Nikos E. Politis,
a distinguished journalist and historian has written the
definitive history of Patras Carnival showing a strong evolution
in each decade undergoing much change. The strongest factor has
been the emergence of Patras as a trade center and the urban
center for Greeks from Ionian Islands. [source:
womanway.eu pdf] [The Carnival of Patras, Achaikes
Publications, Patra 1987
|Patras Carnival or Patrino karnavali
is special, the energy and participation level lets the Carnival rightly declare themselves
as among the world's greatest Carnivals.
Carnival Capital 2010
host of the FECC Carnival City Congress
Greece, for over 2,500 years, has
been celebrated as the birthplace of the Bacchic rites, the best known of all annual festival
traditions. Patras, unlike other Greek cities, has little trace ofthis
ritual but still gathers a frenzy that extends throughout the country as
the town fills with frenzy and many more watch on TV. This celebration rose quickly from the
epicenter of the Greek independence movement in 1829 following many
waves of French and Venetian influence and has sought to be a beacon of
future Carnaval in Greece -- the widely considered birthplace of
|The Carnival of Patras
combines the best French and Italian
Carnivals with a scale of participation rarely found
except in the largest Carnivals of Brazil and the
like any great Carnival, believes its Carnival should be shared and the
spirit passed on, holding up the Patras Carnival as a winning model for a 21st century
Carnival while also honoring the strong national Carnaval traditions
which have remained strong in many communities through Greece. The Carnival of Patras is hailed by the
natives, not only for the massive participation of the locals but for
helping to create the most emancipated and progressive women of Greece. The
culmination of the Patras Carnival season occurs with a massive extravagant parade
on Carnival Sunday featuring some of the best
floats built in Europe but also the creative enthusiasm of dancers and
musicians giving their full spirit to living life joyfully in the
For the Grand Parade on Carnaval Sunday
over 40.000 masqueraders will let Patras hold the crown as the largest
in the Balkans and among the largest anywhere in the world.
This is possible
because of the enthusiastic participation of the youth whose
participation since 1979, has
been nothing short of phenomenal.
joy would touch must share it. Happiness was born a Twin."
a local hero of Greek Independence
and renowned poet and author
Greek Dionysus festivals not only represent the strongest root
of global Carnival but also gave rise to the theatre arts of
comedy and tragedy. Patras
is well known for its
summer International Festival of the
Arts, which is held throughout the summer at many venues
The Patras Carnaval traces itself to
impressive French masqued Carnaval Balls in the early 19th century which
immediately followed the French led liberation from Ottoman rule. A half
century later, Italian Carnevale paper mache floats were introduced and
the Patras Carnival parade was off to a grand start.
Historically, the Venetian empire never lost a number
of the nearby Ionian Islands including Corfu and traded control of many
coastal cities and islands including Patras over the centuries leading
to liberation in 1828. Patras is surrounded by mountains which long
harbored autonomous Greek communities. The relationship between Patras
and Italy has generally been one of mutual prosperity and good will and
the Carnaval encourages and enjoys its international reputation.
The Carnival begins on January 17th on
Anthony’s day and lasts up to
the first day of Lent which under the
slightly different Orthodox calendar begins on Clean Monday. Greece
is one of Europe's most religious countries and Lent and many religious
holidays are observed by most. Saint Anthony is best known for resisting
Patras is the ambitious metropolitan
gateway to the west for Greece. Besides building a festival model for the country, Patras
has opened the University of Patras  a top European University for
over 20,000 students, as well as Saint Andrew's, the largest orthodox
and most recently the much hailed
landmark Rio-Antonini Bridge , the first to ever cross the gulfs
to the Peloponnese in 4,500 years. Patras believes it should be
considered not just the ferry gateway to Europe but also the gateway to
the many ancient Greek archeological sites of the Peloponnese.
Patras Carnival is well known
throughout Greece as its finale and is a favorite annual event on
television. The engagement of the entire country has begun months before
with official appearances of the Carnival Queen and the Carnival train
which leaves Athens and passes through many other cities on its way to
the Carnival capital of Patras.
takes place on Saint Anthony's Feast Day
Anthony (17 January). The opening ceremony takes place on
Georgiou Square and
includes pantomimes, dances, music and
The first official appearance of the Carnival
Queen, the departure of the Carnival from Athens, the delivery
of the message of the carnival's commencement at all stops it
makes, the Carnivalist's vow and the previews of the splendor of
the Patra Carnival to come have been prominent parts of the
countdown in recent years.
--- BBQ or Fat
really takes off
11 days before Ash Monday with lots of meat barbequing
throughout Greece on "Burnt Thursday"
|Roasting meat on this day is a nation-wide custom as the
observance of Lent,
Tsiknopempti comes from two other words 'tsikna' (the smell of
burnt and grilled meat) and 'Pempti' (Thursday in Greek)
In some places in Greece, especially in nearby countryside of
Peloponissos, the week of Tsiknopempti, people butcher their
pigs and prepare delicious mezedes: "pixti", "omatia", "tsigarides",
sausages, and more. Carnaval Sunday begins on the following
"pure" Monday so this is also known as "Meat-eating
Sunday" Groups of people meet up in tavernas and homes to
celebrate, with, of course, the inevitable accompaniment of wine
In Patras, the Upper Town streets fill will outdoor
barbecues, live band music and folk musicians, choir concerts
with songs from the first half of the 20th century
Carnival Tradition since the sixties
considers the turning point for the present Carnival,when
participation surged from thousands to tens of thousands and
heightened awareness to have come in 1966 with the introduction
of the "Treasure Hunt Game".
