In western Peloponnese, in the beautiful valley of the Alpheios river, lies the most celebrated sanctuary of ancient Greece. Dedicated to Zeus, the father of the gods, it sprawls over the southwest foot of Mount Kronios, at the confluence of the Alpheios and the Kladeos rivers, in a lush, green landscape. Although secluded near the west coast of the Peloponnese, Olympia became the most important religious and athletic centre in Greece. Its fame rests upon the Olympic Games, the greatest national festival and a highly prestigious one world-wide, which was held every four years to honour Zeus. The origin of the cult and of the festival went back many centuries. Local myths concerning the famous Pelops, the first ruler of the region, and the river Alpheios, betray the close ties between the sanctuary and both the East and West.
The earliest finds in Olympia are located on the southern foot of Mount Kronios, where the first sanctuaries and prehistoric cults were established. A large number of pottery sherds of the Final Neolithic period (fourth millennium BC) were found on the north bank of the stadium. Traces of occupation of the three periods of the Bronze Age were identified in the greater area of the Altis and new museum. A great tumulus of the Early Helladic II period (2800-2300 BC) was discovered in the lower strata of the Pelopion, while several apsidal structures belong to the Early Helladic III period (2150-2000 BC). It is traditionally believed that in approximately 1200 BC the region of Olympia was settled by Aetolians under the leadership of Oxylos, who founded the state of Elis. The first planned sanctuary dedicated to local and Pan-Hellenic deities was probably established towards the end of the Mycenaean period. The Altis, the sacred enclosure with its shady oaks, planes, pines, poplars and olive-trees, was first formed during the tenth and ninth centuries BC, when the cult of Zeus was probably established. Olympia was subsequently devoted exclusively to worship and for many centuries had no other structures except for the Altis, a walled precinct containing sacrificial altars and the tumulus of the Pelopion. The numerous votive offerings, mostly figurines, bronze cauldrons and tripods were placed outdoors, on trees and altars. The first figurines representing Zeus, the master of the sanctuary, date to the Geometric period.
In 776 BC, Iphitos, king of Elis, Kleosthenes of Pisa and Lykourgos of Sparta reorganized the Olympic Games in honour of Zeus and instituted the sacred ekecheiria, or truce. Soon the quadrennial festival acquired a national character. The great development of the sanctuary began in the Archaic period as shown by the thousands of votive offerings - weapons, figurines, cauldrons etc - dating from this period. This is when the first monumental buildings were constructed - the temple of Hera, the Prytaneion, the Bouleuterion, the treasuries and the first stadium. The sanctuary continued to flourish into the Classical period, when the enormous temple of Zeus (470-456 BC) and several other buildings (baths, stoas, treasuries, ancillary buildings) were erected, and the stadium moved to the east of its Archaic predecessors, outside the Altis. The countless statues and precious offerings of this period were unfortunately lost, as the sanctuary was pillaged several times in antiquity and especially under Roman rule. In the Hellenistic period the construction of lay buildings, such as the gymnasium and palaestra, continued, while in Roman times several existing buildings were refurbished and new ones built, including hot baths, luxurious mansions and an aqueduct. Many of the sanctuary's treasures were removed and used for the decoration of Roman villas.
The sanctuary continued to function during the first years of Christian rule under Constantine the Great. The last Olympic Games were held in 393 AD, before an edict of Theodosius I prohibited all pagan festivals. In 426 BC Theodosius II ordered the destruction of the sanctuary. In the mid-fifth century AD a small settlement developed over the ancient ruins and the Workshop of Pheidias was transformed into a Christian church. In 522 and 551 the ruins were devastated anew by earthquakes, the Temple of Zeus being partially buried. In subsequent centuries the Alpheios and the Kladeos overflowed and together with landslips from Mount Kronios buried the site deep in mud and sand. Olympia remained forgotten under a layer of debris 5-7 metres deep. The area was dubbed Antilalos and it is not until 1766 that the ancient sanctuary was re-discovered.
In 1829 the French Scientific Expedition of the Peloponnese partially excavated the Temple of Zeus, taking several fragments of the pediments to the Museum du Louvre. Systematic excavation began by the German Archaeological Institute in 1875 and continues to the present. During this last decade U. Sinn, Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Wurzburg and member of the German Archaeological Institute, and his team researched the southwest building, while Dr. H. Kyrieleis, former director of the German Archaeological Institute, and his team excavated the Prehistoric buildings of the sanctuary. Several monuments of the site are currently under conservation and restoration.
The archaeological site of Olympia includes the sanctuary of Zeus and the many buildings erected around it, such as athletic premises used for the preparation and celebration of the Olympic Games, administrative buildings and other lay buildings and monuments. The Altis, the sacred enclosure and core of the sanctuary, with its temples, cult buildings and treasuries, occupies the centre of the site. It is surrounded by a peribolos, or enclosure wall, which in the late fourth century BC had three gates on its west side and two on the south, and is bordered on the east by the Echo Stoa, which separates the sacred precinct from the stadium. The enclosure wall was extended in Roman times and two monumental entrances were created on its west side.
The Classical Temple of Zeus and the earlier Temple of Hera dominate the Altis. East of the Heraion is the Mitroon, a temple dedicated to Cybele, the mother of the gods, and behind this, on the foot of Mount Kronios, a row of treasuries dedicated by Greek cities and colonies. To their west lies the Nymphaion, a splendid fountain dedicated by Herodes Atticus. South of the Heraion and over the remains of the prehistoric settlement of Olympia is the Pelopion, a funerary monument commemorating the hero Pelops. Also within the Altis are the Prytaneion, the see of the sanctuary officials, and the Philippeion, an elegant circular building dedicated by Philip II, king of Macedon. Southeast of the Heraion was the great altar of Zeus, a most important monument entirely made of ashes and therefore now completely lost. The remaining space inside the Altis was filled with numerous altars and statues of gods, heroes and Olympic winners dedicated by Greek cities or wealthy individuals, such as the Nike of Paionios.
Outside the sacred precinct of the Altis, to its south, are the Bouleutherion and the South Stoa, the southernmost building of the greater sanctuary and its main entrance from the south. West of the Altis and separated from it by the Sacred Road is a series of buildings for the sanctuary personnel, the athletes and the distinguished visitors: the gymnasium and palaestra, exercise grounds, the Workshop of Pheidias which in Late Antiquity was transformed into a Christian church, the Greek baths with their swimming pool, the Roman hot baths, the Theokoleion or priests' residence, the Leonidaion or officials' quarters, and the Roman hostels.
