This morning we left bright and early for Olympia. We visited the site of the original Olympic games in 776 B.C. As we came into the site, we saw the ruins of the gymnasium, palaestra, hotel, baths, and temples of Zeus and of Hera. Surprisingly, the Temple of Hera was built at least 100 years before the Temple of Zeus despite the fact that the Olympic games were meant to honor Zeus. The Temple of Zeus was clearly destroyed by an earthquake; that we know because the columns fell in a “loaf of bread-like” style. Despite the temple’s ruined state, we could see how impressive it would have been both then and now. The Temple of Hera is the location at which the Olympic flame is still lit today.
The shop of Phideas was also at the Olympia site, although it was converted into a Christian church during the Middle Ages. Phideus was the artist who created the famous gold and ivory statue of Zeus that was displayed in his temple. It is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but it was destroyed in a fire in approximately 400 A.D. in Constantinople. We also got to view his cup in the Olympia Museum. They know it was his cup because he inscribed his name on the bottom.
As we approached the archway into the Stadion, we walked past the eleven zanes. These zanes were statues of Zeus paid for by those caught cheating in the Olympic games. Each was inscribed with the name of the cheater to immortalize and disgrace them. Their purpose to warn the athletes about the consequences of cheating was obvious as we could all tell how ominous these statues would be if they were still standing. As we entered the Stadion, where the running events were held at Olympia, it was amazing to enter through the same arch that athletes used to enter the stadium over 2,000 years ago. The class got to experience the ancient Olympics by having a foot race on the ancient track, and we even placed our toes in the same marble grooves the ancient athletes used. Jack Hillsheim was the winner the “diaulos” and will live on in Olympic history.
After visiting Olympia, we returned to the bus to drive to Patras where we boarded the “SuperFast II”. The ferry will takes us to Bari, Italy overnight. Currently, the ride is a little rough due to a storm, but hopefully it will subside soon.