A sanctuary of ancient Greece in Elis on the Peloponnese peninsula, is known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times. The most celebrated sanctuary of ancient Greece lies in the beautiful valley of the Alpheios river. Dedicated to Zeus, the father of the gods, it sprawls over the southwest foot of Mount Kronios, at the confluence of the Alpheios and the Kladeos rivers, in a lush, green landscape. Although secluded near the west coast of the Peloponnese, Olympia became the most important religious and athletic centre in Greece. Its fame rests upon the Olympic Games, the greatest national festival and a highly prestigious one world-wide, which was held every four years to honour Zeus. The origin of the cult and of the festival went back many centuries. Local myths concerning the famous Pelops, the first ruler of the region, and the river Alpheios, betray the close ties between the sanctuary and both the East and West.
Remains of food and burnt offerings dating back to the 10th century BC give evidence of a long history of religious activity at the site. No buildings have survived from this earliest period of use. The first Olympic festival was organised on the site by the authorities of Elis in the 8th century BC – with tradition dating the first games at 776 BC. The classical period, between the 5th and 4th centuries BC, was the golden age of the site at Olympia. A wide range of new religious and secular buildings and structures were constructed. During the Roman period, the games were opened up to all citizens of the Roman Empire. The 3rd century saw the site suffer heavy damage from a series of earthquakes. Invading tribes in 267 AD led to the centre of the site being fortified with material robbed from its monuments. Despite the destruction, the Olympic festival continued to be held at the site until the last Olympiad in 393 AD, after which the Christian emperor Theodosius I implemented a ban.
The archaeological site is located withing walking distance of the modern village called Ancient Olympia and it includes ruins from Bronze Age to the Byzantine eras. The site covers an expanded area of ruins scattered among low trees, as well as the ancient stadium where the Olympics took place. An impressive array of artefacts, which were unearthed during excavations, is on exhibition at the nearby Olympia Museum. At the archaeological site one can admire: