Olympia never ceases to inspire. It is here, in the gentle green valley of the Alpheus, the Greek world was reconciling the time of a ritual truce during games given in honor of Zeus, the supreme god of all Hellenes . You will visit the ruins imagining the glories and disappointments of countless athletes who have succeeded in the stadium or in the arena. You finally vibrate at the mention of the ideal of peace symbolized even today since the French Pierre de Coubertin revived them, these Olympics where Veterans forget quarrels. Olympia, really, is not an archaeological site like the others. It is a utopia became a reality.

Olympia in history

The mythical origin of games

The elders are in Olympia Zeus's victory in fight against his father Cronos, where the association games with the greatest of the gods. A legend in this however adds another: that of Pelops, son of Tantalus. Oenomaus, king of Pisa in Elis, knew from an oracle that he would be killed by his son. Also required it to the suitors of his daughter Hippodamia a terrible ordeal: a chariot contest where the loser would lose life. As he had a pair of mares endowed with extraordinary speed (Ares in person had offered him), the result had always been favorable to him: twelve or thirteen contenders had paid their audacity with their lives when Pelops the Achaean leader, is presented. He seduced the driver of OEnornaos, Myrtilus, who arranged for a wheel of the chariot of his master detach the hub during the race. According to another legend, he bewitched by a spell of OEnornaos horses that bolted and fell into a ravine. Pelops winner, killed the king and conquered both Hippodameia and the Kingdom of Pisa. The oracle had realized. Later, Heracles had organized the first games at Olympia in memory of the victory of Pelops. It's all these myths that the Greek world celebrated one voice from 776 BC J-C official birthday of the Olympic games.

Olympia or unit dream

Pisa effectively assumed the administration of the temples and the presidency of the games on behalf of the Confederation of the sixteen cities of Elis. It lost its position in favor of Elis in 471 BC. J-C, which was then recognized Olympia suzerain with the support of Sparta. The trouble Elis with its Arcadian neighbors and even with Sparta in the fifth and fourth century. av. J-C, never prevented the regular celebration of festivals. The religious city was formed gradually through the generosity of customers of cities and princes and thanks to the skill of its directors. Periodic celebrations that accompanied the celebration of worship made this place the appointment of the Greek world. There, thanks to the sacred truce, the various Greek race of people forget for a moment their discords and Hellenism became aware of his unit. The Olympic sanctuary, enriched by the devotion of the faithful, became a museum where every Greek people found the memories and archives of its history. He even according to diplomatic center where regulated the affairs of individuals and States. Celebrity competitions, the solemnity of the fair held in the vicinity of the sanctuary, maintained until the decline of the pagan world tradition of the Olympic pilgrimage and made a cosmopolitan enthusiasts and curious congress.

Zeus is forgotten

The second century. av. J-C appear Romans. The Olympia is so undeniable decline, but prosperity returned with Caesar. After Hadrian, in the third and fourth century. AD. J-C, Olympia has neither political nor religious role role. The crowd rushed to the celebrations, curious but skeptical and disrespectful. "We offer you more sacrifices to Zeus said Lucien, one more crown thy statues, if not by chance." However, the festival is celebrated until 393. At that time, the edict of Theodosius 1st banning pagan festivals interrupts life long languishing of the sanctuary. Theodosius II orders the destruction of the temple in 426, and that of Zeus is not spared. A Byzantine city was built on the ruins of the Altis, then a hamlet of shepherds huts expands between the Temple of Zeus and the stadium.


From 1723, a French scholar, Montfaucon, and Cardinal Quirini, archbishop of Corfu, became interested in the exploration of Olympia. Then it was the turn of Winckelmann and Richard Chandler. The first excavations were made in May 1829 by members of the Commission of Morea, Cornflower and Dubois. The learned historian Ernst Curtius resumed in Germany the idea of more comprehensive searches, won this cause his pupil Frederick Prince Imperial (later Emperor Frederick III) and Kaiser Wilhelm 1 In 1875, a treaty ratified by the Greek Chamber authorizing Germany to spending excavations. The work lasted until 1881. They resumed in 1936 to 1941 and then from 1952.