added by archaeologs Principal sanctuary of Zeus in Greece and the site of the original Olympic Games, a Panhellenic sanctuary in the western Peloponnese of Greece. It originated in the Greek Bronze Age and has a 7th century BC Temple of Hera and 5th century BC Temple of Zeus. Traces of the circular building of Philip of Macedon and buildings associated with athletes and games - gymnasium, palaestra, bouleuterion, Leonidaeon, and running track have been found. The workshop of the sculptor Pheidias, who made bronze of Athene at Athens and Zeus at Olympia, has been located. Perhaps first attracting use as an earth shrine and oracle, the site shows signs of continuous occupation from early in the 3rd millennium BC. The Games were celebrated on a four-yearly cycle, the Olympiad, which came to form the basis of a Greek system of dating. The first Olympiad is dated to 776 BC, but tradition places the commencement of the Games in the 9th century, with ascriptions variously to Heracles or Pelops as founder. The Games showed an unbroken record of celebration from 776 BC to 393 AD, when Theodosius I abolished them.
added by archaeologs At Elis in the Peloponnese, Southern Greece, was the sanctuary of Olympian Zeus and his consort, Hera, and the regular venue for the original Olympic Games. Perhaps first attracting use as an earth shrine and oracle (see Delphi and Delos), the site shows signs of continuous occupation from early in the 3rd millennium bc. The Games were celebrated on a four-yearly cycle, the Olympiad, which came to form the basis of a Greek system of dating. The first Olympiad is dated to 776 bc, but tradition places the commencement of the Games in the 9th century, with ascriptions variously to Heracles or Pelops as founder. Out of regard for the sanctuary and for the pan-Hellenic nature of the Games, a special neutral status was given to the area of Elis, and an armistice (ekecheiria) was proclaimed and duly observed for the period of the festivities. Helped by this background, the Games showed an unbroken record of celebration from 776 bc to 393 ad, when Theodosius I abolished them. The connection between religious rites and ritual games seems to be characteristically Greek. No married women were permitted to be present, and competition was on an individual basis only, with participation limited to free-born Greek-speaking men and boys. Emphasis seems to be upon bodily perfection, and wrestling, rather than racing, was reckoned the finest test of prowess. Competitors participated naked, although there is some discussion by scholars as to what naked means in this context. Apart from purely athletic events there were recitations (one of the most famous being by Herodotus of portions of hiS history), and the emperor Nero had some special musical events staged which he could win. Accommodation for competitors may have been under canvas, or possibly some slept in the open. In 330 BC a hostel, the Leonidaion, was erected and paid for by Leonidas of Naxos. Possibly reserved originally for more distinguished visitors, the building was converted to a residence in the 2nd century ad for the governor of the province of Achaia. The sacred precinct itself, called the Altis, contains the great temples to Hera and Zeus. The 7th-century bc Temple of Hera competes for the position of earliest monumental temple in Greece, showing construction from mudbrick and timber, with terracotta tiles and antefixes. The Temple of Zeus is a grand-scale concept, put up in the 460s bc, and had elaborately sculptured pediments and metopes. Each victor in the Games had the right to put up a statue (a realistic representation if he had won three events) and gradually a large number of these, and of other votive statues of heroes, gods and kings etc began to accumulate. Many of these competitor statues were probably destroyed for incorporation into the House of Nero before that emperor’s arrival — presumably so that he should not feel overwhelmed by the competition! The dedication of precious votive offerings was a long-standing ritual, practised more obtrusively by some than others. The Spartans attached a gold shield to the pediment of the Temple of Zeus in 456 to commemorate their victory at Tanagra, while excavation has shown that many votive offerings were buried during the alteration of the stadium, presumably to make them secure from damage or sacrilege. Eventually this practice took on aspects of the Roman triumph: Mummius, for instance, in 146 bc dedicated 21 gilded shields by attaching them to the metopes of the same temple. The end of the sanctuary came in 426 ad with the order from Theodosius II for its destruction — damage that was only compounded by earthquakes in 522 and 551. During the 5th and 6th centuries a small Christian community converted the workshop of Pheidias (set up originally for work on the giant chryselephantine statue of Zeus) into a church. Local flooding and landslide left the area more or les untouched until the 19th century.
The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983