|This Web Site is dedicated to the Memories & Spirit of the Game as only Ken Aston could teach it...|
|Enjoy, your journey here on... KenAston.org|
|History of Football - The Greeks|
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world.
How did it start and why is it so popular ?
The Greek epic "Odyssea" of Homerus tells the story about Odysseus. He arrived on the island of Faiaken after being shipwrecked. Nausikaa, the daughter of King Alkinoos, found him on the beach when she was playing a ball game with her servants. Thereafter, King's sons, Laodamas and Halios, started to play in honor of Odysseus. The first one threw with both hands a giant purple ball while the second caught it in air.
The National Museum of Archaeology in Athens has a marble relief, a tomb monument (500 BC) found in Piraeus, which shows a Greek athlete balancing a ball on his thigh, supposedly demonstrating a training technique to his pupil. The boy may possibly be bouncing another smaller ball.
Ball games were used as training technique, practiced on a field (sfairodromion) or in a room (sfairisterion). Later, the playing-field was also called "palaistra" (palaestra) which became more popular as wrestling-field.
It is claimed that the game of "Episkyros", also known as "Ephebike", was practiced in Greece as long ago as 800 BC. One of the basic rules was that you were allowed to use your hands, which really suggests that it is a closer relation to rugby than football. However, many of the characteristics of the game are similar to football, particularly the dimensions of the pitch and the fact that 12 players formed a team.
Julius Pollux (150-200 AD) was a teach and scholar of rhetoric and oratory. He was from Naucratis (Egypt), became tutor to the Emperor Commodus in Rome, and eventually took a job in Athens. He had a reputation for being unintelligent, his "Dictionary Onomasticon" (= collection of Greek names and terms, with explanatory notes, made about 180 AD) seems to many readers to be disorganized. However, Pollux' book contains many anecdotes that offer evidence about many aspects of the ancient world. In his book, he explained : "Two teams are separated with a line, made with piece of chalk, and behind each team there is another line. The purpose of the game is throwing a ball over the opposite team without passing the line in the middle, trying to reach to line behind the opponent."
Another Greek ball game that many have claimed to be a forerunner of football is the game of "Harpaston", also called "Phaininda". Something worth considering is that "Harpaston" is the Greek word for handball and not football.
Since the Greeks were the greatest intellects of their time, it is very hard to believe that they made such a fundamental error in naming one of their games. The greatest contribution made to football by the Greeks was that the Romans took the games of "Episkyros" and "Harpaston" and evolved them into a game called "Harpastum". They also added the vital ingredient of kicking. The Roman game of "Harpastum" is considered by many to be a real forerunner to football.
The "Ball-player Relief" (The National Museum of Archaeology in Athens) forms the decoration on one side of a square base that once supported a statue of a "kouros" (nude, standing male figure from the Archaic Period). The other two decorated sides of the relief (it must have been intended to back up against a wall) represent other popular sports in ancient Athens : athletics on the front (a jumper, wrestlers and a javelin-thrower) and on the other side a cat-and-dog fight amid onlookers. The side represented in the cast shows what seem to be two teams of players engaged in a game rather like volley-ball without the net, one player is about to lob the ball, while another seems concerned not to tread on his team-mate's toes. The base and its kouros would have been set up in the ancient city about 510 BC, shortly before the democratic reforms of Kleisthenes. The pink tint of the background represents the stain which on the original represents the ancient red-painted ground.
Of course, the Greeks were settlers of many sports games, p.ex. athletics, field hockey, wrestling, and they were the first who held competitions.
The Greeks are recognized, along with the Romans, as the creators of classical architecture. The styles and orders of Greek architecture have formed, what is considered today, the basis for its successors and is typically viewed as a dignified and intellectual structure. The Greek architect’s main focus was to design and build temples honoring their various gods. The architecture of Greece was mainly the temple structures to these gods, but very little is learned about the architecture of the athletics. The athletics of the ancient Greeks was a large area of interest to the people. Greeks were focused on a perfect body, and exercising was one way of achieving beauty. The art of Greece frequently depicts its citizens exercising and participating in various athletic activities, but there are no structures standing today that give us insight into their athletic facilities. Basically there is a lot of information and knowledge about the Greek temple, since they were a religious people, but there is more to learn about their other interests and the architecture outside of religious Ancient Greek buildings, specifically about the architecture of the ancient Greek athletics. Since the ancient Greeks seemed to have a love for sport, and were focused on the sacredness of their architecture, it's good to know how they joined the two ideas.