East of the Altis lies the stadium where the Olympic Games were held. South of the stadium was the hippodrome, of which no trace remains as it was swept away by the Alpheios. South of the hippodrome is a group of mansions and baths, including the famous House of Nero, built by the emperor for his stay at Olympia during his participation in the games.
1. The Temple of Zeus
The massive temple of Zeus, the most important building in the Altis, standing in its very centre, is the largest temple in the Peloponnese, considered by many to be the perfect example of Doric architecture. It was built by the Eleans from the spoils of the Triphylian war and dedicated to Zeus. Construction began c. 470 and was completed before 456 BC, when an inscribed block was let into the east gable to support a gold shield dedicated by the Spartans in commemoration of their victory at Tanagra. The architect was Libon of Elis; the sculptor of the pediments is unknown.
The temple, a peripteral hexastyle with thirteen columns at the sides, has an east-west orientation. The columns, 10.43 metres high and 2.25 metres in diameter at the base, were of local shell-limestone, covered with white stucco. Only the pedimental sculptures, roof tiles and lion's head water spouts were of marble. The temple comprised a pronaos, cella and opisthodomos; both the pronaos and opisthodomos were distyle in antis. On the floor of the pronaos are the remains of a Hellenistic mosaic with representations of tritons. In front of the pronaos is a small rectangular space paved with hexagonal marble slabs where the victors were crowned. The cella was divided into three naves by two double rows of seven columns. At the far end stood the chryselephantine statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, created by Pheidias c. 430 BC. The statue, believed to have been over twelve metres high, is described by Pausanias (V, 11) and depicted on ancient coins. It portrayed Zeus enthroned, holding a sceptre in his left hand and a winged Victory in his right. The undraped parts of the statue were of ivory, while the robe and throne, the latter decorated with relief mythological scenes, were of gold. After the abolition of the Olympic Games, the statue was carried off to Constantinople where it perished in a fire c. AD 475.
The temple's opulent sculptural decoration is a fine example of the Severe Style. The east pediment depicted the chariot race between Pelops and Oinomaos, presided by Zeus, master of the sanctuary, whose figure dominated the composition. The west pediment depicted the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, arranged round the central figure of Apollo. The twelve metopes, six at each end over the entrance to the pronaos and the opisthodomos, depicted the Labours of Hercules, mythical son of Zeus. In the Roman period, the undecorated metopes of the fa?ades were hung with twenty-one gilded bronze shields dedicated by the consul Mummius to commemorate his victory over the Greeks in the Isthmus (146 BC). At the apex of the east pediment was a gilt victory by the sculptor Paionios, while the corner-acroteria were in the form of gilded cauldrons.
The temple was burnt by order of Theodosius II in AD 426. Badly damaged by the fire, it was finally thrown down by the earthquakes of AD 551 and 552. Excavations at the temple began by the French in 1829, and were completed by the German School. Parts of the sculptural decoration have been restored and are now on display in the Olympia Archaeological Museum, while the metopes removed by the French expedition of 1829 are in the Louvre. Conservation and cleaning of the monument are currently in progress.
2. The Temple of Ηera
The temple of Hera, one of the oldest monumental temples in Greece, stands in the north-west corner of the sacred precinct of the Altis, on the south slopes of Kronios hill, protected by a powerful terrace wall. It was dedicated to the Olympian sanctuary by the inhabitants of Skillous, an ancient city of Eleia. Pausanias relates that the temple was built approximately eight years after Oxylos ascended to the throne of Elis, that is c. 1096 BC, but in reality it is much later. According to some scholars, the first Heraion, built around 650 BC, was a small Doric temple with only a cella and pronaos, to which the opisthodomos and ptero were added later, around 600 BC. However, the theory that the entire temple was built around 600 BC prevails today. The temple was refurbished on many occasions, and the Romans transformed it into a kind of museum for the sanctuary's choicest treasures, such as the famous Hermes by Praxiteles.
The temple, which has a characteristic squat appearance owing to its great length in proportion to its breadth and its low height, is orientated east-west. It was a Doric peripteral hexastyle with sixteen columns at the sides. The original wooden columns were gradually replaced by stone ones, which belong to every period from the Archaic to Roman times, and display the full development of the Doric style. Even when Pausanias visited the temple in the second century AD, a wooden (oak) column was still in place at the opisthodomos. The columns had shallow cavities where painted portraits of the winners at the Heraia games were placed. The lower part of the temple was of shell-limestone and the upper part of mud brick. The entablature was of wood with terracotta revetment and terracotta tiles. The central circular akroterion, also of terracotta and 2.3 metres in diameter, had impressive painted decoration.
The temple was divided into three chambers: pronaos, cella and opisthodomos. Both the pronaos and opisthodomos were distyle in antis. The cella, which is entered through the pronaos by a double door 2.90 metres wide, was divided longitudinally by two rows of Doric columns. Every second column was engaged in an internal cross-wall, the four cross-walls defining five niches. On a pedestal at the far end of the cella stood the cult statues of Zeus and Hera, mentioned by Pausanias (V, 17, 1). Zeus was depicted standing next to Hera who was seated on a throne. The Archaic stone head of Hera recovered near the Heraion and displayed in the Olympia Archaeological Museum is attributed tentatively to this group. This is where the sixteen noble Elean women who organized the Heraian games, deposited a new peplos woven for the goddess every four years. The temple is known to have held the Disk of Iphitos on which the Olympic truce was incribed, while in the opisthodomos were the Chest of Kypselos made of wood, gold and ivory, and decorated with mythological scenes, and the Table of Kolotes on which the Olympic victors' wild olive crowns were displayed.
Only the temple's basement with its massive orthostates and lower part of the columns are visible in situ. Fragments of the terracotta entablature and the central akroterion are displayed in the museum.
3. The Bouleuterion
The bouleuterion, or Council House, one of the most ancient and important buildings of the sanctuary of Olympia, was the seat both of the Elean Senate, whose members were responsible for the organisation of the games, and possibly of the hellanodikai, or umpires. This is where the athletes registered and drew lots, and where their names and the program of events were announced. It was also where any offences and pleas were tried, and where penalties were decided. Situated south of the temple of Zeus, outside the sacred precinct of the Altis, the building was begun in the sixth century BC and completed in the fourth century BC; small additions and changes were made in the Roman period.