In 1966, less than 100 people from the
core crews of the carnival float cars
lauched a Carnival tradition unique to Patras. Many of the wild
interactive challenges came from the mind of Alkis Steas. In
the first game there would be a car with two women, one wearing
a black domino and the other a bikini, and they were to search
for hidden items following instructions delivered on a radio
they received. During the 80's 2,000 participated while in the
first decade of the 21st century participation is nearly 50,000.
The "Treasure Hunt Game" is a series of questions,
riddles and activities, Contestants representing their groups
take part in pantomime, mixed spectacle, theatre, dance,
creations and quizzes. Fantasy, talent, multiversity, laughter,
variety and liveliness come together to add something original
and extraordinary to the Patras Carnival each year.
The Bourboulia - only in Patras
Women in domino robes maintain a tradition from the
early days of the Carnival when
the first mixing of social classes and unescorted
women occurred following French liberation from the
|The most famous unique
Carnival tradition of Patras is also its oldest. Women participate in the
Carnival Dance Hall Ball without paying for entry while men must
purchase a ticket. All the women are dressed in a dark
dress with a mask called a "black domino" while the men will be in
regular clothes. During
the dance, women select their dance partner. Besides an
encouragement for the women to act as the sexual aggressor there
is also an equalization of the social classes, particularly
among the women whose background as urban or working class
cannot be distinguished.
It is an empowering female event which allowed escape from daily
routine defined in narrow social terms. According to Mrs.
Ntouli-Dimitropoulou in an interview given in 2006 to
Christiana Grigoriou & Christina Metaxioti for
their published research paper on "The Social Role and the
Cultural Identity of Women in Patra" the special attention given
by the women of Patra to their preparation for the Bourboulia "
makes them all beautiful and they give-off a sense of
self-confidence that they are the most beautiful women in the
world. This is something magical.
For most of its history, no
photographs of the
were allowed and while it is
alleged that every woman in Patra has participated in the
Bourboulia at least once, no one will admit it. Mrs Maria
Iliopoulou, the first women recognized officially for her
Carnival contributions by the Mayor of Patras has also been
responsible for many years for the Bourboulia. She cites St.
Mark's square in Venice as the source for the original costume
design of the domino. While Venice needed heavy material in
warmer Patras silk and satin were favored. The mask is very
important to create the mystery. In fact, Mrs Iliopoulou
believes the Patras Carnival Queen contest should wear masks as
every Queen has her own beauty with her carnival uniform and
thus her real appearance should not be revealed.
Laskarina Bouboulina: Greek heroine of the Greek War
of Independence in 1821
History of the Bourboulia:
Official Carnival history of
Patras usually begins with the first event being ball given in
the Carnival season associated with the merchant class which was
influenced by French Carnaval Balls and Venetian Carnevale
Costumes of St. Marks Square
Patras, a cauldron of the Greek
Independence Movement of the 1820's, hosted its first Carnival
shortly after the French had secured Greece from the Ottomans
General Nicolas Joseph Maison liberated Patras
from the Turks after many centuries with little
resistance. The first recorded Carnival followed a
few months later
The starting event of the
Patras Carnival is a ball given in the residence of the merchant
Moretis in 1829. French troops under the command of General
Maison were stationed in the city after its liberation from the
Turks on 7 October 1828.
The French are often
saluted for their
Carnaval Balls whose costumes would make deep impressions on
local inhabitants. Celebrants would circulate freely from one
ball to another which may not be of your class and so it
was necessary to be masked. The French also had had some
experience standing up to ecclesiastical carnival prescriptions
which in the 17th century ordered the priests at the risk of
fine or of prison " not to dance, either in public, or in
private, not look at people who dance, not to wear long hair,
long beards, red or green shoes in public. Do not walk come
night, not sing profane songs in streets, not execute pieces of
music, not mask ".
Anyone of stature was familiar
with the elegant Carnevale balls of Venice and the many Venetian
colonies in the Mediterranean who sea-faring nature supported
cultural exchange and trade. Patras as the
most strategic port facing Italy had been held and lost by the
Venetians. These very Catholic tradesmen
preceded the period of the
Lenten fast with all forms of festivities: balls, masquerades,
dances, fires of enjoyment, exhibitions of jugglers and mime
would take their arts to the people in streets. The most famous
place for Carnival in Europe then as now is Saint Mark's Square
in Venice. The most prominent costume is a black domino which
the Patras women adopted for warmer weather and simpler masks.
For the first time
in anyone's memory, women in Greece were allowed to go out alone
to meet their friends. For Patras Carnival, the Greek woman
would wear black dominoes, a black dress with a hood along with
a mask, while men were uncovered and normally dressed. Women
belonging to the lower social layers were able to go out on the
streets in groups with a sense of freedom previously
unimaginable and they formed large groups and interacted by
teasing or making fun of the men.
The idea became that this was
an opportunity to express amorous feelings and flirt without
social consequences. The tradition continues to this day. During
the "Bourboulia" there is opportunity to select a partner
without family knowing. It is a dance of flirting and teasing
between men and women in a dance hall. The church objected, even
distributing a brochure which stated: "In Bourboulia a woman was
naked under her domino"
was a social phenomenon that acted beneficially
in order all conservative taboos regarding women
to be reversed...Thus, the Woman of Patra,
quickly adopted the fashion of the time, wore
mini-skirts, smoked large pipes with jasmine
flavor in the aristocratic lobbies of rich
raisin traders during private dances, enriched
her cultural property with dancing lessons,
participated in theatrical carnival plays,
contributed to carnival organizing committees,
mostly expressed their eroticism under black
mask in the well-known dance of "Bouboulia" and
of course they controverted the Church, which
during the 19th and 20th centuries, wanted them
to be debauched because of Carnival and because
of the fact that during Carnival they weren't
under the strict boundaries of their house and
family where they should always belong."