In their art, such as terra cotta pots, there are depictions of the various sports of ancient Greece. One of the most famous sporting gatherings was the Olympic Games at Mount Olympus, the home of their gods. Today, thousands of years later, we still celebrate the perfection of athletes around the world in the Olympic Games. Depictions and descriptions of Greek sports are found in many places in ancient Greek findings, and most of these athletic sports are still played today. The Greeks needed various spaces for their different sports. They had track sports, field sports, and ring sports. There were several different activities that could happen in each space. The foot-race, what we now know as long distance running, took place in a track-type setting. The field sports of discus and javelin are both well-known ancient sports, and also still played today. The Greeks also played combat sports in the ring, p.ex. boxing and wrestling. In boxing matches, the contenders did not wear the padded gloves of today, but were bare knuckle or they wrapped their hands in leather, called "harp gloves". The Greeks had combination sports, and some that are not played anymore. The pentathlon was a five-event race including running, jumping, discus, javelin, and wrestling. The pankration was a mix of boxing and wrestling. Outside of athletic competitions, it was a savage sport, but was civilized with rules for sports festivals and competitions. The last sport was hippodrome, also known as horse and chariot racing.
The Greeks organized festivals to use all those athletic facilities. The largest festival was known as the Olympic festival. The Olympics were held every four years to honor the god Zeus. The location "Olympia" was chosen because Mount Olympus was considered to be the land of the gods, and the location was easily accessible for spectators to attend. A large complex, including a gymnasium, stadium, and palaestra, was constructed to house the festival. The original five-ring emblem of the Olympics, created for this festival, is still used today. Some minor athletic festivals were the Pythean, Isthmian, and Nemean. The Pythean was held at Delphi. The main focus was on musical competition, but chariot and horse races were included and rivaled those at the Olympics. The Isthmian, held at Corinth, was located in the center of Greece and was the most frequented festival because it was held every two years instead of every four years. Little is known about the Nemean. Hadrian funded the winter Nemean games. The program included many events for boys and youths. Each festival contained a combination of the above listed sports plus other minor sports, and also events in music, sacrifices and celebrations to the respective god.
With a solid background of the Greek athletics, the architecture can be introduced. The main architectural structures to be analyzed are the palaestra, the gymnasium, and the stadium. The palaestra was the area for wrestling training. The palaestra may exist without a gymnasium, but no gymnasium can exist without a palaestra. Hence the palaestra being architecturally the most important part of the gymnasium. The gymnasium was used for many forms of exercise and training. It typically contained changing rooms and bathrooms. The stadium was designed to create a space for participating and observing in races such as the foot-race, and the different horse and chariot races.
The site of Olympia, in a Peloponnese valley, has been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC. In the 10th century BC, Olympia became a center of worship to Zeus, after whose abode on Mount Olympus the site was named. The sanctuary spreads around the green wooded feet of the Kronion hill at the confluence of the Alfeios and Kladeos rivers. 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 center of the sanctuary the name Altis, the sacred grove (from alsos, meaning grove). The temples and religious buildings were located inside the Altis, the sanctuary to the gods. The sports structures designed for the events of the Olympic Games honoring Zeus as well as dwellings for the priests, baths, guest houses, etc. were outside of the Altis.
Although the first Olympiad is thought to have been in 776 BC, bronze figures of the Geometric period (10th - 8th centuries BC) reveal that the sanctuary was in use before that date. The festival took place every four years over a five day period in the late summer during a sacred truce observed by all Greek cities. Victors in the games were crowned with a branch of the "beautiful crowned wild olive tree" that stood near the temple of Zeus. This crown bestowed the greatest honor on the athlete, his family and his native city. The sanctuary flourished until 426 AD, the year in which Emperor Theodosius II closed all of the ancient pagan sanctuaries.
