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Olympia Photo
Ολυμπία - archaeological site
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The sanctuary at Olympia flourished from the 10th c. BC to AD 426, the year in which the emperor Theodosius II closed all the ancient sanctuaries. It was a major religious, cultural and sporting centre, a pole of attraction for Hellenism, and the bond that linked motherland Greece  with the colonies of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
The Altis, the sacred grove at Olympia, took shape in the 10th-9th c. BC, and was devoted mainly to Zeus.
The first monumental buildings were erected in the Archaic period (7th-6th c. BC), and new structures were gradually added to meet the continuously growing needs of the sanctuary.
The area of the sanctuary received its final form at the end of the 4th c. BC. In the Hellenistic and Roman periods, it underwent a number of modifications dictated by the conditions of the times.
The games, which were held in the area already in prehistoric times, were reorganised in the 8th c. BC by Iphitos, king of Elis, Kleisthenes of Pisa and Lykourgos of Sparta, who instituted the “sacred truce”. From that time on, the Olympic games were held every four years and acquired a panhellenic character. The athletes competing in the games had to be true-born, free Greek men. Women were not allowed to watch the games.
Victors in the games were crowned with a branch of the “beautifulcrowned wild olive tree” that stood near the temple of Zeus.
This crown bestowed the greatest honour on the competitor, his family and his native city, and could not be compensated for by either money or high office.
When the pagan religions were suppressed, the institution of the Olympic games, which had flourished for twelve centuries and made a brilliant contribution to the history of sport, fell into disuse.
[Parts of Official Flyer "Olympia", 2011]