Grigoriou & Christina Metaxioti [more]
This is a traditional custom,
exclusive to Patras. Afternoon dances where ladies enter free,
with neither ticket nor partner, but with a long, airy "domino"
robe and a mask, in order to avoid recognition and select their
dancing partners by their own initiative. During an age when the
relation of the two sexes was under close supervision
WHERE: Megaro Galanopoulou
Roman Odeon) various nights
Thousands of Children
spend many hours in art classes getting ready for
|A spectacular take on the traditional
Carnival for 5000 children who apply artistic skills they are
learning in the classroom to make their contribution to the
community's largest celebration.
Carnival is a form of folk
expression combining many art forms with a special emphasis on
the visual arts. The program allows the children to distinguish
their abilities in artistic expression related to aesthetic or
satirical masquerading while introducing the fun of Carnival to
the younger generation. The Children's Carnival includes a parade with the
participation of masqueraded children's groups from nurseries,
kindergartens, musical schools and anyone who wants to
WHEN: Sunday before Carnival
Starts at Omonia Square with over 5.000 children participants
|Carnival Saturday Night
BOURBOULIA, MOONS, BABY RALLY, and the
NIGHT PARADE on the eve of the last Sunday.
This is also called the "Nihterini
Podarati" [Night Parade on foot].In earlier years, only the
Treasure Hunt groups could participate, without their floats.
However, the last few years every group is free to join. Night,
bright lights, an overwhelming stream of people, colors and high
spirits combine, create a spectacular scene.
Night parade takes places on
Corinthou Street. Starting from Corinthou and Papaflessa street,
it crosses King George Sq. and ends up to Korinthou and
|Carnaval Sunday Grand Parade
whole town, plus more than 300.000 visitors move to the rhythms,
infectious high spirits of the dancing parade participants and
the majesty and surprise of the
gigantic satiric parade floats.
This parade, unlike the Saturday's gets the best
everyone has got to give after many weeks of preparation, its an
extravagance. It starts noon and goes
for many hours.
One of the most striking aspects of the parade is the number of
participants, said to number more than 35,000. This represents
more than a hundred costumed groups or "omadas." These are large
contingents with 50 to 3,000 participants, dressed in fun
costumes and bubbling over with the joy of being part of
Greece's greatest annual celebration of life.
first reference to any vehicle resembling a parade float comes
from Greece in about 500 B.C. when a statue of the god Dionysus
was carried from his temple in a "festival car" pulled by two
men. This procession was part of the opening ceremonies for a
stage drama and was designed to gain favor from both the god and
the drama critics.
WHERE: Takes place along
Corinthou Street, the city’s longest street (5 km), with the
participation of thousands of participants from all carnival
groups. Highlights include chariots of the King of Carnival and
the chariot of the Queen of Carnival as well as the many
exceptional floats built by the artizans working at the Carnival
Workshop of the City of Patras. The float by the traditional
“Chocolate War” and two orchestras of the City of Patras are
|Canival Sunday Night Closing
|Following the Grand Parade on
Sunday are important final events. This is the last Sunday of
the Carnival and the eve of the first day of Lent or Clean
Monday. The Carnival King is called upon to bid farewell to his
subjects and to arrange a date for next year.
King of Carnival Float will be part of the spectacular
The customary meeting of all crews
will happen at the St. Nikolaos Street wharf the central
quay of the Patras harbour. Tradition demands the
announcement of the winners of the Treasure Hunt, the farewell
of the Carnival King and burning of the float ,
announcements about the carnival to come, endless dancing
and fantastic fireworks. The show is broadcast nationally
on TV as are both the Saturday and Sunday parades.
The mayor declares the closing of this year’s Carnival and
officially announces the next year’s theme. All festivities stop at
midnight as everyone observes the beginning of Lent.
The First Day
of Lent Holiday throughout Greece
"The springtime of the
Fast has dawned, the flower of repentance has begun to
|Greece is a relatively
religious country, with a rich heritage of beliefs, traditions
is also known as Ash Monday or Green or Pure Monday. Monday is
the first day of Lent for the Eastern Orthodox Churches which
uses a slightly different older calendar system the Catholic
Church whose holiday is Ash Wednesday.
The first day
of Lent is known as Clean Monday. It is called "clean" because
it marks the start of the Lenten period during when your body
and spirits are "cleansed" to prepare for accepting the
Clean Monday is
a public holiday throughout Greece, a day of great celebration
and traditions. Families take to the beach or countryside for
picnics and kite-flying. Children make "Kyra Sarakosti," (Lady
Lent), a paper doll with seven legs to represent the seven weeks
of Lent. Every week, a leg is cut off to show how many weeks
remain until Easter.
joyful, springtime atmosphere of Clean Monday is a distinctive
of the Orthodox approach to fasting which sites the Gospel
lesson (Matthew 6:14-21) :
When ye fast, be
not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they
disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to
fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But
thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy
face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy
Father which is in secret... (v.
the seven weeks of Lent are fixed according to lenten
restrictions. This generally means no meat or fish and
nothing from animals with blood (no milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs,
etc.). However, Clean Monday has its own traditions, and all
over Greece, tables will be laid with dishes that have been
customary for generations.