The importance of "Olympia" in the history of Greece is religious and political. The religious associations of the place date from the prehistoric age, when, before the states of Elis and Pisa had been founded, there was a centre of worship in this valley which is attested by early votive offerings found beneath the Heraeum and an altar near it. The earliest extant building on the site is the temple of Hera, which probably dates in its original form from about 1000 BC. There were various traditions as to the origin of the games. According to one of them, the first race was that between Pelops and Oenomaus, who used to challenge the suitors of his daughter Hippodameia and then slay them. According to another, the festival was founded by Heracles, either the well-known hero or the Idaean Dactyl of that name. The control of the festival belonged in early times to Pisa, but Elis seems to have claimed association with it. Sixteen women, representing eight towns of Elis and eight of Pisatis, wove the festal robe for the Olympian Hera. "Olympia" thus became the centre of an amphictyony or federal league under religious sanction, for the west coast of the Peloponnesus, as Delphi was for its neighbors in northern Greece. It suited the interests of Sparta to join this amphictyony. Before the regular catalogue of Olympic victors begins in 776 BC, Sparta had formed an alliance with Elis. Aristotle saw in the temple of Hera at Olympia a bronze disk, recording the traditional laws of the festival, on which the name of Lycurgus stood next to that of Iphitus, king of Elis. Whatever may have been the age of the disk itself, the relation which it indicates is well attested. Elis and Sparta, making common cause, had no difficulty in excluding the Pisatans from their proper share in the management of the Olympian sanctuary. Pisa had a brief moment of better fortune, when Pheidon of Argos celebrated the 28th Olympiad under the presidency of the Pisatans. This festival, from which the Eleans and Spartans were excluded, was afterwards struck out of the official register, as having no proper existence. The destruction of Pisa (before 572 BC) by the combined forces of Sparta and Elis put an end to the long rivalry. Not only Pisatis, but also the district of Triphylia to the south of it, became dependent on Elis. So far as the religious side of the festival was concerned, the Eleans had an unquestioned supremacy. It was at Elis, in the gymnasium, that candidates from all parts of Greece were tested, before they were admitted to the athletic competitions at Olympia. To have passed through the training at Elis was regarded as the most valuable preparation. Elean officials, who not only adjudged the prizes at Olympia, but decided who should be admitted to compete, marked the national aspect of their functions by assuming the title of ffellanodicae.
Long before the overthrow of Pisa, the list of contests had been so enlarged as to invest the celebration with a Panhellenic character. Exercises of a Spartan type testing endurance and strength with an especial view to war had almost exclusively formed the earlier programmed. But as early as the 25th Olympiad, several years before the interference of Pheidon on behalf of Pisa, the four-horse chariot-race was added. This was an invitation to wealthy competitors from every part of the Hellenic world, and was also the recognition of a popular or spectacular element, as distinct from the skill which had a merely athletic or military interest. Horse-races were added later, for such contests the hippodrome was set apart. Meanwhile the list of contests on the old racecourse, the stadium, had been enlarged. Besides the foot-race in which the course was traversed once only, there were now the diaulos or double course, and the long foot-race (dolichos). Wrestling and boxing were combined in the pancration. Leaping, quoit-throwing, javelin-throwing, running and wrestling were combined in the pentathlon. The festival was to acquire a new importance under the protection of the Spartans, who, having failed in their plans of actual conquest in the Peloponnese, sought to gain at least the hegemony (acknowledged predominance) of the peninsula. As the Eleans, therefore, were the religious supervisors of Olympia, so the Spartans aimed at constituting themselves its political protectors. Their military strength greatly superior at the time to that of any other state enabled them to do this. Spartan arms could enforce the sanction which the Olympian Zeus gave to the oaths of the amphictyones, whose federal bond was symbolized by common worship at his shrine. Spartan arms could punish any violation of that sacred truce which was indispensable if Hellenes from all cities were to have peaceable access to the Olympian festival. And in the eyes of all Dorians the assured dignity thus added to Olympia would be enhanced by the fact that the protectors were the Spartan Heraclidae.
"Olympia" entered on a new phase of brilliant and secure existence as a recognized Panhellenic institution. This phase may be considered as beginning after the establishment of Elean supremacy in 572 BC. And so to the last Olympia always remained a central expression of the Greek ideas that the body of man has a glory as well as his intellect and spirit, that body and mind should alike be disciplined, and that it is by the harmonious discipline of both that men best honor Zeus. The significance of Olympia was larger and higher than the political fortunes of the Greeks who met there, and it survived the overthrow of Greek independence. In the Macedonian and Roman ages the temples and contests of Olympia still interpreted the ideal at which free Greece had aimed. Philip of Macedon and Nero are among those whose names have a record in the Altis. Such names are typical of long series of visitors who paid homage to Olympia. According to Cedrenus, a Greek writer of the 11th century, the Olympian festival ceased to be held after 393 AD. The list of Olympian victors, which begins in 776 BC with Coroebus of Elis, closes with the name of an Armenian, Varastad, who is said to have belonged to the race of the Arsacidae. In the 5th century the desolation of Olympia had set in. The chryselephantine statue of the Olympian Zeus, by Pheidias, was carried to Constantinople, and perished in a great fire, 476 AD. The Olympian temple of Zeus is said to have been dismantled, either by the Goths or by Christian zeal, in the reign of Theodosius II. (402-450 AD). After this the inhabitants converted the temple of Zeus and the region to the south of it into a fortress, by constructing a wall from materials found among the ancient buildings. The temple was probably thrown down by earthquakes in the 6th century AD.
