Sports Center of Greece
As we observed when we mentioned Delphi, with the descend of the Dorians in the 12th century B.C. the reorganizing of the basic shrines within the Greek region begins, centered around Delphi, without however abolishing the secondary sites.
In image 13 of the 1st Part of the book Holy Sacramental Journey to Greece, aside from the connections of the shrines, we should also see how the basic sanctuaries are spread out, namely those the echo of which reaches us even to this day and age; which however are not city-states and serve a particular purpose. These are: Olympus, the Necromanteion, Delphi, Eleusis, Delos, Epidaurus and Olympia. Namely 7 shrines, which for the Pythagoreans is the perfect number. Sacred sites, each of which plays a particular role within the Greek region. They are geographically scattered, but axially connected to each other with a certain proportionate distance; and this is quite reasonable because each site is part of a whole.
So there is a mythological kinship between these sites. Namely Zeus occupies the sacred sites of Olympus (Dion) and Olympia. His sister Demeter with their daughter Persephone are found in Eleusis, while Persephone is also found in the Necromanteion with the brother of Zeus, Hades. The son of Zeus Apollo occupies Delos with his sister Artemis, and with his brother Dionysus he occupies Delphi, while the grandson of Zeus, Asclepius, the son of Apollo, is found in Epidaurus. These gods function as units, but also as duos, creating a system of balance.
From all of those gods Apollo comes second to Zeus, because he possesses Delphi, namely the administrative priestly center. When Zeus struck Asclepius, the son of Apollo, down with lightning, because he was raising the dead, Apollo took revenge by killing the Cyclopes who forged the divine lightning bolt. Thus Zeus punished Apollo and sent him to serve the king of Pherae of Thessaly, Admetus, who had him guard his herds, and that was the end of the quarrel. This means that Zeus remains above Apollo as the creator god.
Having a system where each god corresponds to his role, without the mythology being disproved or contradictory, is a quite difficult task; especially if we extend to the entire Mythological Pantheon, also including Astrology. So, besides fantasy, great planning by thousands of individuals is required, who possess exceptionally strong memory, since they did not have the technological aid of computers in order to be able to live up to their task, without disturbing the “world” of the believers of the city-states.
Olympia, like the Necromanteion, is located in the western part of Greece. As we noticed at a previous point, according to image XVIII, Delos (City of Light) and Epidaurus (113th Olympic Games) are located on the side of the gate of the gods, in the eastern part of Greece, where the souls ascend, like the Sun. In the western part of Greece, the souls descend like the Sun, to be reincarnated, according to the Platonic philosophers. So then, since this celebration was held in honor of dead heroes, like Pelops who organized the Olympic Games and Heracles thanks to whom the games started to be held again after they had fallen into decline, this also means the theoretical participation of the heroes in the games, as reincarnated athletes. This is also evident in the case of Alexander but also Pyrrhus, who imitated Heracles against Rome which had the form of the Lernaean Hydra. That is why they were held every four years, during the full moon, after the Summer Solstice, during the month Hekatombaion (July-August), when the Sun in its descending course, passes through the zodiac of Leo, which symbolized the Nemean Lion, namely the first labor of Heracles (image 5, photo I).
We observe then, how reasonably the Olympic games are defined, where the myth is accompanied by its corresponding zodiac sign which is also the beginning of the labors of Heracles, namely Heracles begins with his labors based on the “Unit”. Apollo according to the Pythagoreans was the Unit, namely the Sun which transitioned through the zodiac of Leo, but also Zeus because he was the beginning of everything, namely the guardian god of Olympia, but also the beginning of the yearly calendar. They used to call the unit Hearth or fire, namely the flame we get with mirrors from the rays of the Sun. They also called the Unit Chaos, darkness, chasm, Tartarus or Styx, which has to do with the chthonic character of the Olympic games.
In order for the athlete to enter the stadium he would go under the “crypt”, which indicates a hiding place or an underground unseen place. The crypt was an archway (consecutive arches) which started at the Lodge of Sound, a fact that points us to the logic of the Theater, where the sound originates in the chthonic space through the Chaeronian scale ( Theater of Dion). Consequently the Stadium is the chthonic space, where the victor, emerging again from the crypt, functions pretty much like Heracles (see Necromanteion in Land of the Dead), when he visited Hades and fought Cerberus, whom he brought back in chains to present to Eurystheus. This archway, but also the arch, will become in later times, the Arcs of Triumph. The victor then, emerging triumphant from the crypt, is like he is beating death. Thus he gains more prestige in the eyes of the people who see him pass through and he himself becomes a symbol and a demigod. The city of the victor then, has no need of walls, which it symbolically demolishes, in order fro their demigod, the new Heracles, to enter the city.
According to Hippias of Elis (400 B.C.), the first officially established Olympic Games, took place in 776 B.C., reorganized by the legislator of Sparta Lycurgus and Cleisthenes of Pisa, by order of the king of Elis, Iphitus. They were abolished by Theodosius I in 393 A.D.
The presence of Heracles in the space of Olympia reasonably brings about the presence of his father Zeus, who, through the games of his son recognizes the games of the Greeks in this space. The three month “Truce” then is the proposal of the Priesthood so that the tribal disputes end and the struggle to become an athletic event without casualties.
