Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Katakolon (Olympia), Greece November 10, 2009

We had very heavy storms all night after leaving Corfu. The captain came on the speaker early in the AM to announce that the stop in Katakolon(Olympia, Greece was being cancelled because of the storms; we were behind schedule; further storms were forecast; and we would have to press on to make it to Athens in time. So we had an extra day at sea today. The director made several morning announcements about changes and additions to the schedule and kept waking us us. They put out a new version of the daily newsletter to add in some activities.

I went to a water-color class, but was tired and in an irritable mood and left it early without learning much. The teacher kept getting sidetracked with one or two students and leaving the rest of the class to muddle through. The folks sitting with me got involving in a political discussion, and those who know me well know that that will get me out of a room about as fast as anything. Jim went to a movie while I went to the class.

The evening entertainment was the very funny comedy pianist, Jon Courtenay, again!. He wasn't quite as funny tonight as he was Sunday, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching and listening to him play the piano. He had composed a very funny song about "An Extra Day at Sea" that had the audience eating out of his hand.

Here is information I gathered about Katakolon (Olympia) before we left Atlanta:

Katakolon is a seaside town in western Ilia in the municipality of Pyrgos. The town center is within a gulf overlooking the Ionian Sea. Katakolon is situated on a peninsula. The Lighthouse of Katakolon was first opened in 1865, and the town has a population of 612 inhabitants.

Katakolon is THE gateway to Olympia, where the ancient Greeks flocked every four years for more than a millennium to celebrate the games. Here you can see the ruins of the Sanctuary, with its athletic quadrangles, stadium, temples and treasuries as well as the modern Archaeological Museum, a treasure house of Archaic, Classical and Roman sculptures, including the famous Niki Winged Victory.

Interesting Facts about the Ancient Olympic Games:

Tradition holds that the first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC, but they might actually have started way before then. The games were a peace treaty between Sparta and Elis, and it was soon decided that all Greek states could take part in them as long as they respected the sacred truce that must be held during the games. This period of peace was for a month at first, but because so many states took part and people from all over came to watch, it was extended to three months, always during summer. Because the sacred truce gave the kings and leaders from all over Greece a chance to meet unarmed, Olympia became an important place for political discussions and trade. It also enhanced the feeling of unity amongst the Greeks, along with the language and religion. Olympia has cultivated ideals since ancient times. It was never just the games, but also the honour, the peace, the struggle and the body - all in one.

Famous people, such and Plato and Aristotle, came here to watch the games. In the 6th century BC, Thales of Miletus died of a heat stroke here. Gelon and Hieron of Syracusae competed in the games, and so did Alcibiades, Alexander the Great and Nero.

Slaves and women, especially married ones, were strictly forbidden to watch the games, and if a woman was caught as a spectator, she was immediately thrown off Mt. Typaeon. Women could compete though, and besides that, the Heraia ,foot races for young maids in the area, were also held here. Barbarians were allowed to watch, but not to compete. A competitor had to be a free, unpunished Greek, and he had to have trained for the games in his home for ten months, and for one month in Olympia.

The winners did not receive any money, but were greatly honored. The prize was an olive wreath from Zeus's holy tree, and the winner was allowed to raise a victory statue. In his hometown he would usually be given free meals for the rest of his life, and it is said that a town with a champion would tear down its wall since they no longer needed one with such an athlete as a citizen.

If an athlete was caught cheating, perhaps through bribing or poisoning, he was forced to finance a statue of Zeus where his and his family's name would be put along with a description of what he had done. Then the statue was put near the entrance of the stadium, so that the athletes would see them before the games.

From the year 472 the games were held during five days instead of the original one. On the first day the competitors would register, take a sacred oath that they had trained for ten months and that they would respect the rules. On this day there was a competition between the heralds. On the second day the horse races and Pentathlon were held. On the third the track races took place. On the fourth there was wrestling, boxing and Pancrateon. On the fifth day the prizes were handed out, with celebrations following.

During the Classical period the great temple of Zeus was built. Inside the temple stood the statue of the god, made by Phidias . We only know about this statue through coins and descriptions, and it was supposedly 13,5 meters (37,5 feet) high. It pictured a sitting Zeus with the goddess Nike in his right hand and a scepter in his left. The statue was made of gold and ivory, and was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It disappeared towards the end of the 4th century AD.

In the 4th century BC the whole stadium was moved to the East and slopes were made on the sides for the spectators. Alexander the Great competed during the games. He didn't win, but proved to be a good loser.

The Romans conquered Greece in the 2nd century BC and they took many of the treasures of Olympia with them. Sulla even tried to relocate the games to Rome, but failed. Even so, the Olympic Games lost their importance and were just held for show. During Augustus'S reign Olympias status was enhanced again.

Nero came to Greece in AD 67 and took part in the horse races. Although he fell off his chariot, he had himself declared winner and then took many statues with him. Herodes Atticus built a nympheum here, and its fountain provided the area with drinking water.

Because Germanic tribes ravaged Athens and the Peloponnese, many buildings were torn down in the 3rd century, and the materials were used to build fortifications in Olympia. They never actually came here, but in the 4th century the games were banned by emperor Theodosius. The whole sanctuary was shut down in 426. One of the main reasons was the the Olympic Games were now considered pagan by the Christian emperor, and the competitors' nakedness highly immoral.

In the 6th century earthquakes destroyed the buildings in Olympia, and it was filled with mud from the flooded rivers Kladeos and Alfeos. Landslides from Mt. Kronion finally covered the whole area up.The sanctuary was discovered in 1776, and in 1829 French archaeologists started excavating the site. The first modern Olympic Games were held in Berlin in 1936. The irony of it all is that the ancient games would stop the wars, but the modern ones have been stopped by wars on a few occasions.

1 comment:

Lyn said...

Oh, bummer! The water-color class sounds like it could have been so much fun! Was the storm scary? You didn't write a farewell letter and tie it to your body, did you? teehee