The Olympic Games began in ancient Greece in 776 BC and continued until 395 AD. The games were held at Olympia on the Peloponnesse and attracted visitors from all over the Greek world. The central attraction was the games, of course, but Olympia, the site of the games, was also a reason many visitors came just to see this huge architectural achievement.
The games were held in honor of Zeus, the supreme god in Greek mythology, and visitors to Olympia were making a pilgrimage to Zeus's most sacred place, the grove known as Altis (Swaddling 7). There are several legends regarding the origin of the games, and the date ascribed to that event is traditional but uncertain. Indeed, competitions were held on an annual basis before 776 BC on an unofficial basis. One of the legends involved the Delphic Oracle calling for the reinstitution of the games after a period of civil war, and the idea of the Olympic Truce would become a major instrument in the unification of the Greek states and colonies (Swaddling 9).
The Olympia site was rediscovered in 1766 by Richard Chandler, an English antiquarian. The site had been chosen originally for its strategic position but was destroyed by natural forces peculiar to that area, such as earthquakes and winter storms. Full-scale excavations would not be carried out until 1875 (Swaddling 13). The site contained more than two dozen major buildings and structures around the hill of Knossos, and these included religious and civic monuments as well as sports stadiums and the like.
The Greek aesthetic style developed over the centuries along with the structures at Olympia, which date as far back as the tenth century BC, and Greek society changed over these centuries as well. Egyptian influence can be seen in Greece from the early Geometric Period. The Geometric Period was an era which produced a good deal of pottery and other geometrically regular works. The Geometric Period is the name given to...