The bouleuterion consisted of a square hall flanked north and south by two oblong apsidal wings of roughly equal size and plan. The north wing (30.65 metres long and 13.78 metres wide) was built in the sixth century BC and the south wing a century later. Each wing had a central row of seven columns and a cross-wall cutting off its apse; each apse was divided into two by a central wall. The official Elean archives containing the names of all the Olympic victors may have been kept here. A hall, fourteen metres square, possibly open to the sky, was added between the two wings. Inside were the altar and statue of Zeus Horkeios; the god held thunderbolts and was portrayed with a menacing face. Here, according to Pausanias (V, 24, 9), competitors, their relatives and their trainers swore that they would be guilty of no foul play in the games, and judges swore that they would be fair and would not accept bribes. During this procedure athletes and judges stood on wild boars' genitals. An inscription at the statue's feet contained curses and penalties for the perjurers. In the fourth century BC, an Ionic portico of twenty-seven columns was built along the whole length of the east fa?ade, connecting the three buildings. In front of the Ionic portico is a trapezoid colonnaded court of Roman date, consisting of three Doric stoas (north, east and south).
Only the building's foundations have survived. There has been limited restoration and the area around the monument and between the two wings has been planted with trees.
4. The Prytaneion
The Prytaneion, one of the oldest and most important buildings at Olympia, was the administrative centre of the sanctuary's political life and of the Olympic Games. It was the seat of the magistrates, the high officials who oversaw the sacrifices performed monthly to honour the gods; Pausanias (V, 15, 8) refers to it as the 'Prytaneion of the Eleans'. The Prytaneion occupied the north-west corner of the sacred enclosure, directly opposite the gymnasium. It dates in some form to the late sixth or early fifth century BC, but was repeatedly remodeled and enlarged later.
The building was a square of 32.80 metres with an entrance on the south side and a vestibule leading into a central chamber, 6.80 metres square. This chamber contained the sacred hearth of the Eleans, where a fire burned day and night. According to Pausanias, the hearth was made of ashes and the ashes produced by this eternal fire were transported to the altar of Zeus which thus grew bigger all the time. The dining room where the Olympic victors were entertained by the Eleans is thought to have been located either in the west or north wing. Inside the Prytaneion, on the right of the entrance, was an altar of Pan.
The Prytaneion is closed to the public.
5. The Ancient Stadium
The stadium of Olympia, situated east of the sacred Altis enclosure, was where the ancient Olympic Games and the Heraia, the women's games in honour of Hera, were held. Before the sixth century BC the running events were held on a flat area along the treasuries' terrace, east of the great altar of Zeus. A first stadium (Stadium I) was formed in the Archaic period (mid sixth century BC) by leveling the area south of the Kronios hill inside the Altis. The west short side of the stadium faced the altar of Zeus, to whom the Games were dedicated. In the late sixth century BC a new stadium (Stadium II) was created east of its predecessor, with a racetrack extending beyond the treasuries' terrace; an artificial bank, three metres high, was formed along the south side, while the hill side formed a natural seating area along the north. The stadium received its final form (Stadium III) in the fifth century when the great temple of Zeus was built. By then the Games had become very popular, attracting a great number of both visitors and athletes, so a new stadium was deemed necessary. The new stadium was moved eighty-two metres to the east and seven metres to the north, and was surrounded by artificial banks for the spectators. After the construction of the Echo-hall in the mid-fourth century BC the stadium was isolated from the Altis, which shows that the Games had lost their purely religious character and had become more of an athletic and social event.
The racetrack is 212.54 metres long and 30-34 metres wide. Two stone markers 192.27 metres apart - that is one Olympic stade or six hundred Olympic feet (1 foot=32.04 metres), indicate the starting and finishing lines. On the south bank is a podium for judges, and opposite this, on the north bank, the altar of Demeter Chamyne, whose priestess was the only woman allowed to watch the games. The stadium could accommodate approximately forty-five thousand people, but the banks never had permanent seats. There were a few stone seats for the officials, and wooden benches may have been added in Roman times when the stadium was repaired (Stadium IV-V). A stone drain round the track opened at intervals into small basins where rain water collected. A vaulted entrance for the athletes, thirty-two metres long, the so-called Krypte, was built in the late third century BC and a monumental portico was added to its west extremity in the Roman period. A large number of votive offerings, mostly of bronze, were found inside the wells along the embankments. Originally there to supply the spectators with drinking water, these wells, which date to the Archaic period, were subsequently used as votive pits.
The early German excavations first investigated the race track, but the recent German excavations of 1952-1966 uncovered the entire monument. In 2004, the ancient stadium of Olympia will re-live its former glory, since it will host the shot put event of the Athens Olympic Games.
6. The Ancient Gymnasium
The ancient gymnasium of Olympia lies north-west of the Altis enclosure on a flat stretch of land by the Kladeos river bank. It is adjacent to the palaestra, which extends the gymnasium complex towards the south. Here athletes practiced track and field and the pentathlon. Before the construction of the gymnasium in the Hellenistic period, these events took place outdoors. The surviving structure dates to the second century BC.
The gymnasium is a large quadrangular building, with central court enclosed by Doric stoas. A series of rooms for the athletes probably occupied the west wing. The better studied east wing consists of a solid outer wall, an internal double Doric colonnade, and another colonnade of sixty columns along the court. The lower courses of the outer wall were of poros blocks with stone-built buttresses on the exterior, while the upper courses were of brick. The stoa, like the stadium, was one Olympic stade long, and had ruts on the floor marking the starting-point and finishing post, so that the athletes practiced the exact same distance as they would run during the games. The internal colonnade divided the stoa longitudinally into two parallel tracks: the xystos, the floor of which had to be regularly scraped and leveled (xystos=scraped); and, on the side of the court, the paradromis, or auxiliary track. The spacious court, approximately two hundred and twenty metres long and a hundred metres wide, was used to practice the javelin and discus. A monumental propylon was added at the south-east corner of the building, opposite the north-west entrance to the Altis, in the late second century BC. This propylon consisted of a Corinthian portico, 15.50 metres long and 9.80 metres wide, raised on steps. The propylon's interior was divided longitudinally into three naves by two rows of Corinthian columns; the entablature was decorated with bovine heads and supported a coffered stone ceiling. The south stoa, which communicates with the adjacent palaestra to the south, was added in the first century BC.
The gymnasium is only partly preserved. Its west wing was swept away by the Kladeos river, while its north section has not yet been investigated. The surviving remains were excavated and studied by the German School in recent years.
