroyed by fire in the 5th century. The temple of Zeus finally collapsed about the same time due to earthquakes. Huge drums of the columns are still visible. The workshop where the statue was build by Pheidias was turned into a Basilica.


The origins of Olympia are little known. The oldest evidence of human presence in the area dates back to the 4th millennium BC. due to the large number of shells found on the northern slope of the Stadium. In addition, at the southern foot of Kronio hill, finds have been found that show that the first sanctuaries and prehistoric cults developed there. For the period of the 3rd millennium BC, the findings of that period, found are a large mound in the lower layers of the Peloponnese (2150-2000 BC) and arched buildings of the settlement (2150-2000 BC).

In the 10th century BC. with 9th century BC. the sacred space of Altea is formed with the establishment of the worship of Zeus. During this period, Olympia became a sacred place that attracted many pilgrims. This dense stream of visitors is evidenced by the large number of votive offerings that arrived in Olympia not only from the surrounding area but also from places in the Peloponnese and Central Greece. In the 8th century the fame of Olympia grew so much that it reached East and Mesopotamia and as far west as Italy. The year 776 BC was a very important turning point in the history of Olympia. where then, according to tradition, the Spartan Lycurgus must have made an agreement with the king of Elis, Ifitos, for the worship of Olympia. Part of the agreement was that during the holidays there would be a truce throughout Greece.

During the 5th century, the glory of Olympia reached such a point that politicians, philosophers and artists gathered there because they found a large audience to spread their ideas. During the 4th century, importance was given to the construction activity for the improvement of the facilities and the creation of accommodation for the visitors.

In 393 AD The Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I ordered the closure of all Greek sanctuaries without any information as to which specific places he meant. Nevertheless, in the following years the place remained very popular. The area later suffered many disasters due to natural causes and during the 9th century the area was abandoned and deserted. Over time, it was covered several meters below the ground with the help of the Kladeos torrent and the erosion of the soil of Kronio hill.

Archaeological excavations
The discovery of Olympia is due to the Englishman Richard Chandler in 1766 but there were no excavations, while the area was visited, with archaeological interest, by Louis François Sebastian Fowel (consul of France and envoy of Count Puévil Souazel and François Pouqueville), William Gell, Charles Robert Cockerell and William Martin Leake.

On May 10, 1829, a year and a half after the naval battle of Navarino, French archaeologists, the so-called "Moria Scientific Mission", led by Leon-Jean-Joseph Dubois (Department of Archeology) and Guillaume-Abel Bloet (Department of Archeology) dug the site for the first time. The mission spent six weeks at the archeological site. Most of the buildings were initially invisible because, as Abel Blois noted, they must have been covered by a thick layer of sediment due to the frequent overflows of the Alfeios and Kladeos rivers. Only a large Doric column was visible. It had already been spotted by previous travelers because the inhabitants of the neighboring villages had dug graves there to release the stone, but no one had given it with certainty to the temple of Zeus. French archaeologists found parts of the metopes of the pronaos and the back of the temple of Zeus, which they transported to France with the permission of the Greek government of Ioannis Kapodistrias. These findings are still on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The painter Amory-Duval (of the Department of Archeology) gave in his memoirs, Souvenirs (1829-1830), a personal, direct and accurate testimony of the events that led to the accurate identification and identification of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, which was thus determined for first time.


1875 - 1881
The first major excavation in Olympia began in 1875 funded by the German State. The head of the archeological expedition was the German archaeologist Ernst Kurtius. Gustav Hirsfeld, George Troy and Adolf Furtwένngler, who worked with architects Adolf Betticher, Willem Derpfeld and Richard Bormann, were also responsible for the excavation.

They excavated the central part of the sanctuary of Altea, including the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera, the Register, the Bouleuterion, the Stoa of the Echo, the Treasures, the Rectorate and the Palaestra. During these excavations, important finds were found, among them the Victory of Peony and Hermes of Praxiteles. A total of 14,000 objects were recorded which were housed in the Archaeological Museum.

1900 - 1950
More limited excavations were continued by Derpfeld from 1908 to 1929, but work was accelerated in 1936 on the occasion of the Berlin Olympics.

1950 to present
Between 1952 and 1966, Emil Kunche and Hans Slife continued the 1936 excavations with architect Alfred Malwich. They excavated the workshop of Pheidias, the Leonidas and the north wall of the stadium as well as the southeastern area of ​​the sanctuary. Also in the years 1972 to 1984 Alfred Malvich found data and dates from the stadium, tombs and the Rector's Office. From 1984 to 1996, Helmut Kirielais continued the excavations at the Rector's Office and the Peloponnese, finding information about the history of the sanctuary. At the same time, research was carried out on the history of the sanctuary during the Roman Empire, under the direction of Ulrich Si.