The German excavations were begun in 1875. After six campaigns, of which the first five lasted from September to June, they were completed on the 20th of March 1881. The result of these six years labors was, first, to strip off a thick covering of earth from the Altis, the consecrated precinct of the Olympian Zeus. This covering had been formed, during some twelve centuries, partly by clay swept down from the Cronion, partly by deposit from the overflowing of the Cladeus. The coating of earth over the Altis had an average depth of no less than 16 ft. The work could not be restricted to the Altis. It was necessary to dig beyond it, especially on the west, the south and the east, where several ancient buildings existed, not included within the sacred precinct itself. The complexity of the task was further increased by the fact that in many places early Greek work had later Greek on top of it, or late Greek work had been overlaid with Roman. In a concise survey of the results obtained, it will be best to begin with the remains external to the precinct of Zeus. Below you'll find some details about the historical site and seen here for the map of "Olympia".
Olympia - The West Side...
We start our journey on the borders of the Cladeus River (nr.1) and follow a covered path, Xystos (nr.2), which was part of the gymnasium. At the end of this path, we reach a gateway (nr.3) and enter the place on the west side. The centre of Olympia, known as the Altis, was protected by a wall (nr.13). The wall bounding the Altis on the west belongs probably to the time of Nero. In the west wall were two gates, one at its northern and the other at its southern extremity, the latter must have served as the processional entrance (nr.12). There is a third and smaller gate at about the middle point of the west wall, and nearly opposite the Pelopion in the Altis.
Just outside the Altis at its north-west corner was a "gymnasium" (2nd century BC), situated between the river and Xystos. A large open space, not regularly rectangular, was enclosed on two sides possibly on three-by Done colonnades. On the south it was bordered by a portico with a single row of columns in front ; on the east by a double portico, more than a stadium in length (220 yds.), and serving as a racecourse for practice in bad weather. At the south-east corner of the "gymnasium", in the angle between the south and the east portico, was a Corinthian doorway, which a double row of columns divided into three passages. Immediately to the east of this doorway was the gate giving access to the Altis at its north-west corner. The "gymnasium" was used as an exercise ground for competitors during the last month of their training or for events that required a lot of space such as javelin, discus and running.
Immediately adjoining the "gymnasium" on the south was a "palaestra" (3rd century BC), the place of exercise for wrestlers and boxers, and also for the practice of long jumping. It was in the form of a square, of which each side was about 70 yds. long (66,35 x 66,75 meters), enclosing an inner building surrounded by a Doric colonnade. Facing this inner building on north, east and west were rooms of different sizes, to which doors or colonnades gave access. The chief entrances to the Palaestra (nr.4) were at south-west and south-east, separated by a double colonnade which extended along the south side. The Greek Baths (nr.6), situated nearby the Palaestra, were built in the 5th century BC and modified in later periods.
Near the "palaestra" on the south, a Byzantine church forms the central point in a complex group of remains. The church itself occupies the site of an older brick building, which is perhaps a remnant of the workshop of Pheidias (nr.9) seen by Pausanias. North of the church is a square court with a well in the middle, of the Hellenic age. West of this is a small circular structure, enclosed by square walls. An altar found on the south side of the circular enclosure shows by an inscription that this was the Heroum (nr.5), where worship of the heroes was practiced down to a late period. East of the court stood a large building (nr.7 & 8), of Roman age at latest, arranged round an inner hall with colonnades. These buildings probably formed the Theocoleon, house of the priests. There is also a long and narrow building on the south of the Byzantine church, this may have been occupied by the descendants of Pheidias whose hereditary privilege it was to keep the statue of Zeus clean. The so-called workshop of Pheidias evidently owed its preservation to the fact that it continued to be used for actual work.
South of the group described above occur the remains of a large building (guest house) (nr.10) shown by its inscription to be the Leonidaeum (or Leonidaion), dedicated by an Elean named Leonidas of Naxos in the 4th century BC, and probably intended for the reception of distinguished visitors during the games, such as the heads of the special missions from the various Greek cities. Its orientation differs from that of all the other buildings above mentioned, being not from north to south, but from west-south-west to east-north-east. Externally it is an Ionic peripteros, enclosing suites of rooms, large and small, grouped round a small interior Doric peristyle. Roman times it was altered in such a way as to distribute the rooms into apparently four quarters, each having an atrium with six or four columns. Traces existing within the exterior porticos on north, west and east indicate carriage traffic.
Olympia - The South Side...
