Pelops is honoured in glorious offerings of blood at his tomb by the crossing of the Alpheus, a place of pilgrimage by the altar where strangers throng past number. The fame of the Olympic Games – of Pelops’ games – blazes over all the broad-backed earth. Whoever triumphs here wins for his life a honeyed calm.
Pindar, Olympian Ode 1, 90-99
Olympia: Pelops & the Games Gallery Photos
Olympia: Pelops & the Games
On the Hill of Cronus, trees are washed in golden sunlight. Already the mist, which had blanketed the patchwork fields beside the River Alpheus at dawn, has dissipated, leaving nothing but an incorporeal haze. In the village – a snatch of music blaring from an open window; a barking dog; an engine spluttering to life – metal window grilles are being wound up, shop doors propped open, tables set on narrow pavements, heady coffee brewed.
Along the road, across the bridge, where the lazy River Cladeus glides between rushes, the sanctuary is stirring too. Tall pines resonate with the twittering of sparrows and the cicadas’ chirr. On a statue base a gecko, basking in the dry heat, greets the day, while across the aromatic earth, shadows of tall columns roll in elongated ranks across the ground as ancient shrines awaken to the sun – the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Zeus, and other lesser buildings, too: treasuries; gymnasia; a fountain house; a Hellenistic luxury hotel. Through the elegant arched tunnel early autumn cyclamen are flowering, studded jewels of pink and white, on the stadium’s embankments. Perhaps more than at any other site in Greece, nature and the work of man seem to exist in harmony here in this most magical of places, named from the greatest god of all, Olympian Zeus: Olympia.