Honors Grecian and Turkish Odyssey - Day 5 - Olympia

Students at the starting line in the Olympic stadium
Cristiana at the gymnasium
The Phillippeion
Today, we visited the archaeological site at Olympia.  The Olympic Games started in 776BC.  While we knew we would be visiting the ancient Olympic stadium, none of us knew the other wonders we would encounter at the archaeological site.  We began at the gymnasium or "place of naked men," as the word meant in ancient Greece.  Cristiana informed us that the wrestlers would cover their bodies with olive oil, so that when they landed in the sand, it would stick to their bodies.  The wrestler having the fewest number of marks on his body at the end of the match was declared the winner.  We then visited the workshop of Phidias, the sculptor who created the Statue of Zeus that resided in the Temple of Zeus.  The Statue of Zeus in Olympia is one of the classical Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  As we passed by the sites for the ancient hotel and the Roman baths on our way to the Temple of Zeus, Cristiana related the story of Kallipateira, the mother of two athletes who disguised herself as a man to watch her sons compete, as women were not permitted to watch the games.  She was arrested when she was discovered after cheering for her sons who had won events, but was released as she was the daughter of Diagoras, a famous Olympic champion.  We then entered the ancient stadium through the athletes' tunnel.  Students lined up on the stone starting line and raced across the stadium to the stone finish line, just as the ancient athletes would have done, though without the presence of 40,000 fans.  We then proceeded to the Temple of Hera in front of which a parabolic mirror is used every two years to light the Olympic flame that is then transported to the Olympic site. Our outside tour of the Olympia archaeological site concluded with a visit to the Philippeion before entering the museum.  The highlights of the museum were the remnants of the two pediments of the Temple of Zeus, the remnants of the 12 metopes which displayed the labors of Hercules and the statues of Nike of Paionios and Hermes of Praxiteles.  In the latter statue, Hermes is holding Dionysos, son of Zeus, and the facial expression of Hermes changes from serious to smiling, as you view the statue from different sides.  As we departed Olympia to travel to Delphi, Cristiana informed us there would be a surprise for us as we traveled.  Approaching the Rio-Antirrio Mega-bridge, Kostas turned on a side road, driving the minibus to the shore of the Gulf of Corinth.  We would not be taking the bridge across the gulf, but a ferry boat instead.  As we continued to Delphi, we took one more break in the port town of Nafpatkos, giving the students the opportunity to dip their toes in the Gulf of Corinth, explore the small castle and encounter a statue of Cervantes, honoring him for his involvement in the Battle of Lepanto.  Our accommodations for the evening were in the Pan Artemis hotel in small town of Delphi on Mount Parnassus, where we enjoyed another authentic Greek dinner.

Hermes of Praxiteles
Nike of Paionios
The Temple of Hera


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