Although the limits of the Altis on the south (i.e. on the side towards the Alpheus) can be traced with approximate accuracy, the precise line of the south wall becomes doubtful after we have advanced a little more than one-third of the distance from the west to the east end of the south side. The middle and eastern portions of the south side were places at which architectural changes, large or small, were numerous down to the latest times, and where the older buildings met with scant mercy.
The Council House (nr.14) (Bouleuterium), the seat of the Olympian senate, was just outside the Altis nearly at the middle of its south wall. It comprised two separate Doric buildings (5th century BC) of different date but identical form having a single row of columns dividing the length into two naves and terminating to the west in a semicircular apse. The orientation of each was from west-south-west to east-north-east, one being south-south-east of the other. In the space between stood a small square building. In front, on the east, was a portico extending along the front of all three buildings ; and east of this again a large trapeze-shaped vestibule or fore-hall, enclosed by a colonnade. This Bouleuterium (or Bouleuterion) would have been available on all occasions when Olympia became the scene of conference or debate between the representatives of different states whether the subject was properly political, as concerning the amphictyonic treaties, or related more directly to the administration of the sanctuary and festival. Two smaller Hellenic buildings stood immediately west of the Bouleuterium.
Close to the Bouleuterium on the south, and running parallel with it from south-west by west to north-east by east, was the South Colonnade, a late but handsome structure, closed on the north side, open on the south and at the east and west ends. The external colonnade (on south, east and west) was Doric, the interior row of columns Corinthian. It was used as a promenade, and as a place from which to view the festal processions as they passed towards the Altis.
East of the Bouleuterium was a triumphal gateway (nr.33) of Roman age, with triple entrance, the central being the widest, opening on the Altis from the south. North of this gateway, but at a somewhat greater depth, traces of a pavement were found in the Altis.
Olympia - The East Side...
The line of the east wall, running due north and south, can be traced from the north-east corner to the Altis down about three-fifths of the east side, when it breaks off at the remains known as Neros house (nr.16). These are the first which claim attention on the east side.
To the south-east of the Altis is a building of 4th-century date and of uncertain purpose. This was afterwards absorbed into a Roman house which projected beyond the Altis on the south part of the east Altis wall being destroyed to admit of this. A piece of leaden water-pipe found in the house bears "NER. AVG". Only a Roman master could have dealt thus with the Aitis, and with a building which stood within its sacred precinct. It cannot be doubted that the Roman house from which three doors gave access to the Altis was that occupied by Nero when he visited Olympia. Later Roman hands again enlarged and altered the building, which may perhaps have been used for the reception of Roman governors.
Following northwards the line of the east wall, we reach at the north-east corner of the Altis the entrance, the Crypt (nr.20), to the Stadium (nr.21), which extends east of the Altis in a direction from west-south-west to east-north-east. The apparently strange and inconvenient position of the Stadium relatively to the Altis was due simply to the necessity of obeying the conditions of the ground, here determined by the curve of the lower slopes which bound the valley on the north. The German explorers excavated the Stadium so far as was necessary for the ascertainment of all essential points. Low embankments had originally been built on west, east and south, the north boundary being formed by the natural slope of the hill. These were afterwards thickened and raised. The space thus defined was a large oblong, about 234 yds. (212,54 meters) in length by 35 yds. (28,50 meters) in breadth. There were no artificial seats. It is computed that from 40.000 to 45.000 spectators could have found sitting-room, though it is hardly probable that such a number was ever reached. On the southern side there is a stone platform (nr.23) for the Hellanodikes (the judges) and on the the northern side is an altar (nr.22) to Demeter Chamyna. The exact length of the Stadium itself which was primarily the course for the foot-race was about 210 yds. The starting-point (tablis) and the goal in the Stadium were marked by limestone thresholds, 600 Olympic feet apart. Provision for drainage was made by a channel running round the enclosure. The Stadium was used not only for foot-races, but for boxing, wrestling, leaping, quoit-throwing and javelin-throwing. The entrance to the Stadium from the north-east corner of the Altis was a privileged one, reserved for the judges of the games, the competitors and the heralds. Its form was that of a vaulted tunnel, 100 Olympian feet in length. It was probably constructed in Roman times. To the west was a vestibule, from which the Altis was entered by a handsome gateway.
The Hippodrome, in which the chariot-races and horse-races were held, can no longer be accurately traced. The overflowing of the Alpheus have washed away all certain indications of its limits. But it is clear that it extended south and south-east of the Stadium, and roughly parallel with it, though stretching far beyond it to the east. From the state of the ground the German explorers inferred that the length of the hippodrome was 770 metres or 4 Olympic stadia.