7. The Palaestra
The palaestra is situated west of the Altis enclosure, near the Kladeos river. Built in the third century BC as part of the gymnasium complex, it was used to practice boxing, wrestling and jumping.
This almost square building (66.35 x 66.75 metres) stands 0.70 metres lower than the gymnasium. At its centre was an open court, forty one metres square, surrounded by a Doric colonnade of 72 columns and laid with fine sand on which the athletes trained. The columns and lower courses of the walls were of stone, the upper courses of the walls of brick and the entablature of wood. Round the court were rooms of various sizes, most of them with Ionic porches, in which the athletes anointed their bodies with oil (elaiothesion) or powdered them with dust (konisterion), undressed and washed. Some of the rooms retain stone benches, used by orators and philosophers for teaching and social intercourse. An Ionic colonnade lined the elongated space in the south wing. Originally, the palaestra had two entrance doors on its south side, but a Doric propylon with four columns on the fa?ade was added later on the north side. This became the main entrance to the building, while a small doorway also on the north side allowed access to the adjacent gymnasium.
The palaestra was excavated and studied by the German School in recent years. Only the lower, stone-built parts are preserved, and thirty-two of the seventy-two columns of the internal peristyle have been restored.
8. The Leonidaion
The Leonidaion, situated at the south-west corner of the sanctuary, outside the sacred precinct of the Altis, was a large and luxurious hostel for distinguished visitors to the Olympic Games. It was built in approximately 330 BC and was remodeled twice in Roman times. A dedicatory inscription partially preserved on the epistyle of the outer Ionic stoa records that the building was erected by Leonidas son of Leotas from Naxos, who was both architect and benefactor. His statue stood at the north east corner of the building where its inscribed pedestal was found.
This large, almost square building consisted of a central court surrounded by a forty-four columned Doric peristyle, off which rooms opened on all four sides. The west side was wider (fifteen metres) than the others (ten metres) and housed the largest rooms. Outside the building ran a continuous colonnade of one hundred and thirty-eight Ionic columns. In Roman times, when the building became a residence for high officials, an elaborate pool was laid out in the middle of the court.
The monument was uncovered during the recent German excavations and its surviving wall-plaster was recently restored. Fragments of the building's elaborate terracotta gutter are on display in the Olympia Archaeological Museum.
9. The Workshop of Pheidias
West of the sacred enclosure, directly opposite the temple of Zeus, was the workshop of Pheidias where the great sculptor crafted the gigantic chryselephantine statue of Zeus, listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. The building was erected in the second half of the fifth century, when Pheidias, after completing the sculptures for the Athenian Acropolis, went to Olympia to work on the statue of Zeus. Excavation finds and pottery date it precisely to 430-420 BC. Later the workshop became a place of worship containing an altar for sacrifices to various gods, which Pausanias (V, 15, 1) saw in the second century AD. In the fifth century AD, a Christian basilica was erected over its ruins.
The workshop, a rectangular hall oriented east-west with an entrance on the east side, had the same dimensions (32 x18 x 14.50m) as the cella of the temple of Zeus, probably to facilitate the construction of the statue. Built of shell-limestone, it was divided into three naves by two rows of columns. The statue probably stood in the central, wider nave. It had a wooden core which the sculptor revetted with gold, ivory and glass plaques. These were worked in the adjacent south wing of the workshop, which sheltered the craftsmen. A wealth of excavation finds, including clay matrices for the folds of the statue's robe, pieces of ivory and semi-precious stone, bone goldsmith's tools, glass flower petals and a most important small black-painted oinochoe inscribed Pheidio eimi, or 'I belong to Pheidias', all come from this area. The statue was probably transported in pieces and assembled inside the temple of Zeus. It depicted Zeus seated on a gold throne decorated with mythological scenes; the face and undraped parts of the body were of ivory, while the gold robe was adorned with glass flowers and semi-precious stones.
An Early Christian basilica was erected over the foundations of the ancient building between AD 435 and 451. It had a timber roof, three naves and an apsidal sanctuary at the east end. The low marble chancel screen still survives. The walls were of brick and the floor of marble flagstones, which were dismantled by the excavators to allow for investigation of the ancient levels. The entrance was on the south side of the narthex. Christian inscriptions inside the narthex provide information of the paving of the church floor and on various professions of that time. The basilica of Olympia, the earliest known Early Christian church at Eleia, was destroyed by the earthquake of AD 551.
When the monument was first cleared by the French expedition in 1829 it was already believed to have been originally the workshop of Pheidias. This was uncovered and studied by the German School in the second half of the twentieth century. The architectural members have been gathered inside the narthex of the basilica.
10. The Theokoleon
West of the sacred enclosure and north of the workshop of Pheidias lies the Theokoleon. This was the seat of the theokoloi, the priests of Olympia, but also the residence of the sanctuary staff, which included soothsayers, interpreters, bearers of sacrificial animals, musicians and a woodmonger who provided the wood used in sacrifices.
The original structure dates to the mid-fifth century BC, but was later remodeled and enlarged more than once. It consisted of eight rooms round a central court and covered an area of eighteen metres square. Four of the rooms had access to the court, each through a stoa of two columns in antis. The four rooms occupying the corners of the building opened into these. In the Hellenistic period three more rooms were added on the east side, and a new wing (38.58 x 40.36 metres) consisting of a large peristyle court and many rooms was constructed in Roman times.
The Theokoleon is closed to the public.
11. The Zanes
Immediately outside the Krypte, the entrance to the stadium and along the treasury terrace is a row of sixteen pedestals, which supported the Zanes. These were bronze statues of Zeus, none of which has survived, created from the fines imposed on athletes for cheating at the Olympic Games. Their prominent position was intended to dissuade other athletes from cheating. According to Pausanias (V, 21, 2-18), the first of the Zanes were erected after the ninety-eighth Olympiad in 388 BC, when Eupolos from Thessaly was fined for bribing three of his opponents in the boxing event. The remaining six statues were erected after the 112th Olympiad in 332 BC by the Athenian Kallipos, an athelete of the pankration who also bribed his opponents. Pausanias mentions in detail other similar stories, ending with that of Sarapion from Alexandria, an athlete of the pankration, who fled on the eve of the contest in the 201st Olympiad, in AD 25. He is the only Olympic athlete to have been punished for cowardice.
