One day tour to Ancient Olympia
Visiting the first worldwide, Olympic stadium and the archeological zone of ancient Olympia. Also visit one of the largest orthodox churches of Greece in Patras, place of rest for the relics of Saint Andrew the Apostole.
Tour duration and timing
The drive from Athens to Patras takes 2 hours and passes through the picturesque coast of the Ionian Sea. The excursion inside the Temple of Saint Andrew takes 40 to 50 minutes. Then we go to Olympia (1,5 hours drive), where we will have an excursion of the archeological complex of ancient Olympia and the local archeological museum (2,5 to 3 hours). Then follows a lunch break (40 to 50 minutes) and the 3,5 hours drive, back to Athens, with a rest stop at the Corinth Canal. Total tour duration is 12 to 13 hours.
Detailed description of Olympia
The archeological complex of ancient Olympia consists of two parts. These are, the archeological zone where the ancient Olympic games were held, and the museum, where are exhibited the artifacts that were found in this area during the archeological excavations. The museum is considered to be one of the richest worldwide in terms of quality of its exhibits. Fortunately, here in Greece an unbroken tradition remains kept, to exhibit the artifact exactly there, where it was found, but not to remove them away from their place of origin and gather them in one central museum. Every exhibit considers the essential part of the history of a place where it was discovered, tide connected to people who created it. Therefore, all artifacts that were excavated in ancient Olympia remain exhibited in the local archeological museum, although they could rightfully adorn the collection of such museums like Louvres or Ermitage. Indeed, it worths visiting Greece only to see the statue of Hermes , one of the, most rare, original creations of the great sculptor Praxitelus .This is also one of the reasons, why the archeological complex, which includes the stadium and temples, was not fully reconstructed. A lot of people criticize us about it, by saying even in a humorous way that “Greeks are people, who build the best ruins worldwide”.In fact, we specially don’t restore these ruins in order to avoid the so called effect of the model, such a re-make, because no re-make can be compared with the original. If these stones were made by human being, they were made in this , but not in any other way, following a specific plan and served a concrete purpose. Through the process of creation and human touch, these stones become alive, they become a part of the biography of their creators. The history is not the stones, left after people, but rather people themselves, their testament. History is a science about the human, and when you touch these stones, you touch Eternity itself. Can be anything more exiting than this feeling? Olympia is perhaps the heart of the common Greek history. Accordingly, I will tell you briefly about the main idea of Olympic Games, about the “aekeheria” and in text frames also are represented some photos of Olympia monuments. Flegont refers to the text of Pythia, probably dated in a deep ancient time, concerning the mission , which Apollo entrusted to the community of Aeleans , who organized the Olympic Games. “ You will protect your country, keeping it away from any war. Let’s teach Greeks the recognized friendship, once the friendly fifth year comes”. Greeks appreciated the peace, and this was reflected in deification of the meaning of peace in an image of goddess Irene (the world “irini” in Greek means “peace” ). The cult of Irene became popular in the classical period. However, the meaning of sacred truce led its origin not from this key world, but had another etymology. The term of “aekeheria” comes from the word “heri” ( the hand, in a large meaning – the power, the violence can be effected using the hand) and the prefix “aek”, which means the movement in the direction from the subject ( in a large meaning – separation, release, isolation, also dependence). So, the etymology of the term of aekeheria refers to a complex concept: aekeheria means the liberation of the hand not simply from the power, but particularly from the power of the hand, which is keeping a weapon during the battle. This is such an impulse uprising from the bottom, from some internal power, which is more potent and more wise, rather the embittered mind of a fighting human. And this impulse cools the bitterness of mind of fighting men, stops the hand keeping the sword or spear, calming down the bitterness of the mind and the feeling. Such a divine impulse.The related translation “do not rise a hand ” describes such a situation, when the conscience is above the mind. Therefore, the word “aekheria” concludes a very complicated notion, the connection of both the divine and the human elements, as a break in the violence, and this break was stated by gods, can also be translated as the “sacred truce”. That followed in “ the friendly fifth year” and played same role, like "Jubilee" seventh year in the Old Testament : “ ….and then you sanctify the fiftieth year and declare the freedom on the world for all the inhabitants of the earth: let’s make it your jubilee; and everyone will come back to their land, and everyone will return to their family” Leviticus (25:10)“. Ifitus established the Olympic Games”, - Strabon reports, - “and Aeleans came to be sacred people. By these circumstances the population of Elida achieved prosperity, because when at the same time other city-states were fighting each other, only Aeleans enjoyed the continues peace, and not only themselves, but also foreigners, lived with them, and their region became to be a most populous of all.” (Strab. VIII.8,33)(16). And this interpretation is also related to another side of peacekeeping contents of the aekeheria: it called to opt out of the use of violence not only in foreign affairs, in wars of city-policies with each other, but also from internal unrest or any other kind of civil war inside of city- policies. This deep peacemaking sense of the aekheria implemented during each Olympic Games. Significant part of the Greek elite , such as poets, spokesmen’, historians, philosophers , architects, sculptors used an opportunity to meet each other and to exchange ideas during Olympic holidays. Besides the sport competitions and ritual actions, during the Olympic holidays this place became a temporary centre of intellectual and artistic life of Greece created there. Between the participants and winners of Olympic games there were famous scientists and philosopher, as Demosthenes, Democritus, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Pythagoras, Hippocrates. And they competed not only in a branch of graceful arts. So, Pythagoras was a boxing champion, but Plato was champion of the pancration (a kind of ancient fight without rules).