The three months of the truce was the time needed by the athlete of even the most remote colony, to reach Olympia to compete and leave without any problems. In the 5th century, the population of the 3.000 colonies reached at least 9 million inhabitants; including Greece, the population of the Greek world was roughly 15-20 millions, when Egypt had 8 millions. Namely we are dealing with a population that in today’s standards would be about 250-300 millions. Opening a map of the colonies, let us imagine all of these movements of the athletes. During this period there was a general excitement in all of the Mediterranean and the region of the Black Sea, directed to Olympia. Athletes, friends and relatives, alongside the representatives of the city-states, struggled with the waves for three months. They stopped in intermediary stations along the way, talked, laughed, traded views. The entire Greek world was set in motion, because viewers from everywhere flocked there. The rest of the world, the so-called “Barbarians”, saw, listened, but did not understand why someone would go there to receive an olive wreath.
The issue however is, that this way Olympia became a vast information center, through a language (like the Internet), connected to 3.000 service providing centers, where the actor was human memories. This way the Greek world achieved greatness. Whoever reached Olympia, would find his world there and with him he would bring samples of his achievements abroad, pretty much like the migrating Greek of America does nowadays. So then, Herodotus (484-420 B.C.) did not have to travel to gather information; it was enough to ask a colonist, on his way to Olympia. In any case, through this process the Greek knew everything. So then, Olympia was not just an athletic center, but also an information center, with a radius of at least 2.500 kilometers. Otherwise we would not be talking about Hellenism today, after the pressure of the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires.
This information was spread by those attending the games in every direction within Greece. As far as the North, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace, where the athletes and visitors came from-most of them by sea, because we should consider that the journey by land from Athens took at least five days.
All of the city-states were interested in knowing what existed in these foreign lands, in order to organize trading missions. It was the source of information of the clergy which directed colonization, beyond scouting missions, like the Argonautic campaign. After that the processing of information and the exchange of views started, the conclusion of deals, the re-connection with the Metropolis and many more. So when all of these people left for the faraway colonies, took along with the soil of the homeland, new commercial ideas. This led the trading city-states to develop banking systems of loans, interests, checks and remittances. Athens as early as the 5th century B.C. had may bankers outside of the city, in the colonies, such as Alexandria where the Athenian currency was in large circulation. Otherwise the system of colonies developed by the Greek world would not be able to function. Thus, as P.Leveque mentions, the colonies managed to change the inland, like in Egypt of the Ptolemies, which was in the neolithic era. The Greeks brought about the agricultural and husbandry revolution, thanks to the import of iron tools and all kinds of new plants or animals, like fig trees, pomegranates, walnut trees, but also garlic, sheep and donkeys.
Therefore we should not view the site of Olympia through the narrow context of the athletic games. Because if that was the case, the Olympic games would be held nowadays permanently in Greece, while in fact there is a “battle” to determine who is going to undertake the organizing of the event. And of course we are referring to a people which based on its commercial spirit, spread out to all of the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, primarily to trade.
When any night of the year, in the clear sky, we observe the multitude of constellations with the naked eye, all that we shall see, except for some for which we need the aid of a telescope, are about the Greek Mythology, with the shape and the actions of it’s gods and heroes. So, for 365 days a year the population of Greece sees in its sky the astral contribution of their ancestors to all of the peoples of the earth. In a circular correspondence of the Pan-Hellenic sanctuaries. And naturally it is unthinkable whether man will ever be able to reach these constellations. The sacred centers may be destroyed, but all this celestial dome remains eternally there.
So then when the summer of the Olympics arrives, we shall also see the constellation of Heracles (image 5) fighting the Lernaean Hydra (Draco constellation), according to Eudoxus, which is about his second labor.
image 5 – Constellation of Hydra (Draco constellation)
All of the celebrations mentioned, started with the full moon, which appeared in each zodiac through which it completed its phases (Moon phases), following the attic lunar calendar or the lunar-solar calendar of the Macedonians. That is why Greece did not have a unified calendar. And all of this without the aid of computers.
There are two important characteristics of the sacred site: The one was that the games were not limited only to men, but there were also women games, where only virgins were are allowed to compete in. They competed in a 160 meter race, that is why the temple of Hera of 600 B.C. exists. As far as the men were concerned, after they swore an Oath to Zeus Horkios on the first day, on the second day there was a children race, wrestling, boxing and pankration. On the third day there were chariot races and the pentathlon (jumping, discus throw, stadium, javelin throw and wrestling). On the fourth day there were the men sporting events of racing, wrestling, boxing, pankration and shield racing. The last day was reserved for awarding the winners and for the sacrifices to the gods.
The other characteristic was the Zanes, namely bronze statues of Zeus which were placed before the entrance of the stadium, funded by the fines of those who broke the Games rules.
The temples of Hera and Zeus axially face Delos (image XIX), recreating the myth of the birth of Apollo. But aside from the temples, offerings, altars, statues and treasuries (small buildings where precious offerings to the sacred sites were kept), Olympia also possessed a well organized athletic infrastructure, with a gymnasium for the training of the athletes, a wrestling ring, guesthouse, the so called Leonidaion, the prytaneion for housing foreign important visitors, a bouleuterion for the political and social operation of the site and the Hellanodikaion for the Hellanodikai who judged the result of the games.
In the 2nd century B.C., the Olympics decline under the poor management of the civilization by the Diadochi of the Hellenistic period, who promoted the Games held in their own newly founded states. During this period, frugality is replaced by luxury and the political promotion of the king. So they were turned from games of worship to games of spectacle, that is why new athletic events were added and the athletes gradually became professionals. During the first period of the Roman conquest (146 B.C.), there were serious damage and pillaging like that of Sulla, but later on during the Imperial era, Olympia regained its former prestige, with many building projects, without however the athletic ideal of the pre-Hellenistic era returning. The celebrations continue until 393 B.C. when Theodosius I forbids them and in 426 B.C. Theodosius II orders the destruction of the temples.