The bronze statues were crafted by great artists of their time. An inscription on the first pedestal to the east mentions the name of the famous sculptor Kleon from Sikyon, to whom the statue next to this is also attributed. Traces of this second statue on its pedestal indicate a life size effigy of Zeus standing on his right foot, his left foot resting on the toes. Although created at different periods, the twelve Zanes probably looked very much alike. According to Pausanias, the pedestals were inscribed with short texts mentioning the name of the culprit and inciting other athletes to fair play. The fact that very few penalties were recorded indicates that the rules were generally respected. It is not surprising that penalties appeared in the fourth century BC, a time of change in moral values, when the games lost their sacred character and became more of a social event. However, the occurrence of an athlete's name on such a pedestal was shameful both for him and for his city.
The Zanes were uncovered during the early excavations by the German School.
12. The Philippeion
The Philippieion, the only circular building inside the Altis, is one of the finest examples of ancient Greek architecture. Located west of the temple of Hera, it was dedicated to Zeus by Philip II of Macedon after his victory at Chaironeia in 338 BC, proving the important political role of the sanctuary at that time. After Philip's death in 336 BC, the monument was completed by his son, Alexander the Great, who had the statues of his family crafted by the famous sculptor Leochares, placed inside. The monument was also used for the worship of the deified royal family of Macedon.
The Philippieion was a particularly elegant building. Eighteen Ionic columns stood on a three-stepped marble base and supported a stone entablature. The roof had marble tiles and a bronze flower on the top. According to Pausanias, who visited the monument in the second century AD (V, 20, 9), the cella wall, built of rectangular poros blocks, was covered internally in red plaster with white joints imitating brickwork. Inside the cella were nine engaged Corinthian columns and, directly opposite the entrance, a semi-circular podium with five chryselephantine statues representing Alexander, his parents Philip and Olympias, and Philip's parents Amyntas and Euridice. The two female statues were later transferred to the Heraion, which served as a treasury, and this is where Pausanias saw them. None of these statues have survived.
Only the foundations and lower part of the walls are visible in situ. However, on the occasion of the Athens Olympic Games of 2004, the Berlin Museum returned ten of the building's architectural members (fragments of the base and columns, a Corinthian capital, part of the marble gutter with a lion's head water-spout, and a marble roof-tile) for its restoration which is currently under way.
13. The Echo Hall
The Echo colonnade was built around 350 BC and it was the eastern boundary of the Sacred Altis (precinct) of Olympia. With its construction, the Stadium was isolated from the Altis. Its name is due to its acoustics, since the sound was repeated seven times. That is why it was also called "Eptaechos" (the sound was repeated seven times). Its interior had painting decoration of great painters of the time and was also called "Poikili Stoa".
It is 98 meters long and consists of an external Doric colonnade with 44 columns and an inner one that has not been elucidated whether it was Ionian or Corinthian.
In the middle of the 3rd century. B.C. in front of the Stoa of Echo was built the monument of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe. This monument consists of a large stone platform 20 m long and 4 m wide. At its two ends there were two Ionic columns, 8.89 m high, on which the gold-plated statues of Ptolemy and Arsinoe were placed. From the impressive monument, the stone crypt and parts of the Ionic columns are preserved.
14. Monument of the Ptolemaic Dynasty
During the turbulent period of the "Successors", following the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC) and their controversies over the sovereignty of Greece, the new Ptolemaic dynasty, based in Alexandria, Egypt, is sponsoring around 270 BC the construction of a monument in front of the Echo Hall.
In order to promote its leaders in the conscience of the pilgrims of the sanctuary of Olympia, a platform is built about 20m in length and 4m wide and at its corners two Ionic columns were erected of about 9m high, where the statues of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his sister and wife Arsinoe were placed respectively.
This honorary dedication, one of the brightest of its kind, was dedicated by the commander of the Egyptian fleet Kallikratis to the sanctuary of Zeus, in honor of the royal couple in whose service he was.
Recent evidence suggests that the Ptolemaic dynasty, and indeed Ptolemy II himself was the benefactor-sponsor of Palaestra.
In April 2017, the restored northern column of the Ptolemaic votive monument was inaugurated, completed thanks to the excellent collaboration of the German Institute of Archeology (DAI) with the relevant departments of the Ministry of Culture and Sport and the Ephorate of Antiquities of Ilia, after the courteous sponsorship of the Regula Pestalozzi Foundation.
15. The Metroon
The Metroon, dedicated to the mother of the gods, Rhea, later re-named Cybele, stood east of the Heraion, below the terrace of the treasuries. This site was used for the worship of Mother Earth, to whom the sanctuary of Gaia was dedicated, and of Eileithyia, a similar deity connected to maternity, as early as the Prehistoric period.
Built in the early fourth century BC, the Metroon was a small peripteral hexastyle Doric temple with eleven columns at the sides. The columns, 4.63 metres high and 0.85 metres in diameter at the bottom, were made of shell-limestone and covered in white plaster. The temple was divided into three chambers: pronaos, cella and opisthodomos. Both the pronaos and opisthodomos were distyle in antis. The existence of a colonnade inside the cella is uncertain. The architrave and frieze, with its triglyphs and metopes, were of stone, while the timber roof was covered with terracotta tiles. The temple's altar, dedicated to Rhea, was probably situated to its west or on the upper terrace among the treasuries. In the early Imperial period the cult of Rhea/Cybele gave way to that of Augustus and, subsequently, of Roman emperors in general. During the same period a monumental possible cult statue of an emperor represented as Zeus holding a thunderbolt and sceptre was placed inside the sekos; the statue is now displayed in the Olympia Archaeological Museum. Six more imperial statues, three male and three female, discovered in excavation, probably represent Claudius, Titus, Vespasian, Agrippina and Domitia.
Only the temple's stylobate and parts of the entablature have survived and are currently being studied.
16. The South-East Building
The so-called south-east building, probably a shrine of the goddess Hestia, formed the south-east limit of the Altis enclosure together with the Echo-hall, which was built to its north in the fifth century BC. Raised in the first half of the fifth century BC, the south-east building continued to function until the first century BC, when it was demolished to make way for new buildings. When Pausanias visited Olympia in the second century AD, the shrine was no longer visible as it had been replaced by the House of Nero and other buildings.
