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[30]

It remains for me to tell about Olympia, and how everything fell into the hands of the Eleians. The temple is in Pisatis, less than three hundred stadia distant from Elis. In front of the temple is situated a grove of wild olive trees, and the stadium is in this grove. Past the temple flows the Alpheius, which, rising in Arcadia, flows between the west and the south into the Triphylian Sea. At the outset the temple got fame on account of the oracle of the Olympian Zeus; and yet, after the oracle failed to respond, the glory of the temple persisted none the less, and it received all that increase of fame of which we know, on account both of the festal assembly and of the Olympian Games, in which the prize was a crown and which were regarded as sacred, the greatest games in the world. The temple was adorned by its numerous offerings, which were dedicated there from all parts of Greece. Among these was the Zeus of beaten gold dedicated by Cypselus the tyrant of Corinth. But the greatest of these was the image of Zeus made by Pheidias of Athens, son of Charmides; it was made of ivory, and it was so large that, although the temple was very large, the artist is thought to have missed the proper symmetry, for he showed Zeus seated but almost touching the roof with his head, thus making the impression that if Zeus arose and stood erect he would unroof the temple. Certain writers have recorded the measurements of the image, and Callimachus has set them forth in an iambic poem. Panaenus the painter, who was the nephew and collaborator of Pheidias, helped him greatly in decorating the image, particularly the garments, with colors. And many wonderful paintings, works of Panaenus, are also to be seen round the temple. It is related of Pheidias that, when Panaenus asked him after what model he was going to make the likeness of Zeus, he replied that he was going to make it after the likeness set forth by Homer in these words: “"Cronion spoke, and nodded assent with his dark brows, and then the ambrosial locks flowed streaming from the lord's immortal head, and he caused great Olympus to quake."
1A noble description indeed, as appears not only from the "brows" but from the other details in the passage, because the poet provokes our imagination to conceive the picture of a mighty personage and a mighty power worthy of a Zeus, just as he does in the case of Hera, at the same time preserving what is appropriate in each; for of Hera he says, “"she shook herself upon the throne, and caused lofty Olympus to quake."
2What in her case occurred when she moved her whole body, resulted in the case of Zeus when he merely "nodded with his brows," although his hair too was somewhat affected at the same time. This, too, is a graceful saying about the poet, that "he alone has seen, or else he alone has shown, the likenesses of the gods." The Eleians above all others are to be credited both with the magnificence of the temple and with the honor in which it was held. In the times of the Trojan war, it is true, or even before those times, they were not a prosperous people, since they had been humbled by the Pylians, and also, later on, by Heracles when Augeas their king was overthrown. The evidence is this: The Eleians sent only forty ships to Troy, whereas the Pylians and Nestor sent ninety. But later on, after the return of the Heracleidae, the contrary was the case, for the Aetolians, having returned with the Heracleidae under the leadership of Oxylus, and on the strength of ancient kinship having taken up their abode with the Epeians, enlarged Coele Elis, and not only seized much of Pisatis but also got Olympia under their power. What is more, the Olympian Games are an invention of theirs; and it was they who celebrated the first Olympiads, for one should disregard the ancient stories both of the founding of the temple and of the establishment of the games—some alleging that it was Heracles, one of the Idaean Dactyli,3 who was the originator of both, and others, that it was Heracles the son of Alcmene and Zeus, who also was the first to contend in the games and win the victory; for such stories are told in many ways, and not much faith is to be put in them. It is nearer the truth to say that from the first Olympiad, in which the Eleian Coroebus won the stadium-race, until the twenty.sixth Olympiad, the Eleians had charge both of the temple and of the games. But in the times of the Trojan War, either there were no games in which the prize was a crown or else they were not famous, neither the Olympian nor any other of those that are now famous.4 In the first place, Homer does not mention any of these, though he mentions another kind—funeral games.5 And yet some think that he mentions the Olympian Games when he says that Augeas deprived the driver of "four horses, prize-winners, that had come to win prizes."6 And they say that the Pisatans took no part in the Trojan War because they were regarded as sacred to Zeus. But neither was the Pisatis in which Olympia is situated subject to Augeas at that time, but only the Eleian country, nor were the Olympian Games celebrated even once in Eleia, but always in Olympia. And the games which I have just cited from Homer clearly took place in Elis, where the debt was owing: “"for a debt was owing to him in goodly Elis, four horses, prize-winners."
7And these were not games in which the prize was a crown (for the horses were to run for a tripod), as was the case at Olympia. After the twenty-sixth Olympiad, when they had got back their homeland, the Pisatans themselves went to celebrating the games because they saw that these were held in high esteem. But in later times Pisatis again fell into the power of the Eleians, and thus again the direction of the games fell to them. The Lacedaemonians also, after the last defeat of the Messenians, cooperated with the Eleians, who had been their allies in battle, whereas the Arcadians and the descendants of Nestor had done the opposite, having joined with the Messenians in war. And the Lacedaemonians cooperated with them so effectually that the whole country as far as Messene came to be called Eleia, and the name has persisted to this day, whereas, of the Pisatans, the Triphylians, and the Cauconians, not even a name has survived. Further, the Eleians settled the inhabitants of "sandy Pylus" itself in Lepreum,8 to gratify the Lepreatans, who had been victorious in a war,9 and they broke up many other settlements,10 and also exacted tribute of as many a they saw inclined to act independently.

1 Hom. Il. 1.528

2 Hom. Il. 8.199

3 See 10. 3. 22.

4 The Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian Games.

5 Hom. Il. 23.255 ff

6 See 8. 3. 29.

7 Hom. Il. 11.698

8 So, according to Thuc. 5.34, the Lacedaemonians settled certain Helots in Lepreum in 421 B.C.

9 Strabo seems to mean that the Lepreatans "had prevailed in a war" over the other Triphylian cities that had sided with the Pisatae in their war against the Eleians. Several of the editors (see critical note above, on this page), citing Paus. 6.22.4, emend the text to read, "had taken no part in the war," i.e., on the side of the Pisatae against the Eleians; C. Müller, citing Paus. 4.15.8, emends to read, "had taken the field with them (the Eleians) in the war." But neither emendation seems warranted by the citations, or by any other evidence yet found by the present translator.

10 For example, Macistus. According to Hdt. 4.148, this occurred "in my own time." But see Paus. 6.22.4, and Frazer's note thereon.

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