Early Buildings

The earliest building remains at Olympia are a cluster of Bronze Age houses at the base of the Kronos hill. The ruins of one of these houses were preserved by the Greeks as the megaron of Oinomaos, the legendary king. Nearby was established the tumulus of Pelops, who defeated Oinomaos in a chariot race to Isthmia, and, in the same area, the Altar to Zeus was established.

Overall view of Kronos Hill from W
Photograph courtesy of the Department of Archaeology, Boston University, Saul S. Weinberg Collection

  • A megaron was the large hall or main room of an early Greek house, with the roof supported by columns, the light entering through the doors, the smoke-hole, and the apertures just under the roof.

  • A tumulus is a large artificial mound built over a grave.

  • According to legend, the hero Pelops entered a chariot race with King Oinomaos to compete for the hand of Oinomaos' daughter Hippodamia in marriage. Hippodamia fell in love with Pelops and convinced her father's groom to sabotage the racing chariot by removing the linchpins attaching the wheels. After Oinomaos' chariot was destroyed and he was dragged to his death by his horses, Pelops became king and ruled over the region, which he called the Peloponnese after himself. Today, the southern part of the Greek mainland is still called by this name.

  • The legendary chariot race of Pelops and Oinomaos was commemorated with sculptures which decorated the East Pediment of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, which was built between 470 and 457 B.C.

To read more about these topics, see Further Resources.

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