The shrine was built in stages. Originally it comprised two corner rooms, a backing wall and an atrium, twenty-nine metres long and twenty-three metres wide. Very few traces of this first building phase survive. Two central rooms and a Doric colonnade surrounding the earlier building on three sides were added later, probably in the early fourth century BC after the earthquake of 373 BC. The colonnade, with eighteen columns along the front and eight columns at each side, was probably constructed as the building's main facade towards the Altis. In its final form the building measured 36.42 by 14.66 metres. Fragments of the building's architectural members and terracotta gutter with palmette decoration have survived.
The building is not visible today because of the superimposed Roman structures.
17. The Altar of Zeus
East of the Heraion and Pelopion stood the great altar of Zeus. No trace of it has survived, but the large quantities of ash and bronze votives discovered inside the Pelopion may come from this altar. According to myth, Zeus himself indicated the building spot of his altar by striking the ground with a thunderbolt. The altar was destroyed under Theodosius I, who abolished the Olympic Games, and under his grandson, Theodosius II.
Pausanias, who saw the impressive altar in the second century AD, describes it in detail (V, 13, 8-10). It was a circular or elliptical structure, approximately six and a half metres high, and consisted of a platform and the altar proper. The platform was three metres high with steps on the sides. On the platform stood the conical altar, nine and a half metres in diameter, made of the ashes of the sacrificed animals. A narrow staircase carved into the ash led to the top. Blood sacrifices in honour of Zeus were performed daily. The sacrifice took place on the platform and the legs of the sacrificial animal were then taken by the priests to the top of the altar to be burnt. Women were allowed on the platform but not on the altar where only priests and men had access. On the ninth day of the month Elaphion (late March) the sanctuary soothsayers would bring ash from the altar of Hestia inside the Prytaneion, mix it with water from the river Alpheios, and use it to coat the altar of Zeus. According to Pausanias only water from Alpheios, the god's favoured river, would do. Also only poplar was used for the sacrificial fire, since this was the wood chosen by Hercules when he sacrificed to Zeus.
18. The Altar of Hera
East of the Heraion, directly in front of the temple, are the foundations of the altar of Hera. This small oblong structure of poros, 5.80 metres long and 3.50 metres wide, was probably built like the temple in the sixth century BC to replace an earlier altar formed by the ashes of the sacrificed animals.
The Olympic flame of the modern Olympic games is lit on this very altar. The ceremony was first held for the 1936 Berlin Olympic games and has been repeated ever since for each Olympiad.
19. The Pedestal of the Nike of Paionios
Hundreds of statue bases, many of which are inscribed, are scattered throughout the Altis. Situated approximately thirty metres east of the temple of Zeus is a most important example of these, the massive pedestal of the Nike of Paionios, the remarkable Classical statue. The votive Doric inscription on the base records that the Messenians and the Naupaktians dedicated the statue to Olympian Zeus after their victory against the Lacedaemonians in the Archidamian war (approximately 421 BC), and that the statue was crafted by Paionios from Mende. The text was carved on the third course of the pedestal, two metres above ground, and was clearly visible to the visitors.
The base consisted of twelve superimposed rectangular blocks and was shaped like a tapering prism approximately nine metres high. The total height of the base and statue was approximately twelve metres. Another inscription was carved by the Messenians on the right side of the two bottom courses in approximately 135 BC. It records the arbitration by six hundred Milesians concerning the Dentheliatis, an area on Mount Taigetos claimed by both Messenians and Lacedaemonians.
The foundations of the pedestal, and fragments of both the pedestal and statue were uncovered during the nineteenth century German excavations. The pedestal remains in situ, while the statue is displayed in the Olympia Archaeological Museum.
20. The Prehistoric Building
In the Prehistoric period, Kronos, Rhea, Gaia, Themis, Eileithyia, Hercules Idaios and other deities were venerated at the foot of the Kronios hill, at the very site occupied by the Altis in later times. Here excavations revealed a primitive sanctuary and possibly a settlement of the Early Helladic III period (2300-2000 BC); the site was continuously occupied until the Late Helladic III period (1600-1100 BC).
Several prehistoric buildings in the area of the Heraion have been investigated and back-filled. Building III, the only building still visible, is situated south-east of the Heraion, below the Archaic and Classical levels of the temple. It is an apsidal structure oriented north-south. The surviving lower course of the walls is of irregular stone, while the upper part of the walls was probably of perishable materials. Pottery finds date the building to the end of the Early Helladic III period (2150-2000 BC) and indicate contacts with the Cetina culture in the Dalmatian coast. These apsidal buildings, together with the Prehistoric tumulus inside the Pelopion, are the oldest surviving structures in the sanctuary.
The monument is closed to the public.
21. The Pelopion
South of the Heraion was the Pelopion, a funerary monument (cenotaph) dedicated to Pelops, a much venerated Elean hero. According to Pausanias (V, 13, 1) this monument was dedicated by Hercules, a descendant of Pelops. Beneath the Pelopion lies a prehistoric tumulus (Early Helladic, approximately 2500 BC) and its enclosure. The earliest structure inside the Altis, its top was still visible in the Classical period.
In the sixth century BC the Pelopion consisted of a small eminence, two metres high. In the fifth century BC this was surrounded by an irregular five-sided enclosure with a simple entrance in the south-west corner. In the late fifth century BC, the entrance was embellished by a stone Doric portico. Inside the enclosure were trees, mostly poplars, and statues. According to Pausanias (V, 13, 2), once a year the magistrates sacrificed a black ram to honor Pelops and whoever ate from the sacrificed animal was not allowed to enter the temple of Zeus.
A wealth of archaeological finds - mostly pottery and terracotta and bronze animal and human figurines, many of them displayed in the Olympia Archaeological Museum - were uncovered during the early and recent German excavations.
22. The Nymphaeon
The spring, also known as the Exedra of Herodes Atticus, one of the most opulent and impressive constructions inside the Altis, was situated between the temple of Hera and the treasury terrace. It stood at the end of a much-needed supply of pure drinking water brought to Olympia in AD 160 from springs east of the sanctuary and distributed by a dense network of pipes. Prior to that, water came from wells and was in short supply, especially during the Olympic Games when thousands of visitors flooded the sanctuary.