|Patras Carnival Office:
Tel : 2610-390900
Patra Municipality Institutions:
ADDRESS: 50 AKTI DIMAION
o CENTRE: 2610-390900
o FAX: 2610-346198
o FESTIVAL: 2610-390900, 2610-390912
o CARNIVAL OFFICE: 2610-390921
o SHADOW THEATRE FESTIVAL: 2610-390924
o CHILDREN'S CARNIVAL: 2610-314486
o ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: 2610-390904
Future Carnival Dates
Greek Carnival Dates
Triodion: Sunday, January
Tsiknopempti or "Burnt Thursday": February 4th
Tsiknopempti Weekend: Friday, February 5th - Sunday, February
Main Carnival Weekend: Friday, February 12th - Sunday, February
Clean Monday: Monday, February 15th
Greek Carnival Dates
Triodion: Sunday, February 12th
Tsiknopempti or "Burnt Thursday": February 24th
Tsiknopempti Weekend: Friday, February 25th - Sunday, February
Main Carnival Weekend: Friday, March 4th - Sunday, March 6th
Clean Monday: Monday, March 7th
|The reason is that the
Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar when calculating
Easter. This is case even in the churches that otherwise use the
Gregorian calendar. When the Greek Orthodox Church in 1923
decided to change to the Gregorian calendar (or rather: a
Revised Julian Calendar), they chose to use the astronomical
full moon as seen along the meridian of Jerusalem as the basis
for calculating Easter, rather than to use the "official" full
|Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday
|2011 - -- - April 24th (= Western Easter) Karnavali Sunday March 7th, 2011
|2012 - -- - April 15th so Apokries Sunday February 26th,
|2013 - -- - May 5th Carnival
Sunday March 17th, 2013
|2014 - -- - April 20th (= Western Easter)
so Carnival Sunday March 2nd, 2014
|2015 - -- - April 12th so
Carnival Sunday February 22nd, 2015
|2016 - -- - May 1st so
Carnival Sunday March 13th, 2016
|2017 - -- - April 16th (= Western Easter)
so Carnival Sunday February 26th, 2017
|2018 - -- - April 8th so
Carnival Sunday February 18th, 2018
|2019 - -- - April 28th so
Carnival Sunday March 10th, 2019
|2020 - -- - April 19th
|2021 - -- - May 2nd
2022 - -- - April 24th
2023 - -- - April 16th
YOUTH are the stars
|Thus, after 1968, was a
seismic changes in the views of the Carnaval as the creative
freedom and new entertainment ideas of the younger generation
flowered to grace the Carnaval. The Carnival celebrates youth
and their embrace of a global culture yet to be determined yet
anxious to be seen and heard.
Where Carnival imagination is mad larger than life.
In this hive of creation, a unique army hews the floats with
equal wisdom every year, introducing a special proposal to the
cultural events of the country at the same time.
Mammoth-sized floats satirizing
issues of concern such as politics and corruption are a
tradition in the Patras carnival.. At the 2009 Carnival Parade
Float made International headlines for alleged "irreverence"
inspired by the Vatopedi scandal, a multi-million euro land swap
between the state and a powerful monastery which
came to light last year. But a missionary organisation in Patras
filed a legal complaint and demanding that the city be fined for
authorizing the float. The floats show the same mastery as those
built in the great float parades of Italy such as
Putignano near the sister port City of Bari.
A workshop, where the floats of
Patras Carnival and other decorative items are manufactured and
preserved in. Petroto, Patras.
Open Monday to Friday 08.00-14.00
carrus navalis - the 1st parade floats
Carnival of Patras traces its parade history
from 1870 onwards, when the bourgeois began
financing the construction of carnival floats and the parade
comes into being. However the word
carnival comes from the Latin words “carrus navalis” which means
wheel boat. Even today it is very common for festivals to
hold processions to the sea honoring the Stella Maris
or "Star of the Sea;” a goddess of the seas
who is believed responsible for delivering Greek sailors safely back to shore.
This understanding differs from
the more popular explanation that modern Carnaval came about as
the time the pagan spring Carnivals were allowed to vent
themselves as long a the strict dietary restrictions and
celebrations ceased with the fist day of Lent. That is that the
two roots of Carnival are "Carne" and "valle" which translates
to "farewell to the flesh."
|Since 1990, in dozens of small and
large Greek cities, usually by municipal initiative, carnival
celebrations are organized, all in the footsteps of the Carnival of
Patras (with parades of masqueraded youths).
|To be able to purchase alcohol
in Greece you must be 17, but there is no legal drinking age.
Greece, an ancient wine producing country, offer a wide variety
of local wines, from indigenous and imported grape varieties,
including fortified and even sparkling wines. Greek wines are
generally not available on the international market, as
production is relatively small, costs are quite high and little
remains for export. However, in the past decade Greek wines have
won many international prizes, with the rise of a new generation
of wineries. Exports are rising as well.
known for having been the site of the
Olympic Games in classical times
sanctuary, known as the
Altis, consists of an unordered arrangement of
various buildings. Enclosed within the
temenos (sacred enclosure) are the
Temple of Hera (or Heraion/Heraeum) and
Temple of Zeus, the
Pelopion and the area of the altar, where the
sacrifices were made. The
hippodrome and later
stadium were also to the east.
To the north of the sanctuary can
be found the
Prytaneion and the
Philippeion, as well as the array of
treasuries representing the various city states.
Metroon lies to the south of these treasuries,
Echo Stoa to the East. To the south of the
sanctuary is the
South Stoa and the
Bouleuterion, whereas the West side houses the
Palaestra, the workshop of
Gymnasion and the
Olympia is also known for the
statue of Zeus that used to stand there,
Pheidias, which was named one of the
Seven Wonders-of the Ancient World by
Antipater of Sidon. Very close to the
Temple of Zeus which housed this statue, the
studio of Pheidias was excavated in the 1950s.
Evidence found there, such as sculptor's tools,
corroborates this opinion. The ancient ruins sit
north of the
Alfeios River and Mount Kronos (named after the
Kladeos, a tributary of the Alfeios, flows
around the area. Its located in the part of Greece
which is called Peloponesse.