Olympia - The North Side...
If the northern limit of the Altis, like the west, south and east, had been traced by a boundary wall, this would have had the effect of excluding from the precinct a spot so sacred as the Cronion, Hill of Cronus, inseparably associated with the oldest worship of Zeus at Olympia. It seems therefore unlikely that any such northern boundary wall ever existed. But the line which such a boundary would have followed is partly represented by the remains of a wall running from east to west immediately north of the treasure-houses, which it was designed to protect against the descent of earth from the Cronion just above. This was the wall along which, about 157 AD, the main water-channel constructed by Herodes Atticus was carried.
Olympia - The Altis...
The form of the Altis, as indicated by the existing traces, is not regularly rectangular. The length of the west side, where the line of direction is from south-south-east to north-north-west, is about 215 yds. The south side, running nearly due east and west, is about equal long, if measured from the end of the west wall to the point which the east wall would touch when produced due south in a straight line from the place at which it was demolished to make way for Neros house. The east side, measured to a point just behind the treasure-houses, is the shortest, about 200 yds. The north side is the longest. A line drawn eastward behind the treasure-houses, from the Prytaneum at the north-west angle, would give about 275 yds.
The remains or sites within the Altis may conveniently be classed in three main groups :
A) Chief Centers of Religious Worship
A.1) There are traces of an altar near the Heraeum which was probably older than the great altar of Zeus, this was probably the original centre of worship. The great altar of Zeus was of elliptic form, the length of the lozenge being directed from south-south-west to north-north-east, in such a manner that the axis would pass through the Cronion. The upper structure imposed on this basis was in two tiers, and also, probably, lozenge-shaped. This was the famous ash-altar at which the Iamidae, the hereditary gens of seers, practised those rights of divination by fire in virtue of which more especially Olympia is saluted by Pindar as mistress of truth. The steps by which the priests mounted the altar seem to have been at north and south.
A.2) The Pelopium (nr.30), to the west of the Altar of Zeus, was a small precinct in which sacrifices were offered to the hero Pelops. The traces agree with the account of Pausanias. Walls, inclined to each other at obtuse angles, enclosed a plot of ground having in the middle a low tumulus of elliptic form, about 35 metres from east to west by 20 from north to south. A Done propylon with three doors gave access on the south-west side. The three temples of the Altis were those of Zeus, Hera and the Mother of the gods. All were Done and were completely surrounded by a colonnade.
A.3) The Temple of Zeus (nr.15), south of the Pelopium, stood on a high substructure with three steps. It was probably built between 470 BC and 456 BC by Libon, an architect from Elis. The colonnades at the east and west side were of six columns each, those at the north and south side of thirteen each. The celia had a prodomos on the east and an opisthodomos on the west. The celia itself was divided longitudinally (from east to west) into three partitions by a double row of columns. The central partition, which was the widest, consisted of three sections. The west section contained the throne and image of the Olympian Zeus. The middle section, next to the east, which was shut off by low screens, contained a table and stelae. The third or easternmost section was open to the public. This temple was most richly adorned with statues and reliefs. On the east front were represented in twenty-one colossal figures the moment before the contest between Oenomaus and Pelops. The west front exhibited the fight of the Lapithae and Centaurs. The statement of Pausanias that the two pediments were made by Paeonius and Alcamenes is now generally supposed to be an error. The Twelve Labors of Ileracles were depicted on the metopes of the prodomos and opisthodomos, and of these reliefs much the greater part was found enough to determine with certainty all the essential features of the composition. It was near this temple, at a point about 38 yds. east-south-east from the south-east angle, that the explorers found the statue of a flying goddess of victory, the Nike of Paeonius (Paionios).
The Nike of Paionios statue depicts a winged woman. An inscription on the base states that the statue was dedicated by the Messenians and the Naupactians for their victory against the Lacedaemonians (Spartans), in the Archidamian (Peloponnesian) war probably in 421 BC. It is the work of the sculptor Paionios of Mende in Chalkidiki, who also made the acroteria of the Temple of Zeus. Nike, cut from Parian marble, has a height of 2.115m, but with the tips of her (now broken) wings would have reached 3m. In its completed form, the monument with its triangular base (8.81m high) would have stood at the height of 10.92m, giving the impression of Nike triumphantly descending from Olympus.