The monumental spring comprised two tanks backed by a two-storeyed apse, which rose to a half-cupola. The apse (16.62 metres in diameter) was of brick with polychrome marble revetment and had two tiers of eleven niches each, which held statues of the families of Antoninus Pius (lower tier) and of Herodes Atticus (upper tier). The central niche of each tier contained a statue of Zeus. Inside the apse was a large semicircular water tank. A marble bull, now on display at the Olympia Archaeological Museum, stood in its middle; it bore an inscription recording that Herodes dedicated the reservoir and its statues to Zeus in the name of his wife Regilla who was a priestess of Demeter Chamyne. An oblong basin, 21.90 metres long and 3.43 metres wide stood in front of the semicircular tank. At each end of this lower tank a small circular Corinthian temple, 3.80 metres in diameter, enclosed a statue; these represented Herodes Atticus and Antoninus Pius or Marcus Aurelius. Several of the monument's statues are displayed in the museum.
The monument is in a poor state of preservation. Almost none of the polychrome marble revetment has survived, while several pedestals and architectural members were re-used in the construction of the fifth century AD Christian basilica. However, illustrative material helps the visitor to visualize its great opulence.
23. The South Hall
The south hall was both the southern limit of the sanctuary of Olympia and its main entrance from the south. Situated outside the Altis enclosure, south of the bouleuterion, it was built at the same time as the Echo hall c. 360-350 BC, and remained in use for many centuries.
The hall, eighty metres long and thirteen and a half metres wide, was built of shell-limestone and raised on a marble platform. Facing south towards the Alpheios river, it had thirty-four Doric columns along the front and six at each side. In the middle of the facade was a protruding portico, seven metres wide, with six Doric columns at the front and three at each side. The interior of the hall was divided longitudinally by a row of seventeen Corinthian columns.
The hall was only partially investigated and its west side remains unexcavated. Recent cleaning, however, has revealed the hall's ground plan in its entirety.
24. The House of Nero
This large structure, situated at the south-west corner of the Altis, was built over the Classical sanctuary of Hestia and other buildings demolished for this purpose. A lead water-pipe inscribed NER. AVG. and other indications, support the identification of the building as the House of Nero, built in AD 65-67 for the emperor's visit to the Olympic Games of AD 67, in which he participated. The building was remodeled and enlarged several times until the fourth century AD.
This opulent residence comprised a spacious peristyle court surrounded by many rooms and gardens. The entrance on the west side was preceded by an arched portico and opened onto an atrium from which two corridors lead to the court. The south wing housed the baths. The building was altered in later years by the construction of the so-called east baths which date to the reign of Septimius Severus (early third century AD). This large new structure kept the west fa?ade, the central court and several rooms of the House of Nero. It also contained several frigidaria (cold rooms) and caldaria (hot rooms), pools and gardens. The well-preserved tepidarium (tepid room) in the south-east corner was a huge octagonal room built of bricks, with vaulted ceiling and a remarkable mosaic floor depicting marine life. West of the building are the foundations of Nero's triumphal arch and the remains of a small odeion of the third century AD.
The monument - in particular the surviving wall-plaster, was recently restored and has been open to the public since 2002.
25. The Baths
The earliest baths of the sanctuary are situated near the bank of the Kladeos river. They were named Greek baths so as to be distinguished from the baths of the Roman period. The original structure, which dates to the fifth century BC, was gradually remodeled and enlarged. The Greek baths were probably abandoned in the Roman period when several other bath complexes were built inside the sanctuary.
The original baths built before 450 BC consisted of a simple oblong room (Area I), twenty metres long and four metres wide, with a well at one end from which water was drawn for the athletes' needs. Later, possibly during the fifth century BC, a smaller room (Area II) with small built tubs along the north and east sides was added to it. At the end of the fourth century, another room (Area III) was added to the west; this was lined with bathtubs on three sides and had hot water. The last important remodeling took place in the first century BC when a large apsidal room (Area IV) was built to the south and hypocausts were constructed. The adjacent swimming pool, twenty metres long, sixteen metres wide and 1.60 metres deep, belongs to the first construction phase (fifth century BC). It had five steps on either side, a sophisticated water-supply and drainage, and was paved with rectangular poros slabs. The pool went out of use probably in the first century BC, and was partially covered by the Kladeos baths built to its south a century later. Much of it was washed away by the river so very little remains today.
The monument is closed to the public.
26. The Heroon
West of the Altis, between the Theokoleon and the Greek baths, lies the heroon. Built in the second half of the fifth century BC as the sweat room (ephidroterion) of the baths, it became a heroon, or monument to a hero, in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
The heroon was a small square building consisting of two rooms and an oblong portico, 5.10 metres wide. The north room enclosed a circular structure, c. eight metres in diameter. Both north and south rooms were entered from the west through the portico, which had four columns on its west fa?ade. In the Classical period when the building was a bath, the north room functioned as a sweat room, while the south room probably housed the water heating system. Inside the circular room was a small altar of ash and clay, only 0.38 metres high, 0.54 metres long and 0.37 metres wide. The word 'hero' flanked by olive branches was inscribed on the altar, and because the altar's surface was regularly renewed the inscription was re-painted (often with different spellings). The altar was dedicated to an unknown hero. Pausanias (V, 15, 8) records another altar, dedicated to Pan, in the same space.
27. The Hostels
The Roman hostels are located outside the sacred enclosure of the Altis, west of the workshop of Pheidias and very near the Roman baths of Kladeos, the construction of which is probably related to that of the hostels. The complex was built in approximately 170 BC to meet the demands of the swelling numbers of visitors to Olympia during the games. It was part of a large building program which included the remodeling of several buildings inside the Altis and the construction of others of more Roman character - grand, with many rooms and opulent decoration.
The Roman hostels, built over secondary buildings of the late Classical period, such as a pottery kiln and a mill, comprise two large structures. The earliest (House I) had an entrance on its south side leading to a central peristyle court, while the later one (House II), built directly to its east, had a central peristyle court with many rooms on each side. Several rooms in both buildings had fine mosaic floors, only fragments of which have survived and have been restored.
28. The Leonidaion Baths
The so-called Leonidaion baths, situated outside the south-west corner of the Altis, owe their name to the nearby guesthouse (though the two buildings were not related). This well-preserved monument is unique in Olympia in that it preserves its original height and roof. Built in the third century AD, it remained in use until the sixth century and was remodeled several times.
The baths were part of an extensive building complex, now largely destroyed, which lay north of the baths and west of the Leonidaion, and included a guesthouse. The complex comprised a central court surrounded by living quarters, storerooms and service spaces. The baths, situated in the south wing of the complex, comprised four small rooms with vaulted ceilings and beautiful mosaic floors, still visible today. The hydraulic system and heating were remarkable; the latter consisted of a network of pipes which channeled hot air inside the hollow walls. By the fifth century AD, the building's use had changed: a grape press occupied one of the rooms and a glass workshop another, as indicated by a kiln discovered in the building's south-west corner.
