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Olympia in classical times. 6805: Modell des Heiligtums von Olympia gestiftet im Jahre 1931 von S. M. dem Kaiser Wilhelm II zur Erinnerung an die grossen Ausgrabungen des Deutschen Reiches (1875-81) nach den Plänen von Wilhelm Dörpfeld angefertig von Hans Schleif. Archaeological Museum, Olympia.

Olympia is a city west of Pisa in Elis, best known for being the site where the Olympic games originated.

The people of Olympia may be called Olympians but they are completely different from the Olympian gods, who received their name from Mount Olympus, a mountain in Pieria in northern Thessaly.

Learned men from Elis say that when Cronos was king of Heaven, the men of the Golden Age built in Olympia a temple in his honor. When Zeus was born, his mother entrusted him to the DACTYLS of Ida, who some say are the same as those called CURETES (see also CORYBANTES). They came from Crete to Elis, and the Dactyl Heracles 2, who was the eldest among them, contended with his brothers in a running-race and crowned the victor with a branch of olive. This is why the Dactyl Heracles 2 of Ida is considered to have been the first to have held the games, and to have called them Olympic. He established the custom of holding them every fifth ear because he and his brothers were five in number. Tradition affirms that Zeus and Cronos wrestled at Olympia, and that Apollo outran Hermes.

After this, Clymenus 8, a descendant of Heracles 2, came from Crete to Olympia fifty years after the Flood, and he also held games at Olympia. He became king but was later deposed by Endymion, and the latter's son Epeius 1 succeeded his father in the throne of Elis by winning a race at Olympia against his brothers.

During the restoration of the Olympic games by Pelops 1, the festival was celebrated with great splendor, and after him Amythaon 1 from Pylos held games at Olympia. And after him Neleus, king of Messenia, and Pelias 1, king of Iolcus, held the games in common. And after them, Augeas, king of Elis.

When Heracles 1 killed King Augeas of Elis and his sons, he put Phyleus 1 on the throne of Elis and celebrated the Olympian games, founding an altar of Pelops 1 and building several altars to the twelve Olympian gods as well. He established gymnastic contests at Olympia, and himself competed against Achareus in the so called pancratium. Heracles 1 selected for this festival a most beautiful place, for such is the plain lying along the banks of the river Alpheus. Heracles 1 also stipulated that there would not be monetary reward, and that the prize should only be a crown.

After the return of the HERACLIDES, King Oxylus 2 of Elis celebrated the games, but after him the Olympic festival was discontinued until historical times.

1007: Discus-thrower. 1C AD after Naukydes 4C BC. Städtische Galerie-Liebighaus, Museum alter Plastik, Frankfurt.

6814: The entrance to the Stadium at Olympia in AD 2001.

Location of Olympia

Related sections  

Apd.2.7.2; Hyg.Fab.273.