Ancient Olympia and southwest coast


In Kyllini once more, we take the Patras - Pyrgos national road south. By turning at Amaliada, we can follow the coast and feast our eyes or take a dip at the lovely open beaches at Kourouta and Palouki, at Katakolo (the port of Pyrgos) and beyond. But to vary the drive a bit, we'll turn anland for Olympia (20km past Pyrgos), one of Greece's major sites, and one know the wold over.

The landscape of Olympia is the antithesis of Delphi's. No drama or vistas here; instead, its wooded hills and quiet rivers give it a feeling of peace in valley; the only rivalries were athletic contents. The origin of the Olympic Games is shrouded in myth, but their official start in 776 BC, they were held regularly every four years until 393 AD. And in our own era, the torch is lit here and from here is passed to the country where the Games are being held. Avisit to Olympia takes us back to when the Games were at their peak in the 5th century BC., a glorious time when wars stopped in observance of the Truce and the victors were content with a simple olive wreath.

There is much to see here, both within the Altis or Sanctuary and outside it. Before entering the Altis, we come to the Gymnasion amd Palaestra on the west side. To the right are the foundations of Pheidias's workshop occupying the same area as a ruined Byzantine church, along with remnants of other buildings, some dating from the Roman era. Still further to the right are the foundations of the Leonidaion, the largest building at Olympia, where the VIPs were feted and housed, and the Bouleuterion (Council House) where the athletes took an oath before the Hellanodikai (umpires) promising not to engage in foul play.