Pictures to come.
Today I went with Katy for a run around Olympia. Much to our quads’ dismay, it is quite hilly in this area and the steep inclines hurt pretty badly. I think tomorrow morning I may do a Crossfit WOD with Ali and/or Katy.
After a [sweaty] breakfast and a shower, we left for the Ancient Olympia. We talked about the Pankration, which was an event that was a combination of boxing and wrestling where the only rules were: no eye-gouging, biting, or genital-grabbing.
The Games distinguished not by weight, but by whether someone was a “boy” or a “man”. So a tiny 19-year-old could be against a giant 35-year-old veteran. People could break fingers and limbs and were often depicted bleeding out their mouths or noses. People could win an event by pure reputation and intimidation, the other person chickening out, and that was considered the greatest victory of all.
After discussing boxing, we moved on to a building that Phidias used to sculpt the Statue of Zeus at Olympia. (We stood in that building. That is amazing to me.) According to myth, Phidias asked Zeus for his approval of the statue and Zeus sent a lightning bolt into the Temple of Zeus that left a sacred spot there.
We walked through the Temple of Hera (couldn’t touch this one, though) and then saw the altar on which the Olympic torch has been lit since 1936. The torch was lit by using a mirror to reflect sunlight, because it was a very natural way to light it. It was Germany’s idea to light the torch there and bring it to Berlin. Germany was using the Olympics that year to try to show off their superior race; in addition, the swastika’s roots are in Mycenaean culture.
Then we headed to the stadium. On the way to the tunnel, there was a line of bronze statues of Zeus that were paid for by the fines of athletes who had cheated at the Games. This was to remind athletes right before they competed of the oath they’d taken to Zeus to be fair.
Then we ran the dialos–I was in my Tevas, but I did it! It’s longer than it looks, about 400m. It seems a lot shorter before you start running. As we started running, Zeus got set off or something and the thunder boomed.
We hit the museum after that, looking at the recreation of the sides of the Temple of Zeus. One side told the story of Pelops and the other told the battle of the Lapiths and the Centaurs with Apollo in the middle. These were Greek sculptors’ last experiment with motion and age. We saw some bronze offerings and cauldrons. There were 20 times as many helmets as we saw in the museum, and we saw rows and rows of them. Their shields were 12-15 lbs, and actual soldiers didn’t carry their own shit to battle.
We also saw a helmet of Miltiades, a general at the Battle of Marathon. It read, “Miltiades to Zeus”. In a part of the museum that held all the findings from Phidias’s workshop, there was a wine cup, like a mug, that read, “I belong to Phidias,” and Aristotle got really excited about that one.
The last artifact we saw was the statue of Hermes and Dionysus, which got its own room in the museum. I was a beautiful, shiny marble statue, thought to be the work of a famous sculptor named Praxiteles. However, Aristotle brought us to a corner and whispered out of earshot of the guards that it may be a copy. There is great archaeological debate over whether it is Praxiteles’s or not. There are tool marks in the back of it as well as other things that don’t quite add up.
After the museum we ate lunch at an overpriced taverna at which a baptism party was happening! We saw children and a clown playing games, coloring, and generally being small children.
After that we sat by the pool for about 15 minutes before it started raining, and then we gave up and went inside.
After dinner there was an awesome dance lesson from some Greek folk dancers! They performed a bit for us and we got to learn some, too. We even got Aristotle to join. It was a blast. Also, most of their dances are in a ¾ time signature which was interesting.
FUN FUN FACTS FOR YOU, SPECIAL PRICE, YOU LIKE
1. “Gymnasium” comes from the word “gymnos” that means “naked”. It was a building where people trained in the nuuuuuude.
2. Referees of boxing/wrestling/pankration would hit the competitors with a stick if they tried to rest.
3. Athletes would rub olive oil on themselves before competing, and often come back covered in oil, sweat, dirt, blood, etc. They’d scrape it off into a jar and sell it to spectators. It was called “gloios” and it was supposed to give you the strength/appearance of the athlete. (YOU WANT CALVES LIKE ACHILLES?! YOU HAAAAVE TO GET SOME OF HIS BLOOD SWEAT GOO!)
4. The altar of Zeus at Olympia was basically a pile of bones and ash from previously sacrificed things. It was 7m high and 35m wide.
5. The only woman allowed in the Games was the priestess of Demeter. There was a separate festival, the Heraea, in which women could compete. The finish line in the stadium for women was set shorter than the men’s to show women’s inferiority. (Don’t get me started, okay?)
NOW HERE ARE ALL OF MY FEELS
I really enjoyed Olympia. My favorite part was the Zanes, the statues made from cheaters’ fines, and the tunnel to the stadium. It was really cool to walk where those athletes walked and imagine the crowds cheering for them as they exited the tunnel.
The boisterous baptism party also interested me. Kids are little shits, but I felt like it was an important cultural event and I’m glad I had the opportunity to see part of it.
The dancing was AMAZINNNNGGG. It was so much fun, and most everyone seemed to let loose and enjoy themselves. Some people got videos, so that’ll be fun to watch. 😀
I really enjoyed Olympia. I got closer with some of the girls on the trip and the large amount of information given to us is starting to come together into coherence in my brain.
Tomorrow is a travel day! 7 hours on the bus plus an hour and a half on the ferry to Corfu!