Ruin of the
Temple of Zeus at
Temple of Hera
|The edicts of
Theodosius I and his successors on the throne of
Roman Empire, banning
pagan cults, led to the gradual closure of Greek
temples, or their conversion into
Thus ends the
history of the Greek temple, although many of them
remained in use for a long time afterwards. For
example, the Athenian
Parthenon, first reconsecrated as a church was
turned into a
mosque after the
Ottoman conquest and remained structurally
unharmed until the 17th century AD. Only the
unfortunate impact of a
Venetian cannonball into the building, then used
to store gunpowder, led to the destruction of this
important temple, more than 2,000 years after it was
|Greek temples were designed and
constructed according to set rules, mostly
determined by the lower diameter of the
columns or by the dimensions of the foundation
levels. The nearly mathematical strictness of the
basic designs thus reached was lightened by optical
refinements. In spite of the still widespread
idealised image, Greek temples were painted, so that
bright reds and blues contrasted with the white of
the building stones or of
stucco. The more elaborate temples were equipped
with very rich figural decoration in the form of
pedimental sculpture. The construction of
temples was usually organised and financed by
cities or by the administrations of sanctuaries.
Private individuals, especially Hellenistic rulers,
could also sponsor such buildings. In the late
Hellenistic period, their decreasing financial
wealth, along with the progressive
incorporation of the Greek world within the Roman
State, whose officials and rulers took over as
sponsors, led to the end of Greek temple
construction. New temples now belonged to the
Roman architecture, which, in spite of the Greek
influence on it, aimed for different goals and
followed different aesthetic principles.
Olympia / Ολυμπια
Olympia, lying in the angle between the rivers
Alpheios and Kladeos, was a great Panhellenic sanctuary, the
venue of the Olympic Games.The Ancient Olympic Games were an
athletic and religious celebration held in the Greek town of
Olympia from at least 776 BC to 393 AD.
"As in the daytime
there is no star in the sky warmer and brighter than the
sun, likewise there is no competition greater than the
Greek poet Pindar said of the games in the 5th century
There are an assortment of myths regarding the founding of the games but this is only
because of their prominence. Whatever the origin, the games were
held to be one of the two central rituals in Ancient Greece, the
other being the Eleusinian Mysteries.
German excavations from 1875 onwards,
which led to the establishment of the present village of
Olympia, brought to light the sacred precinct which was known in
antiquity as the Altis (sacred grove) and is now again planted
Situated at the foot of the wooded Mt Kronos
in an area of gentle hills, the site of ancient Olympia -
one of the great achievements of archeological excavation -
makes an impact on the present-day visitor which is fully
commensurate with its importance in ancient times.
consequence of the excavation was the revival of the Olympic
Games by French nobleman, Pierre Fredy, Baron de Coubertin.
The Games of the Olympiad, better known as the Summer
Olympics, have been held every fourth year since 1896. The
first Games of modern times being held in Athens in 1896.
Unlike the Modern Olympic Games, only men who
spoke Greek were allowed to participate in the Ancient
Games. They were to some extent "international", though, in
the sense that they included athletes from the various Greek
city-states. Additionally, participants eventually came from
Greek colonies as well, extending the range of the games to
far shores of the Mediterranean and of the Black Sea.
of Zeus, Olympia (460 BC)
referred to the Sanctuary of Zeus as the Altis. The
name Altis came from a corruption of the Elean word
for grove, alsos . Sanctuaries were centers
of religious worship where the Greeks built temples,
treasuries, altars, statues, and other structures.
building normally stood inside a sacred enclosure
known as the temenos— reflecting the rural origins
of most cults. It generally included a natural
feature such as a spring, a grove of trees or a cave
which was the actual focus of public worship. It was
the only part of the complex open to the general
public— ordinarily, only priests were admitted into
the divine presence to perform the necessary rituals
on behalf of the community. Private groups and
individuals were encouraged to contribute to the
upkeep of the temple through offerings and
dedications but otherwise, public participation was
limited to taking part in religious festivals and
processions. These culminated in lavish sacrifices
of prime livestock at the god's altar which stood
within the temenos but outside the temple proper.
These were occasions of great public celebration
highlighted by feasts, athletic competitions and
dramatic productions. The god or goddess was
presented with gifts of jewellery and fine garments
along with tableware and cutlery of silver and gold.
Statues of young men (kouroi) and young women (korai)
were dedicated to the deity as votive offerings and
evidence of personal piety.
Libon of Elis, who erected the Temple of Zeus at
Olympia around 460 BC. With its 6 x 13 columns or 5
x 12 intercolumniations, this temple was designed
entirely rationally. Its column bays (axis to axis)
measured 16 foot, a triglyph + metope 8 foot, a
mutulus plus the adjacent space (via) 4 foot, the
tile width of the marble roof was 2 foot. Its
columns are powerful, with only a slight entasis;
the echinus of the capitals is already nearly linear
at 45°. All of the superstructure is affected by
curvature. The cella measures exactly 3 x 9 column
distances (axis to axis), its external wall faces
are aligned with the axes of the adjacent columns.
The Altis, the enclosure with its
sacred grove, open-air altars and the tumulus of
Pelops, was first formed during the ninth and tenth
centuries BCE, when the followers of Zeus joined the
pre-established following of Hera
Potsherds of the third millennium B.C. and apsidal houses of
the second millennium bear witness to the early settlement
of the site. Later the houses gave place to a sanctuary of
Zeus which was associated with the older cult of Hera.
Olympia lay within the territory of King Oinomaos of Pisa,
who was succeeded by Pelops after his victory in a chariot
race and his marriage to Oinomaos's daughter Hippodameia. A
column from the palace of Oinomaos and the grave mound of
Pelops (who gave his name to the Peloponnese) were still
being shown to visitors when Pausanias visited the site in
the A.D. second century.