The building's mosaic floors have been conserved and a shelter erected over part of the building where the roof subsided.
29. The Kladeos Baths
The so-called Kladeos baths are situated near the bank of the Kladeos, at the western limit of the Olympian sanctuary, on the site of the swimming pool of the fifth century BC Greek baths. They were built in the Roman period, approximately AD 100, in connection with the nearby Roman guesthouse to the south.
The Kladeos baths, which cover roughly four hundred square metres in surface area, consisted of several rooms with vaulted clay ceilings, polychrome marble revetment and remarkable floor mosaics. The ceilings have not survived and the entire west wing was swept away by the river, but several mosaics are still in place. The building is typical of its time, when baths were no longer merely functional as in the Classical and Hellenistic periods, but became a place of leisure and luxury. Hence the opulent marble revetment and extensive facilities, such as the hot and cold pool, sweat room, changing room, small private bath, atrium, bathtubs and lavatories.
The building's mosaic floors have been conserved.
30. The Kronios Baths
The so-called Kronios, or north baths, lie to the north of the Prytaneion, near the foot of Kronios hill. The building was raised in Imperial times over a Hellenistic building and baths, was remodeled several times since and remained in use until the fifth to sixth centuries AD. A small bath complex was added to its north-east side during this last period.
This complex comprised a central peristyle court surrounded by many rooms. The court had a beautiful mosaic floor with marine themes. A Nereid mounting a sea-bull was depicted on the central panel of the south side and a dolphin on the central panel of the north side. On the west side, where the main entrance was, a Triton among sea-horses was portrayed. The building suffered from an earthquake in the third century AD, and was subsequently re-used for agricultural and manufacturing activities in the fifth and sixth centuries. A wine press occupied the east section of the court, and several rooms to the north and east housed a pottery workshop. A pottery kiln was later built inside the apsed tepidarium. Three tanks situated in the north wing of the complex were probably connected with pottery manufacture and were used for the washing and preparation of clay. A large number of vases and pottery sherds date the workshop to the fifth and sixth centuries AD.
The building was revealed at the end of the first German excavation campaign in 1880, and was almost fully investigated in the years 1987-1991. Further study of the earlier building phases was conducted in 2003, together with conservation of the mosaics. The court mosaic was restored to its original position, while another floor mosaic from the north rooms is displayed in the Olympia Archaeological Museum.
31. The Treasuries of Olympia
The treasuries of the sanctuary of Olympia are located at the foot of the Kronios hill in an area used for worship since Prehistoric times. They stand on a purpose-built terrace which extends from the Spring to the stadium, and date from the seventh to the mid-fifth centuries BC. A poros staircase connecting the terrace with the Altis below was constructed in the fourth century BC. Later a substantial buttressed retaining wall which defines the north limit of the sacred enclosure, was raised behind the treasuries at the foot of the Kronios hill. The treasuries were small temple-shaped buildings erected by various Greek cities for storing their precious offerings to Zeus. Pausanias describes some of these precious votive objects and mentions ten treasuries, namely those of Sikyon, Syracuse, Epidamnos, Byzantium, Sybaris, Cyrene, Selinus, Metapontum, Megara and Gela. However, the foundations of twelve treasuries were uncovered during excavation and only five of theses are identified with certainty (treasuries of Sikyon, Selinus, Metapontus, Megara and Gela). Most of the treasuries were dedicated by Greek cities in Italy, indicating the close ties between the sanctuary and the West.
These simple buildings consist of a single chamber and a distyle portico in antis facing south towards the sanctuary. The treasury of Gela to the far east is the only one with a hexastyle portico. The first treasury to the west, which measures 12.46 x 7.30 metres, was dedicated by Myron of Sikyon. The last four were dedicated by the people of Selinus, Metapontum, Megara and Gela. The remains of two small buildings identified as the sanctuaries of Eileithyia and of Aphrodite Ourania lie to the west of the treasuries. The eighth building from the west was probably an altar to Gaia. Excavation of the treasuries yielded a great number of terracotta architectural members with striking painted decoration, and fragments of terracotta groups - including a Satyr and Meanad, and the head of a sphinx, these latter probably from acroteria. Several of these terracottas are displayed in the Olympia Archaeological Museum, and so is the pediment of the treasury of Megara, which has a depiction of the Gigantomachy.
The monuments have been conserved.
32. The Hippodrome
The hippodrome was situated at the south-east corner of the sanctuary of Olympia, on the large flat area south of the stadium and ran almost parallel to the latter. Its exact location is unknown, since it was washed away completely by the Alpheios river in the Middle Ages when the river's west bank dike fell into disrepair. The hippodrome housed the equestrian contests (horse racing and chariot-racing) of the Olympic Games and was therefore one of the most important monuments of the site.
Pausanias, who visited Olympia in the second century BC, describes the monument (VI, 20, 10-21) as a large, elongated, flat space, approximately seven hundred and eighty metres long and three hundred and twenty metres wide (four stadia long and one stade four plethra wide, according to Pausanias). The elongated racecourse was divided longitudinally into two tracks by a stone or wooden barrier, the embolon. All the horses or chariots ran on one track towards the east, then turned around the embolon and headed back west. Distances varied according to the event. The racecourse was surrounded by natural (to the north) and artificial (to the south and east) banks for the spectators; a special place was reserved for the judges on the west side of the north bank.
The architect Agnaptos built a portico, no traces of which survive, on the west side of the racecourse. Here the hippaphesis, an ingenious starting gate invented by the sculptor Cleoitas and described in detail by Pausanias, was installed. The starting point had the shape of an isosceles triangle, with a built compartment for each horse or chariot. At the apex of the triangle was a bronze dolphin, and at its base, opposite the Agnaptos portico, an altar with a bronze eagle on top and the gate's mechanism hidden inside. The mechanism was probably operated by a single person. In front of the horses were ropes that kept them from starting. During the hippaphesis, the ropes were gradually released starting with those of the horses in the back while the dolphin began to descend and the eagle was raised. When the horses or chariots reached the same point at the base of the racetrack, and the eagle was visible to all the spectators, the trumpets sounded and the race began. Near the starting point was the statue of Hippodameia, which held the victor's head-band, and at the south-east end of the hippodrome a circular altar dedicated to the deity Taraxippos, the horse rouser.
33. Old Museum