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Olympia Archaeological Site
 

The site of the first Olympic Games (which ran from 776 BC to AD 393), Olympia still serves as the inspiration for the modern Olympic games, which were begun in 1896 and return to Athens in 2004 with a few athletics to take place at the ancient Olympia stadium. The eternal flame of Altis, which dominates the site, is the source of the flaming torch carried to the current games. The sanctuary of Olympia spreads around the green wooded feet of the Kronion hill, where the rivers Alpheios and Cladeos meet.

The valley amongst the two rivers was in ancient times full of wild olive trees, poplars, oaks, pines and plane trees and it was these trees that gave the centre of the sanctuary the name Altis, meaning alsos (grove). The Altis is the name given to the area in Olympia that comprises the main religious buildings, temples and votive offerings of the sanctuary. Out of the enclosure were the auxiliary buildings, priests' houses, baths, the areas for the preparation of the athletes, guesthouses along with other buildings.

The beginning of worship, as well as the mythical confrontations that took place in Olympia, are lost in the depth of the centuries. At the end of the Mycenaean era there was already an installation in the area, and in the Geometric and early archaic periods, the first simple buildings of the sanctuary were founded. The games began in 776 B.C. to honour Zeus. Pelops, the king of the Peloponnese was, according to mythology, their founder. The games were dominated by religious character and austere ritual.

One of the most important sanctuaries of antiquity, dedicated to the father of the gods Olympian Zeus. The area, of great natural beauty, has been inhabited uninterruptedly since the 3rd millennium B.C. and in the late Mycenaean period it became a religious centre The innumerable offerings of the 7th-6th centuries B.C. were placed outside on trees, altars or in alcoves of the sanctuary. The most important of the offerings were bronze tripods and cauldrons of excellent quality, war loot (hanging on poles) and other art objects and instruments for the games. In the passing of centuries the architectural plan of the sanctuary takes shape, until the end of the 4th century B.C. when it is finally completed.

The finds from the first excavations (metopes from the opisthodomus and parts of the metopes from the pronaos of the Temple of Zeus) were transferred to the Louvre where they are still being exhibited. In Olympia is one of the most important archaeological museums in Greece. It hosts in its collection artefacts from the sanctuary of Olympian Zeus. Among the most important exhibits of the museum are: The sculptured ornaments from the Temple of Zeus, Hermes of Praxiteles, Nike of Paionios, Zeus and Ganymedes. In Olympia also there are the Olympia Museum of the History of the Excavations and the Olympia Museum of the History of the Olympic Games of Antiquity and the International Olympic Academy. The town of Ancient Olympia (290km from Athens) with fine hotels of all categories and lot of restaurants and tavernas. The beauty of the scenery and the peace of the place make Olympia ideal place for sort or longer holidays.
 
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