The remains of the only circular building on the site once contained gold-and-ivory-covered statues of Philip of Macedon and his family, including his son Alexander the Great. It was built by Philip to commemorate a victory against a combined army of Athenians and Thebans.
The Ancient Stadium and Archway
Passing through a stone archway, you enter the remains of the Ancient Stadium, once housing more than 45,000 spectators. The mind boggles at being able to line up on the track (measuring 192.27m), just as the finest athletes in the land did thousands of years ago. Nearby are the judges’ seats. On your marks, get set…
Built in the 3rd century BC, the partly restored Palaestra was where contestants prepared for boxing, wrestling and jumping events.
This is where the legendary sculptor Pheidias created one of his most famous pieces of work – the gargantuan ivory-and-gold statue of Zeus, which became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Temple of Zeus
The most important building of the Altis (or Sacred Precinct of Zeus) was the immense 5th-century-BC Doric temple dedicated to the king of the gods. It housed Pheidias’ statue of Zeus for more than 800 years. One column of the temple has been restored, allowing us to appreciate its size.
The Temple of Hera
Older still are the remains of the late 7th-century-BC Doric Temple of Hera, in front of which burnt a fire during the Games as a symbol of the fire stolen from the gods by Prometheus. This is where the Olympic flame is lit today.
The Archaeological Museum
Containing artefacts and statues (the most famous of which is Praxiteles’ Hermes), the Archaeological Museum more than does justice to the challenge of putting this extraordinary site’s history and mythology into context.
A wonderful bonus is the Archimedes Museum, dedicated to the greatest mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer and inventor of his time.