Olympia, Greece was of course the site for the ancient Olympic games. Now, since I'm only about two weeks away from starting to teach Western Civ again, I don't really feel like expounding to the point of writing a history lesson about it just yet... But I will post some of the more interesting photos with some thoughts on them.
Since Olympia was largely destroyed by what had to have been incredibly violent earthquakes in 522 and 551 A.D. (and you'll see what I mean about how strong it must have been shortly) nothing was left standing on the site. Anything you see arising above ground level is thus a reconstruction of the broken pieces that were found by archeologists. But even the sheer amount of the remains still on the ground is impressive.
So, some highlights... Firstly, we have the only circular temple on the site, started by Philip II of Macedon and completed by his son Alexander the Great, called appropriately the Philippeion. While quite unusual, it nevertheless evinces what I expected to see from the site, I guess... the subtle elegance of the ancients. (Even if it had all been painted up gaudier than Las Vegas at the time!)
And of course we have a distant descendant of the Olympic Games that we celebrate today. When we do, the famous Olympic flame is actually lit here, on the ruins of the former Altar of Hera (pictured at left) using a parabolic mirror. And what visit to Olympia would be complete with a visit to the Stadium (at right)?
But for me these weren't the most impressive sights. No, I'm not talking about seeing Mount Olympus there (because it's actually in a whole different part of the country), but rather what would have been the ginormous Temple of Zeus!
Of course, it's in ruins now, and the colossal statue of the god which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is long gone... but it is an impressive sight nonetheless. Just get a load of the diameter of the fallen pillars alone, with yours truly standing next to them for comparison! (See, that really must have been some earthquake!!)