The Greeks believed that Herakles had laid
down the regulations for the Games and had specified the
length of the stadion as 600ft/192 m. The crowns used
as prizes were made of olive leaves that came from a wild
olive tree in the Altis, which was called the olive of the
From 776 B.C. onwards lists were kept of the winners in the
foot race round the Stadion, giving rise to the Greek system
of chronological reckoning by four year olympiad periods.
In order to be in the games one had to
qualify and one's name written down in the lists. It seems
that only young people were allowed to participate, as the
Greek writer Plutarch relates that one young man was
rejected for seeming too mature, and only after his
boyfriend interceded with the king of Sparta, who presumably
vouched for his youth, was he permitted to participate.
Before being able to participate, everyone had to take an
oath in front of the statue of Zeus saying that you had been
in training for 10 months.
|The temple of Zeus
|While many writers described the statue this
image on this coin is the only surviving depiction
This as a Doric peripteral temple, which means
that it consists of a rectangular floor plan with a
series of low steps on every side, Construction was
the work of the Elean architect Libon is dated at
It was erected on the southern part of the Altis, on
a free section of land. The dimensions of the Doric
temple were imposing, thus giving it an impressive
image. On the same level as the Heraion, the Temple
of Zeus was dominating the sanctuary due to its
size, the stone columns on its sides and the
magnificent pediments with sculptured compositions
in the severe style, featuring Zeus and Apollo as
its central figures. The twelve metopes of the
temple depicted the labours of Hercules.
The most important architectural
innovation of the Greeks was the external colonnade
(pteron) which emerged sometime in the
seventh century BC. It formed a sort of curtain
around (peri-) the temple— solid but transparent—
screening the sanctuary and the cult image from the
outside world. Columns had been used for thousands
of years in the ancient world but primarily inside
buildings, to support the ceilings of large halls or
to line the inside of open courtyards.
The visitor after crossing the pronaos entered into
the three-aisled cella where stood the magnificent
gold and ivory (chryselephantine) statue of Zeus,
one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The
statue was 12m high and featured the ruler of the
word Zeus, sitting on a throne, holding his scepter
in his left hand and a winged Nike in his right.
Near the opisthodomus of the Temple of Zeus grew a
wild olive tree, the "Callistephanos Elaia" whose
branches were used to make the wreaths for the
Other events were added later - in the
eighth century the two-stade race, the long-distance race
and the pentathlon, in the seventh century boxing,
chariot-racing and the pankration, in the sixth century a
race with weapons as well as boxing, wrestling, pankration
(regulated full-contact fighting, similar to today's mixed
martial arts), chariot racing, several other running events
(the diaulos, hippios, dolichos, and hoplitodromos), as well
as a pentathlon, consisting of wrestling, stadion, long
jump, javelin throw and discus throw (the latter three were
not separate events).
The addition of events meant the festival
grew from 1 day to 5 days, 3 of which were used for
competition. The other 2 days were dedicated to religious
rituals intertwined with the opening and closing ceremonies.
On the final day, there was a banquet for all of the
participants, consisting of 100 oxen that had been
sacrificed to Zeus on the first day.
The winners received a branch from
the sacred olive-tree, but could also expect substantial
material rewards on their return to their native city(in
Athens, 500 drachma, a small fortune equivalent to about
$300,000 today. Athletes received precious gifts, free meals
and even made appearances for renumeration. Such benefits,
in tandem with fame and adulation that bordered on worship
The finishing line of the race round the Stadion was originally near the temple of Zeus, in front
of which, facing the runners, was Paionios's statue of Nike
(Victory) - underlining the religious significance of the
race, victory in which was granted by Zeus, the supreme god
of the Greek pantheon.
Finally, in AD 394 the Olympic Games - one
of the foundations of Greek religion, with their
polytheistic observances - fell victim to the religious
campaign of the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius I, which
consisted of the violent obliteration of all surviving Pagan
institutions. They were finally banned by the Emperor
Theodosius, and came to an end in A.D. 393 after an
existence of more than a thousand years.
Hermes of Praxiteles
lovers flock to the archaeological museum to
marvel at the Hermes of Praxiteles.
Made from Parian marble it stands 2,10m in
height. It is thought to be an original of
the great sculptor
and it is dated to ca. 330 B.C. although
archeologists will never agree
|The excavations at Olympia were
begun in May 1829, two years after the battle of
Navarino, by French archaeologists.
The finds (metopes from the opisthodomus and parts
of the metopes from the pronaos of the Temple of
Zeus) were transferred to the Louvre where they are
still being exhibited. When the Greek government was
informed of the looting of artifacts, the excavation
Excavations started again 45 years later by German
archaeologists. The research is being continued to
this day by the German Institute of Archaeology in
Athens, and the Ephorate of Antiquities in Olympia.
Olympia site map: #4 Temple of Hera
is in dark purple (top center).
The long ancient Olympic stadium is at far right.
Branch railroad line Pyrgos-Olympia.From
Athens or Corinthia take a train through Patra to Pyrgos. There
you change to an even smaller narrow-gauge train for Olympia.
You're looking for Olympia,
on the Peloponnesus, and not Mount Olympus, north of
Katakolon port: Katakolon situated 35 km from Ancient
Olympia town, aproximately 25 minutes drive.
|Kyllini is a historic resort town
located 70 km southeast of Patras on the Ionian Sea near the
southern entry to the Gulf of Patras. It has regular ferry
service to the Ionian islands and host some of the
celebrated beach resort hotels.
It is part of the
newer municipality of Kastro - Kyllini is under the
responsibility of the Ilia's prefecture and covers 49,3 th. sq.
m. having a population of 4.398 (1991 census). It contains four
municipal departments, which are: Kastro (857 inhabitants) where
the chlemoutsi castle located, Kato
Panayia (1266 inhab.), Neohori (1323 inhab.) and Kyllini (952
inhab.) which is the capital of the area.