A.4) The Temple of Hera (Heraeum or Heraion) (nr.29), north of the Pelopium, was raised on two steps. It is probably the oldest of extant Greek temples, and may date from about 1000 BC. It has colonnades of six columns each at east and west, and of sixteen each at north and south. It was smaller than the temple of Zeus, and, while resembling it in general plan, differed from it by its singular length relatively to its breadth. When Pausanias saw it, one of the two columns of the opisthodomos (at the west end of the celia) was of wood, and for a long period all the columns of this temple had probably been of the same material. A good deal of patch-work in the restoration of particular parts seems to have been done at various periods. Only the lower part of the celia wall was of stone, the rest being of unbaked brick, the entablature above the columns was of wood covered with terracotta. The celia divided, like that of Zeus, into three partitions by a double row of columns had four tongue-walls, or small screens, projecting at right angles from its north wall, and as many from the south wall. Five niches were thus formed on the north side and five on the south. In the third niche from the east, on the north side of the celia, was found one of the greatest of all the treasures which rewarded the German explorers, the Hermes of Praxiteles (1878).
A.5) The Temple of Cybela, the Great Mother of the Gods (Metroum or Metroon), was again considerably smaller than the Heraeum. It stood to the east of the latter, and had a different orientation, not west to east, but west-north-west to east-south-east. It was raised on three steps, and had a peripteros of six columns (east and west) by eleven (north and south), having thus a slightly smaller length relatively to its breadth than either of the other two temples. Here also the celia had prodomos and opisthodomos. The adornment and painting of this temple had once been very rich and varied. It was probably built in the 4th century BC, and there are indications that in Roman times it underwent a restoration.
B) Votive Edifices
Under this head are placed buildings erected, either by states or by individuals, as offerings to the Olympian god.
B.1) The twelve Treasure-houses (Treasuries) (nr.26) on the north side of the Altis, immediately under the Cronion, belong to this class. The same general character that of a Doric temple (7th century BC) in antis, facing south is traceable in all the treasure-houses. In the cases of several of these the fragments are sufficient to aid a reconstruction. Twoviz, the 2nd and 3rd counting from the west had been dismantled at an early date, and their site was traversed by a roadway winding upward towards the Cronion. This roadway seems to have been older at least than 157 AD, since it caused a defluxion in the watercourse along the base of the Cronion constructed by Herodes Atticus. Pausanias, therefore, would not have seen treasure-houses. This explains the fact that, though we can trace twelve, he names only ten. As the temples of ancient Greece partly served the purposes of banks in which precious objects could be securely deposited, so the form of a small Doric chapel was a natural one for the treasure house to assume. Each of these treasure-houses was erected by a Greek state, either as a thank-offering for Olympian victories gained by its citizens, or as a general mark of homage to the Olympian Zeus. The treasure-houses were designed to contain the various or dedicated gifts (such as gold and silver plate), in which the wealth of the sanctuary partly consisted. The temple inventories recently discovered at Delos illustrate the great quantity of such possessions which were apt to accumulate at a shrine of Panhellenic celebrity. Taken in order from the west, the treasure-houses were founded by the following states : 1, SiCyon ; 2, 3, unknown ; 4, Syracuse (referred by Pausanias to Carthage) ; 5, Epidamnus ; 6, Byzantium ; 7, Sybaris ; 8, Cyrene ; 9, Selinus ; 10, Metalontum ; 11, Megara ; 12, Gela. It is interesting to remark how this list represents the Greek colonies, from Libya to Sicily, from the Euxine to the Adriatic. Greece proper, on the other hand, is represented only by Megara and Sicyon. The dates of the foundations cannot be fixed. The architectural members of some of the treasure-houses have been found, built into the Byzantine wall, or elsewhere on the site, as well as the terra-cotta plates that overlaid the stonework in some cases, and the pedimental figures, representing the battle of the gods and giants, from the treasure-house of the Megarians.
B.2) The Philippeum (or Philippeion) (nr.31) stood near the north-west corner of the Aitis, a short space west-south-west of the Heraeum. It was dedicated by Philip of Macedon, after his victory at Chaeronea (3-8 BC). As a thank-offering for the overthrow of Greek freedom, it might seem strangely placed in the Olympian Altis. But it is, in fact, only another illustration of the manner in which Philips position and power enabled him to place a decent disguise on the real nature of the change. Without risking any revolt of Hellenic feeling, the new captain-general of Greece could erect a monument of his triumph in the very heart of the Panhellenic sanctuary. The building consisted of a circular Ionic colonnade (of eighteen columns), about 15 metres in diameter, raised on three steps and enclosing a small circular celia, probably adorned with fourteen Corinthian half-columns. It contained portraits by Leochares of Philip, Alexander, and other members of their family, in gold and ivory.
