Katakolon

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 and has a lighthouse found in the southwest. The Lighthouse of Katakolon was first opened in 1865 and the town has a population of 612 inhabitants. Katakolon is your gateway to Olympia, where the ancient Greeks flocked every four years for more than a millennium to celebrate the sacred games dedicated to Zeus. Visit the ruins of the Sanctuary, with its athletic quadrangles, stadium,temples and treasuries; then browse in the modern Archaeological Museum, a treasure house of Archaic, Classical and Roman sculptures, including the famous Niki Winged Victory.

Olympia – Olympic Games

Visiting the archaeological site and museum, you will walk in one of the most important sanctuaries of ancient Greece. Situated in the landscape of Elis, by the foot of Mt. Kronion, Olympia invites you to take part in the history of Greece.


The area of Olympia was already inhabited in the beginning of the 2nd Millennium BC, if not earlier. There was a cult here before Zeus, probably to Gaea .

Tradition holds that the first Olympic Games were held in 776BC, 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 was to be renovated many times, and new buildings were added through the ages. Famous people came here to watch the games, such and Plato and Aristotle , and before them, in the 6th century BC, Thales of Miletus had died of a heat stroke here. Gelon and Hieron of Syracusae were to compete in the games, and so was 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 were also held here; foot races for young maids in the area.

Non-Greeks, called barbarians at the time, 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 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.

Find more about Olympia and Olympic Games in our guided tour to the site.

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