Kyllini is mentioned from Homer (8th century B.C.) as a
participant in the Trojan expedition (12th century B.C.). It was
the seaport of the town-state Ilis, which was the organizer of
the Olympic Games
of the Principality of Achaia is dated from the Frankish
domination, which followed, with its castle Chlemoutsi
(Clermont, Castle Tornese) and its port Glarentza (Clarence) in
lieu of ancient Kyllini. The region flourished only during the
reign of the hegemonies of the Villearduins. This was followed
by the economic exploitation of a series of "gentlemen" who were
administering the region from distant administration centers
while attacks from pirates were the cause of further decline and
decay. In 1427, the region passed on to Constantine Paleologos,
last emperor of Byzantium, for a brief period, and then fell
under the Ottoman occupation (1453 - 1821) with only a short
interval when the Venetians occupied it from 1687 - 1715.
beautiful sandy beach nicely accented by some of the Pelopen
best resort hotels there is a Venetian constructed castle
Cornese Castle and Kyllini Springs.
monastery of Vlaherna is an evidence of the flourishing
period of the region together with the remaining "Morea", during
the Byzantine years
This is also the departure point for Ionian islands of
Zakynthos and Kefalonia.
situated at the top of a hill 250 m.high, called with
the ancient name Helonata.
University students from Greece and the E.U.
Tickets Full: €3, Reduced: €2
Summer hours: (April 1 - October 31) are 12 PM - 7 PM
Mondays, and 8 AM - 7 PM the rest of the week. Winter
hours (November 1 - March 31) are 8:30 AM - 3 PM Tuesday
Temple of Epikourios Apollo:
in the town of Nea Figali, is one of the most best
preseved ancient temples to be found anywhere in Greece.
It is the first with all three architectural styles:
Doric, Ionian and Corinthian. The temple was erected on
a raised area, 1,131m, called the 'Bassai', meaning
little vale in the rocks.
It is a Doric peripheral temple made from local
Temple A "temporary" protective tent was erected over
the temple in 1987 that still remains in place
of a prodome and a cella. It is orientated north to
south. In the cella there was a column with a corinthian
capital, which is the oldest known example of its kind.
magnificent temple was created in approximately 420BC.
It was built by the famous architect Iktinos, who also
built the stunning Parthenon temple that sits on the
Acropolis of Athens. After Iktinos completed the
Parthenon temple, he was exiled by the Athenians, and
sent to Figali. The reason for this was that the
Athenians did not want him building another temple that
would rival that of the Parthenon. Secretly however,
Iktinos began the construction of the temple.
The unusual floor plan of the Temple of Apollo at Bassae.
Plan and interior
reconstruction of the Temple of
Apollo Epikourios at
Bassae. Note the side entrance
to the cella and the single
The temple was
decorated with a marble sculpted frieze depicting the
battles between the Amazons and the Centaurs. The
frieze's marbles have been looted by the British and can
now be found in the British Museum.
It was built over an older temple, by the inhabitants of
Figalos in honour of Epicurean Apollo, gratitude for
saving them from a plague. The name Epicuros was given
to Apollo ca. 650 B.C., during the wars against the
In 1902, the 1st
Archaeological society of Athens began systematic
archaeological research of the area, under the direction
of K.Kourouniotis, with the assistance of K.Romaios and
P.Kavvadias. It was continued in 1959, 1970 and from
1975-1979, under the direction of N.Gialouris.
Small scale restorations have been carried out by the
civil engineer N.Balanos and professor H.Bouras. More
recently, research has been completed, by the Committee
of the Temple of Epicurean Apollo, for the restoration
of the temple.
At the present time conservation work on the temple is
being done under the supervision of the Committee of the
Epicurean Apollo, which is based in Athens.
The Temple of Apollo the Helper stands on a rocky
outcropping of Mt. Kotilion (Palaiavlachitsa) at an
altitude of 3,710 feet (1131m). The many ravines (Βασσαι)
surrounding the terrace give the site its general name.
Locals refer to the temple as stous stylous
("the columns") or the Naos (after the innermost part of
the temple). It is accessible by road and located 14.5km
from the town of Andritsaina.
A fine beach of golden sand and clean waters. There are
restaurants, bars and hotels so one combines a drive with
refreshments. Near to Zacharo is the lake and thermal springs of
Kaiafa which have been known since ancient times for their
healing properties. Between the lake and the sea is a Kourouta
beach strip of pine forest extending up to the sea. The golden
sandy long and wide beach is one of the most beautiful in
A long, more than 10 km and wide golden sandy beach with
restaurants, bars and night life at the area of Kourouta. At the
middle of this long beach next to the sea there is an unspoiled
pine forest. In the evening have your ouzo with local mezes at the municipal camping
restaurant next to the sea and
enjoy one of the best sunsets in Greece.
Very near to Katakolo is the attractive bay of Aghios Andreas
whose beach is usually lively and full of young people attracted
by the numerous water-sports. Have an evening drink at
the nearby restaurants and admire the fantastic scenery with an
Fine beaches of golden sand and clean waters can be found at
Kylini, Arkoudi, Kastro, Marathia, Palouki,Kalo Nero and others.
Amaliada is the second town in Ilia perfecture It is a
commercial center with a lot of supermakets which facilitate the
tourists of the nearby 5 campings.
is an inland village with some taverns at the central squere
offerig delicious kalamaki souvlaki. Next to the village is an
airport recently used by charter companies for they flights to
is one of the prefecture's two main ports. It is a peaceful
place with intense Greek colour and character. It has all
tourist facilities one might need, such as hotels, restaurants
and bars. Being near to Olympia it's the main port for cruises
visiting the the anchient Olympia
Lala is the plateau of Folois, on the foothills of Mt Erymanthos.
