Stadium at Olympia
|2004 Summer Olympics
The stadium was a holy place for the ancient Greeks, as this is where sporting activities dedicated to Zeus were held. The stadium was originally located within the temenos, with spectators able to view races from the slopes of Mt. Kronos. It was gradually relocated east until it reached its present location in the early 5th century BC. The stadium is connected with the sanctuary by a vaulted stone passageway. It acted like the Colosseum but only in Olympia.
The track is 212.54 m (697.3 ft) long and 28.5 m (94 ft) wide and surrounded by grassy banks on all sides. All the seats were made of mud and on the southern slope there was a stone platform, the exedra, on which the Hellanodikai, the judges, would sit. Opposite this, on the north slope, was an altar to Demeter Chamyne. The stadium could hold 50,000 spectators.
The games were held between 776 BC and 393 AD. Greek legends suggest that the games were held even earlier, from the tenth to the eleventh century BC, this is also known as the Bronze Age. According to records, the earliest that we know of the games being held here were during the revival of The Festival of Zeus in 776 BC. The games were held every four years at the beginning, and the middle of the "Great Year". The Great Year, was a way that people in Greece would determine the difference between solar and lunar years.
There were three stadiums constructed. The first one, (Stadium I), was created during the archaic period. It was mainly used to hold games for the contestants of nearby city-states of Greece. (Stadium II) was built to the east of the first stadium, this was built to add on events. In addition, a racetrack was also built. It was built ideally next to a large hillside that served as a natural sitting area. The third stadium, (Stadium III), was built mainly to hold larger audiences. Along the embankments surrounding the stadium are large wells that not only served as water offerings, but also served as votive offerings, mostly of bronze.
The Olympic games is believed to have begun in the year 776 BC. For all participating city-states, a sacred truce was made by the three kings Iphitus of Elis, Lycourgus of Sparta, and Cleostenes of Pisa. The truce ensured that no one would be hostile towards one another and it also ensured a suspension of any executions for the duration of the games. From the lists that we have of victors from these Olympic games, we know that the Olympic games eventually brought in many champions from different parts of the world. Champions were from as far as Sicily and Northern Africa.
Around the time of 680 BC, victors of the Olympic games would offer statues to the stadium for thanking them for allowing them to participate.
In 472 BC, two more days were added to the Olympic games.
For the women, the Heraia was held. This was the games for the women in honor of Hera, the wife of Zeus.
- 2004 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 2. p. 242.