292 Route 26. OLYMPIA. History.
have read in public at Olympia a portion of his historical work, and so
to have fired the youthful Thucydides, who was present, to the compo¬
sition of his history. Celebrated orators, like Gorgias and Lysias, ad¬
dressed the people from the opisthodomos of the temple of Zeus, as did the
sophist Hippias of Elis and others. Painters exhibited their works here. It
was here also that Themistokles enjoyed his greatest triumph, when at
his appearance in the stadion, probably in the 77th Olympiad (472), the
assembled Greeks greeted the hero of Salamis with shouts of applause.
At a later date Plato also was received here with honour by the admir¬
The Olympic Games attained their zenith in the period after the
Persian Wars and the contemporary struggles of the Sicilian Greeks
against the Carthaginians. As Hellenic influence extended to the E.
the contingents from the Asiatic states and from Egypt, as well as
those from Macedonia and Thrace, grew larger and larger. In the
IJoman period we find champions hailing from all parts of'the empire,
and even two emperors, Tiberius and Nero, won victories here. Greece
proper, on the other hand, became less and less conspicuous. Pro¬
fessional athletes appeared and, travelling from one to another of
the numerous athletic meetings, succeeded in degrading even the
Olympic victory to a trade. The regular celebration of the Olympic
games seems to have died out in the 4th cent. A.D. The Emperor
Theodosius finally suppressed them in 394.
In order to protect themselves against the barbarian invaders
who harassed Greece from the end of the 4th cent, onwards (comp.
p. 283), the inhabitants of Olympia converted the neighbourhood
of the temple of Zeus into a fortress, the walls of which were built
with materials yielded by the surrounding edifices. The course of
these 'Byzantine Walls' is marked with dotted lines on the Plan.
The temple of Zeus itself was thrown down by two earthquakes in
the first half of the 6th century. At the same time probably a
destructive landslip took place on Mt. Kronion, followed by an ex¬
tensive inundation of the Kladeos. The poor village that arose on
the ruins after these catastrophes seems, from coins that have been
found, to have existed until sometime in the 7th century. Then
the Kladeos again left its channel and in the course of years covered
all Olympia with a layer of sand from 10 to 15 ft. deep, while the
Alpheios flooded the ruins from the S.E.
The first idea of an excavation at Olympia suggested itself to Winckel¬
mann, while the French Expidilion de Morie of 1S29 paid a passing attention
to the subject. But the complete exhumation of the entire site of this
centre of ancient Greek life was re-erved for the German empire. Prof.
Ernst Curtius (d. 1896) succeeded in obtaining the assistance of the Emperor
and tbe Crown Prince of Germany; and in 1874-81, at an expense of about
i0,000l., almost the entire district of 01ym|ia was freed from the superin¬
cumbent soil, which in some places was 20 ft. deep. The work was mainly
directed from Berlin, by Ernst Curtius and Friedrich Adler, the architect;
while the conduct of the work at Olympia was entrusted to a varying
commission of archaologists and architects. Tbe yield of sculptures fell
short of the expectations, but a flood of light was thrown upon topo¬
graphical and architectural matters of the highest scientific importance.
The objects found are, with the exception of a number of duplicates sent
to Berlin, now preserved in the Museum (p. 303).