This huge oak forest is the mythical home of the kindly centaur
Folos who gave shelter to Hercules. To the south of the
prefecture, near Ancient Figaleia, flows the torrent of the
river Nedas which forms small cataracts. The locals call the
river "white-water" and the cataracts can be reached by a path,
which offers wonderful vistas of the surrounding countryside.
a traditional Greek village with natural shade in the yards from
the overhanging vines, mulberry trees and small taverns with
genuine Greek dishes and local delicacies.
Northeast of Pirgos after Krestena, is the traditional village
of Andritsaina with its stone houses, cobbled footpaths and
spacious square beneath the shade of huge plane trees.
Other villages are Varholomio, Lechaina, Gastouni, Manolada with
its tasty watermelons and the picturesque mountain village of
Camping are everywhere in the extended sandy beaches of Ilia
prefecture. Campings can be founded in the organized beaches of
Ioniko, Thines, Glyfa, Loutra Kylline, Kalamia, Kourouta,
Palouki and others.
|The first historical reference to the
Games is in 776 B.C., when a treaty between kings Iphitos of
Elis and Lykourgos of Sparta provided for an Olympic truce (ekecheiria)
during the summer Games. However, these were not not
the first Games to be held. The Olympic Games were held in
four year intervals, and later the Greek method of counting
the years even referred to these Games, using the term
Olympiad for the period between two Games.
The Greeks in historical times used the
Olympiads to count years, much as we today use AD and BC.
Thus, by that chronology, the first
Olympiad would have taken place in 919 BC
|In 12 BC Herod the Great gave financial
support to the Games to enable its future survival.The
Olympic Games were part of the Panhellenic Games, four
separate games held at two- or four-year intervals but
arranged so that there was at least one set of games every
year. The Olympic Games were the most important and most
prestigious of these.
The ancient Greeks were highly competitive and believed
strongly in the concept of "agon", or "competition" or
"contest". The ultimate Greek goal was to be the best. All
aspects of life, especially athletics, were centered around
this concept. It was therefore considered one of the
greatest honors to win a victory at Olympia. The fact that
the only prize given at Olympia was an olive wreath
illustrates this point. The athletes competed for honor, not
for material goods.
Athletics were of prime importance to the Greeks. The
education of boys concentrated on athletics and music as
well as academic subjects such as philosophy. Education took
place in the gymnasion and the palaistra as well as the
|It is often said that wars were halted
during the Games but this is not true; however, athletes,
who were often soldiers, were permitted to leave the army to
participate in the Games, and were guaranteed safe passage
through enemy territory. Every four years heralds traveled
throughout the Greek world proclaiming a sacred truce giving
safe passage through any state for athletes and spectators
traveling to and from the games.Olympiad. Messengers were
known as "spondorophoroi" and they called for a truce and
cessation of all hostilities for a period of one month
(later three months) to allow for the safe travel of
athletes to and from Olympia.
During the competition the truce extended
to the city-state of Elis, near Olympia, as well. For the
most part the truce was carefully observed, although in
420BC the Spartans were banned from the games for attacking
a town in Elis' territory during the truce and in 364BC the
Arcadians and Eleans fought a pitched battle for control of
the games inside the sanctuary itself, while the pentathlon
was in full swing
|Participation in the games was limited to
male athletes; the only way women were allowed to take part
was to enter horses in the equestrian events. In 396 BC and
again in 392 BC, the horses of a Spartan princess named
Cynisca won her the four-horse race.
|The athletes usually competed naked, not
only as the weather was appropriate but also as the festival
was meant to celebrate, in part, the achievements of the
human body. Olive oil was occasionally used by the
competitors, not only to keep skin smooth but also to
provide an appealing look for the participants.
|a grueling combination of boxing and
wrestling. Punches were allowed, although the fighters did
not wrap their hands with the boxing himantes.
|They were open to all free Greek males,
and later Roman citizens too, drawing competitors from Spain
to the Black Sea.
|Competitors were not even above switching
city states for money. The travel writer Pausanias tells us
of a Cretan long-distance running champion, Sotades, who
became an Ephesian having been offered a bribe by the people
After the Battle of Chaironeia in 338 BC,
Philip of Makedon and his son Alexander gained control over
the Greek city-states. They erected the Philippeion (a
family memorial) in the sanctuary, and held political
meetings at Olympia during each Olympiad. In 146 BC, the
Romans gained control of Greece and, therefore, of the
Olympic games. In 85 BC, the Roman general Sulla plundered
the sanctuary to finance his campaign against Mithridates.
Sulla also moved the 175th Olympiad (80 BC) to Rome.
|The most breathtaking example of race
rigging occurred in AD67 when the Roman emperor Nero took
part in a 10-horse chariot race, an event added just for his
Despite falling from his chariot and not
completing the race Nero was declared the winner - although
years later after his death Nero's name was symbolically
deleted from the champions list.
|Phidias or Pheidias circa 480 BC – 430 BC), was a
Greek sculptor, painter and architect, who lived in the 5th
century BC, and is commonly regarded as one of the greatest
of all sculptors of Classical Greece
|Wounded Amazon - Musei Capitolini, Rome- This may have
been created by Phidias or one of his students.
|Among the ancient Greeks themselves two works of Phidias
far outshone all others, the colossal chryselephantine
figures in gold and ivory of Zeus circa 432 BC on the site
where it was erected in the temple of Zeus, at Olympia,
Greece, and of Athena Parthenos (literally, "Athena the
Virgin") a sculpture of the Greek virgin goddess Athena
named after an epithet for the goddess herself, and was
housed in the Parthenon in Athens.