B.3) The Exedra (Nymphaion) (nr.28) of Herodes Atticus stood at the north limit of the Altis, close to the north-east angle of the Heraeum, and immediately west of the westernmost treasure-house (that of Sicyon). It consisted of a half-dome of brick, 54 ft. in diameter, with south-southwest aspect. Under the half-dome were placed twenty-one marble statues, representing the family of Antoninus Pius, of Marcus Aurelius, and of the founder, Herodes Atticus. In front of the halfdome on the south, and extending slightly beyond it, was a basin of water for drinking.. The ends of the basin at northnorth-west and south-south-east were adorned by very small open temples, each with a circular colonnade of eight pillars. A marble hull, in front of the basin, bore an inscription saying that Herodes dedicates the whole to Zeus, in the name of his wife, Annia Regilia. The exedra must have been seen by Pausanias, but he does not mention it. To the right is located the Alter of Hercules.
C) It remains to notice those features of the Altis which were connected with the management of the sanctuary or with the accommodation of its guests.
C.1) Olympia, besides its religious character, originally possessed also a political character, as the centre of an arnpliictyony. We have seen that it had a bouleuterium for purposes of public debate or conference. So also it was needful that, like a Greek city, it should have a public hearth or prytaneum, where fire should always burn on the altar of the Olympian Hestia, and where the controllers of Olympia should exercise public hospitality. The Prytaneum (or Prytaneion - 5th century BC) (nr.32), the official residence of the prytaneis, was at the north-west corner of the Altis, in such a position that its south-east angle was close to the north-west angle of the Heraeum. It was apparently a square building, of which each side measured 100 Olympian feet, with a south-west aspect. It contained a chapel of Hestia at the front or south-west side, before which a portico was afterwards built. The dining-hall was at the back (north-east), the kitchen on the north-west side. On the same side with the kitchen, and also on the opposite side (south-east), there were some smaller rooms.
C.2) The Porch of Echo, also called the Painted Porch, extended to a length of 100 yds. along the east Altis wall. Raised on three steps, and formed by a single Doric colonnade (nr.18), open towards the Altis, it afforded a place from which spectators could conveniently view the passage of processions and the sacrifices at the great altar of Zeus. It was built in the Macedonian period to replace an earlier portico which stood farther back. In front of it was a series of pedestals for votive offerings, including two colossal Ionic columns. These columns, as the inscriptions show, once supported statues of Ptolemy and Berenice. The Echo Stoa (350 BC) was along the east side of the Altis, it was also called Heptaechos because sounds re-echoed seven times in it.
C.3) The Agora was the name given to that part of the Altis which had the Porch of Echo on the east, the Altar of Zeus on the west, the Metroum on the north, and the precinct of the Temple of Zeus on the south-west. In this part stood the altars of Zeus Agoraios and Artemis Agoraia.
C.4) The Zanes were bronze images of Zeus, the cost of making which was defrayed by the fines exacted from competitors who had infringed the rules of the contests at Olympia. These images stood at the northern side of the Agora, in a row, which extended from the north-east angle of the Metroum to the gate of the private entrance from the Aitis into the Stadium. Sixteen pedestals were here discovered in situ. A lesson of loyalty was thus, impressed on aspirants to renown by the last objects which met their eyes as they passed from the sacred enclosure to the scene of their trial.
C.5) Arrangements for water supply: a copious supply of water was required for the service of the altars and temples, for the private dwellings of priests and officials, for the use of the gymnasium, palaestra, etc., and for the thermos which arose in Roman times. In the Hellenic age the water was derived wholly from the Ciadeus and from the small lateral tributaries of its valley. A basin, to serve as a chief reservoir, was built at the north-west corner of the Altis, and a supplementary reservoir was afterwards constructed a little to the north-east of this, on the slope of the Cronion. A new source of supply was for the first time made available by Herodes Atticus. At a short distalice east of Olympia, near the village of Miraka, small streams flow from comparatively high ground through the side-valleys which descend towards the right or northern bank of the Aipheus. From these side-valleys water was now conducted to Olympia, entering the Altis at its north-east corner by an arched canal which passed behind the treasure-houses to the reservoir at the back of the exedra. The large basin of drinking-water in front of the exedra was fed thence, and served to associate the name of Herodes with a benefit of the highest practical value. Olympia further possessed several fountains, enclosed by round or square walls. Between the Heraion (Temple of Heras) and the Alter of Hercules, there is the Nymphaeum (or Nymphaion, also Exedra). This was an aquaduct built by Herodus Atticus (160 AD) which channeled the waters of a copious spring.
|+-+ BACK TO TOP +-+|