Quick message Order a brochure

Step back in time and experience Ancient Olympia

The Olympic Games bring the world together and Team GB have been doing incredibly well at the Rio 2016 Olympics – celebrating their most successful overseas Olympic to date. We do enjoy the beauty of the modern games, but what if we step back in time and journey to the place where it all began?

The Philippeion in the Altis of Olympia was an Ionic circular memorial built from limestone and marble.

The Philippeion in the Altis of Olympia was an Ionic circular memorial built from limestone and marble.

The Ancient Olympia began in Greece, accessed via the port of Katakolon. It was held every four years throughout Classical Antiquity, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD, and had fewer events than we see at today’s modern games. Originally held in honour of Zues (the Greek sky and thunder God), the first ever Olympics is dated to 776 BC. The games continued to be celebrated when Greece came under Roman rule, until emperor Theodosius I suppressed them in 393AD as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as the State religion of Rome.

The small fishing village Katakolon is about an hour from the site of Ancient Olympia.

The small fishing village Katakolon is about an hour from the site of Ancient Olympia.

As long as they met the criteria, athletes from any Greek city-state and kingdom were allowed to participate, although the Hellanodikai (the officials in charge) allowed king Alexander I to participate in the games, but only after he had proven his Greek ancestry. In ancient times, the games were always held at Olympia rather than moving between different locations as is the practice with the modern Olympic Games.

The main entrance to the Olympic Stadium

The main entrance to the Olympic Stadium

These are some of the games they played during ancient times:

Foot Race – The course for the footrace was called a Stade – about 192 meters in length. Running the course back and forth was known as a Dialous. Hippicos was given its name when runners ran four Stades in a row.

Jumping – Leather bands with weights attached would be tied to the arms of the athlete. The jumper would throw his body forward and was required to land with both feet close together.

Running with Armour – This event was known as Hoplite and consisted of men running in pieces of armour – typically a helmet or shield.

Some of our passengers from last year’s cruise at the start line  of the Ancient Olympic stadium

Some of our passengers at the start line of the Ancient Olympic stadium

The site was a religious sanctuary long before the Stadium was built and the games took place in the sacred area called Altis. The most imposing monument in the area was the outstanding Temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Temple of Hera, the Prytaneion, and the Philippeion were also monuments standing in the sacred grove. The famous Stadium, the largest of its day with a capacity of 45,000 spectators, was entered through a long, tunnel-like passage, constructed in Roman times. The stadium was restored in 2004 for the historic return of the modern Olympics to Athens.

Ancient temple of Goddess Hera and altar of God Zeus at Ancient Olympia

Ancient temple of Goddess Hera and altar of God Zeus at Ancient Olympia

 

======================================

In 2016 and 2017, Aegean Odyssey will sail several voyages that call to the port of Katakolon and include full day tours to the ancient site of Olympia.

Grand Aegean & Dalmatia, departing September 13, 2016

Greece & the Adriatic Sea, departing September 25, 2016

Dalmatia & Ancient Greece, departing September 27, 2017