The Calendar. Even the date of taking place of ancient Olympic Games shrouded with the aura of legend. The very first Olympic Games took place much earlier than in 776 y. BC. So in 776 BC, there were just stated the first extant names of the winners of Olympic Games, but the names of their prredecessors were unknown even for the ancient world historians. More than a few hundred years later, the historian Hipias began to keep well-ordered records about them. Exactly at that time began the tradition of the Greek calendar with the four-year cycle, named as Olympiada. Olympic Games took place at the first year of every Olympiada.The history needs to have a reliable reference point. Such a reference point became the first monument, which was built in Olympia in honour of the winner of the competitions. So, officially the year 776 BC, when Corebus from Elida won all the competitors in a run for one stage, officially considered to be the year of the beginning of Olympic Games. Festivities in Olympia were celebrated during the sacred month of ieromenia, which began from the first full moon after summer solstice, which was considered to be the beginning of the year. In modern calendar this matches to the end of June – beginning July.
Competitions. The holiday lasted six days. On the first day all participants swore ( the Olympic Oath) promising to compete fairly. On the second day the junior competitions took place. On the third day there were races and pentathlon competitions. On the fourth day, bulls were killed, on the fifth day – fighting competitions and running and the day was ended by running with arms, which symbolizes the end of armistice. On the sixth day the winners were honoured. After a great sacrifice of 100 bulls (hecatomba), followed by the feast of meat, which was an absolute luxury for ordinary people in ancient Greece. The ceremony was accompanied by a large symposium.
The Greek word “symposium” means “to drink together”, so the participants of the symposium , were people, who drink in general and drink together with other people.,
Roman period and the decline. Emperor Nero was a big fan of sports . For his sake, the Olympic Games were once moved so that he could be present. The emperor was even declared the winner in the chariot races, despite his chariot overturned and Nero never got the finish line. To please him, singing became one of Olympic contests. The Romans also entered in Olympic Games circus performances: gladiators fought till death with each other, with bulls, tiger, lions . This was no longer a sports competition, but profitable commercial performance.
Therefore with the advent of Christianity the vulgarized Olympic Games were prohibited in 394 y. AD. Olympic constructions remained for one more year, till in 395 byzantine army and Visigoths met in a bloody battle at the coast of Alpheus. The ancient Olympia was destroyed. And after 100 more years two strong earthquakes destroyed Olympia completely. Then followed sudden floods of surrounding rivers, and Olympia disappeared , being covered by sand and sludge.
Renaissaince. The first attempt to revive the Olympic Games probably was made in 1612. The Englishman Robert Dower organised, close to Birmingham, Olympic Games in Costwald-Hills. The program contained leapfrog, chess and dogs races. Not too bad for the beginning
First Olympic Games of the modern time took place in Athens, in 1896.
Partas – the city of Saint Andrew the Apostle. This is the third biggest city of modern Greece and the largest port of Peloponnese.
Patras was the last city where Saint Andrew The Apostle preached and the place of his martyrdom. Here, Apostle Andrew’s paryers recovered Sosius - a noble citizen of Patras - from a seriously ill. By imposition, Apostle Andrew’s hands healed Maximilla, Patra’s governor’s wife, as well as the governor’s brother and the philosopher Stratoclius. This encouraged the inhabitants of the city to get baptized by Apostle Andrew, however the governor of the city remained a pagan.
According to the legend, the cross on which Apostle Andrew had been crucified, had the shape of “X” letter, so it became the name of “Saint Andrew’s Cross”. In Patras you will visit the temple that is well known in the Orthodox world as the Temple of the Apostle Saint Andrew, where the relics of the Apostole are kept, as well as the original piece of the cross, on which he was crucified.
Crossing the place Rio, you will see the beautiful suspension bridge Rio-Antirio, one of the longest suspension constructions worldwide, its length is nearly three thousands meters.
Corinth Channel (30 minutes stop). The Corinth Channel is the unique place, from which you can see two seas at the same time , the Aegean Sea and the Ionian Sea. Emperor Nero was the first, who attempted to dig through the Channel. This eccentric guy of the world history brought here ships with six thousands slaves and personally marked the start of the work by symbolically marking the start of the digging with the golden spatula. It was foreseen, to finish this project during Nero’s live, but because of his pyromaniac hobbies he died, and the channel remained uncompleted. Finally, only in 19th century, the French finished this work, the channel was dug through, but because of its low efficiency it remains mainly just a tourist attraction and a decoration of the area.