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Escorted Tours & Cruise Vacations

Discover the ancient treasures of the sanctuary in Olympia

May 31, 2011 - 2:27am
Temple of Zeus
Those who are taking a cruise through the Aegean Islands should not miss out on visiting Olympia, which is one of the most important destinations from ancient Greece.

Many people know Olympia as the original site of the Olympic Games, held as far back as 8th century B.C. In the year 776 B.C., residents of the local city-states came together for a thrilling time of sport in lieu of war to honor Zeus, who is known as "Father of the Gods and men" in Greek mythology. The Stadium is one of the area's most popular attractions; it features a track nearly 700 feet long and 100 feet wide framed by a verdant expanse, which once held seating made of mud for 20,000 people.

The Gymnasion is where participants of the Olympic games would train. Named after the term "gymnos," which in Greek translates to "naked," one interesting fact about this facility is that those who trained here did so in the bufef. Keeping the male body on display was seen as a tribute to the gods.

Must-see attractions on a trip to this area are the temples within the temenos (or sacred enclosure). Here, tourists will find the Temples of Hera and Zeus, as well as the Pelopian, where the remains of Pelops - the King of Pisa - allegedly rest.

The structure that honors Zeus features a statue of the god and is known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The golden work of art was constructed between 466 and 456 B.C., with the figure created about two decades later. The statue is notable for its gargantuan size, as it stood 40 feet tall and took up the entire width of the temple before it was destroyed by a fire.

This temple is situated on Olympia's archaeological site, which features more than 30 fascinating ancient attractions. Along with the Temple of Hera in the northeast, tourists will find the Prytaneion, an area that once served as the seat of the government, and the Philippeion, an orbicular memorial constructed with ivory and gold materials that held statues of Alexander the Great and several other kings.

Other sites included in the sanctuary of Olympia are the Metroon, the building of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe, the Hellenistic Building, the Altar of Zeus, Phidias' workshop and paleochristian Basilican, the Greek baths and much more.