Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Katakolon, Greece Olympia

Olympia, Site of the First Olympic Games
Katakolon, Greece
The site of the first Olympic games is a sprawling area with different structures and functional areas. Artist's reproductions of the various buildings and structures are easy to visualize.
On the ground, sometimes fabulous structures are a jumbled pile of rocks. Now Christine would look at the various areas and see the exact structure in her mind. I would see a pile of broken rocks.
However, I will try to make as much sense of an area as possible as the Olympic games are as significant today as back in 776 B.C.
Foundation of the Temple of Hera. The temple of Hera is one of the oldest monumental temples in Greece. According to Greek mythology, Hera was married to Zeus. Hera was the queen of the Olympic people and Zeus was the chief of their gods. Hera provided aid to Jason and the Argonauts, helping them find the golden fleece. For the rest of the story, see the movie.
For the Olympic fans, the torch is lit just in front of the Temple of Hera. The area was roped off to keep tourists out of the space. A woman dressed in the garb of an ancient Greek priestess lights the torch and recites a monologue signaling the start of the summer games. (If anyone saw the lighting of the torch, then you know there were a lot of women dressed like priestesses who danced around). The torch is lit is the same way it was in the olden days. A mirror, in the shape of a parabola, focuses the sun's rays to a single point. The generated heat ignites the fuel and the torch is carried into the Olympic Stadium where the games first took place.
 The gate to the Olympic Stadium. The athletes would march through the gate to enter the games area.
The original stadium.
The spectators would sit on the embankments. The rocks in the middle were the area reserved for the judges. It was a big thrill for tourists to run or walk the distance on the arena.
Even Christine got caught up in the thrill of competitive sports. However, we will have to move Christine to the next area for her to flex her muscle.
We will move Christine to the Doric colonnade of Palaestra. The palaestra was built in the third century B.C. as part of the gymnasium complex, used to practice boxing, wrestling, and jumping. At its center was an open court surrounded by a Doric (a style of column associated with strength and masculinity) colonnade of 72 columns and laid with fine sand on which the athletes trained.
 The Temple of Zeus site. The site is close to the temple of Hera, the wife of Zeus.
 The temple contained the statue of Zeus, about 13m (42 ft) tall, made of ivory and gold, so elaborate that it was proclaimed to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
 Although Zeus was married to Hera, his consorting with Dione resulted in many godly and heroic offspring, including Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Perseus, Heracles, and Helen of Troy. Some of his offspring will be featured in future tours of our Mediterranean cruise. 
The Roman Emperor Constantine ordered gold to be removed from all statues. In 426 A.D., Theodosius II ordered the destruction of the temple. The statue had been moved to Constantinople. Earthquakes in 522 and 551 devastated the ruin and left the Temple of Zeus partially buried.
This circular building has Ionic columns (one would have to study to note the differences from the Doric columns earlier). It was donated by Philip II after the battle of Chaeronea (338 B.C.). It was completed by Alexander the Great (Philip II's son), and its interior was decorated with Alexander's ancestors' busts and other works of art.
Continuing excavation.
Just a nice shot of something.
 Nymphaion Fountain
In A.D. 160, Herodes Atticus, a rich Roman Senator, built the magnificent fountain Nymphaion. As may be seen, it took the form of a semicircle with a circular naiskos at each of the two ends (only far left can be seen).
The walls were of brick faced with polychrome marble (only brick can be seen now).  Above the wall were 20 statues of Antoninus Pius and his family as well as the family of Herodes Atticus. 
  The space between the two naiskoi was occupied by two basins, one in front of the semicircular wall and the other on a lower platform. The water, brought from a spring 4 km W of Olympia, ran first into the upper, semicircular basin, next into the lower rectangular one, and then, via a network of conduits, throughout the whole sanctuary.
Far left circular naiskos.
Prehistoric Building
(2150-2000 B.C.)
In 1908, a number of buildings belonging to a prehistoric settlement were uncovered. The apsidal houses had stone foundations and date to an advanced to late phase of the Early Helladic II period.
The apsidal buildings are freestanding or built in groups and have stone foundations and a superstructure of mud bricks.
Workshop of Pheidias
(3rd quarter of the 5th century B.C.)
Building where the renowned Athenian sculptor Pheidias fashioned the colossal gold and ivory statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
In the 5th century A.D. the building was converted into an Early Christian church (basilica).
One just cannot take in all of the site during a structured tour. However, on the bright side of a "short tour", one is less likely to suffer from information overload to the point that one temple starts to look like the last temple. : )


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