Olympia

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.

image XIX

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.

Delos

East Gate of the Gods

Delos is located in the middle of an island complex whose colonists are basically Ionian, who at least since 700 B.C. organized common celebrations in Delos.
When it became famous as a religious center, it was claimed by many cities like Naxos and Paros, but it was the Athenians who took it under their protection circa in 540 B.C. removing all of the graves from the island.
In 426 B.C. it was forbidden to the Delians to die on the island.

images XIV-XV-XVI

In the 6th century B.C., with the final conquest of Eleusis, what was a religious theory started to be materialized with the removal of the graves from the island to the nearby island Rineia (image XIV); namely the creation of Life (Delos) in the east and Death (Necromanteion) in the west. Moreover during the Delian celebrations, the executions in Athens were postponed, as in the case of Socrates.
Births on the island were also forbidden; so the Delians lost their citizenship with the consent of the Spartans, who replied to the Delians, when they asked for their help, that Delos was not their homeland, since they could not die or be born there. Namely the island had to remain pure like Apollo (Sun).

If there was no reason for the alignment of the three sacred sites (Delos, Delphi and Necromanteion), they would logically have to be placed in different positions within Greece. Namely Delos does not correspond with a god of Rebirth like Apollo, who should have been born in a cave and in an area with rich vegetation, like the Minoan Zeus. Delos is a barren, water-less island, without any natural ports.

In fact the only cave in mount Kynthos (112,6 meters) is linked to a sanctuary of Heracles of the 3rd century B.C. (image XV). If it was not about a religious issue, the Delians would have been able to live on their island and practice religion like the residents of Eleusis. Finally there would be some kind of reaction from the other tribes, so there also must have existed a decision by the priesthood of Delphi, for the Athenians to undertake such an expensive project, but also of great strategical importance.
In 1100 B.C. when the Priesthood of Apollo took over the shrine of the chthonic gods in Delphi, the myth about the birth of the god naturally did not exist, which was to be desperately sought after by the clergy on the axis Necromateion – Delphi. However at a certain point in time the myth of the birth of Apollo was completed and Delos appeared as the birthplace of the god. On the other hand, the Odyssey and the Homeric hymn to Apollo, mention in circa 700 B.C. Delos as an Ionian center, where the Naxians had placed an Apollo of huge size. Therefore during this period there was great pressure by the clergy for the completion of the cult in accordance with the myth.
So in 540 B.C., the clergy of Delphi authorized Peisistartus to begin purging the island, removing the graves which were moved to the nearby island of Rineia. However what followed was the fall of tyranny and the Persian Wars, where the Persians respected Apollo and his island. In 478 B.C. Delos became a religious center under the supervision of Athens. So in 426 B.C. the second and more complete purging of the island from the graves took place and the religious Orphic template of worship was completed.
So then when we recall the chapters on Delphi and the Necromanteion and link them to the events of Delos, we will observe a uniform religious logic, according to the Orphic standard, where, despite the political disputes of the city-states, the religious program of Delphi continues to exist and to be structured with the Clergy serving as the connective tissue.

The barren island of Delos on its long side has an orientation from north to south. It is 5 km long and 1,3 km wide. Its highest point is Kynthos (112 m.) which was also the sacred mountain of the Delians in earlier times (image XV).
We already mentioned about Delos that Zeus, for the sake of the mother of Apollo, Leto, who found sanctuary there, fixed it forever on four pillars, and renamed it from Ortygia to Delos. The main sacred site of the god is found on the western side of the island, because it is from the west that its connection with Delphi and the Necromanteion can be achieved. Athens organized the “Delia” there every four years, during the month Mounichion (April-May), when the zodiac of Taurus appeared in the sky (image 5), which was associated with the constellation of Auriga, which was associated with the mythological Erichthonius or Erechtheus, the son of Polias Athena and Hephaestus. But also Taurus (Bull) symbolized Theseus who captured the bull of Marathon and sacrificed it in the temple of Apollo in Athens.

It was the time when Leto started having childbirth pains, which lasted for nine days and nine nights. All of the goddesses came to her aid, except for Hera and Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, who was prevented from doing so by the jealous Hera. Finally Iris convinced her by giving her some gift and thus Leto gave birth near the sacred lake (image XVI). Alongside Apollo she also brought Artemis into the world. In the end these two gods started having the advantage in the Greek Pantheon. They are a combination of Nature (Artemis) and its Rebirth (Apollo). That is why this festival was held during the time when even this barren land is changed by nature with wild flowers and low vegetation. For this reason Leto gives birth to her children near a circular lake, which is fueled by the gully Inopus, which springs from mount Kynthos, which became the mountain of Zeus, and after it flows fro 1.200 meters and fills the sacred lake, it spills to the bay of Scardana nearby.

She hugged the palm tree (Leto)
and supported the knees
on the tender meadow and the earth
bellow smiled
and as He (Apollo) came into the light, all
as one the goddesses cheered.

In all of the archaeological sites we visited the scenes exceed the human imagination. The Ancients had the ability to transform even barren wastelands like Delos, into an unsurpassed theatrical show.
The character of Delos, pretty much like that of Dion, is cosmopolitan, because alongside the sanctuaries of the Greeks, foreign religions started entering the island, by Egyptians, Phoenicians, Arabs, Jews, and even Samaritans. After all the Greeks as a commercial people could combine worship with trade without any problems. So, pretty much like in the case of Dion, as early as 166 B.C., districts of diverse racial origin started to form, without an urban design, contrary to Dion, due to the sudden commercial upgrade of the island, which in circa 90 B.C. had 30.000 inhabitants.

According then to everything we mentioned, Delos was the commercial, but also the religious gate of Greece. Further along the same axis (image XVIII), in Rhodes, there was the famous temple of the Sun, where Apollo started his route from on a quadriga. The gate of the gods was on this side, since the souls ascended after the death of the body, following the upwards path of the Sun, in correlation with the gate of mortals we mentioned in the Necromanteion, where the souls descend to be reincarnated, following the downward path of the Sun. So Delos was a “component” of an entire religious and commercial logic; it was through this gate that the export and import of new gods was carried out headed for the philosophical Athens, where the new ideas were being processed. The Church Fathers, like Basil of Caesarea (330-379 A.D.) will study in these schools to enrich their knowledge which will be used in the new worship of Christ.