OLYMPIA
At the time of my first visit to Olympia in 1978 most of the statuary had been taken from the site to the museum for repairs but on the second visit a few years later, by which time I was looking for cipollino, it had been put back along the walls. The Lapids and satyrs were particularly impressive and the museum is carefully hidden in the trees.
Olympia was never a city. It was the home of the main sanctuary of Zeus in Greece and also the home of the Olympic Games which were founded in 776 B.C. It is situated in beautiful countryside between the rivers Alphaios and Kladeos, in a remote corner of Greece in the western Peloponnese. Earlier the site was associated with Kronos, the father of Zeus; it is also associated in mythology with Pelops, the mysterious hero who gave his name to the area and is said to have founded the games.


It owes its high importance throughout the Hellenic world to the universal reverence for its shrine, and above all to its famous games in honour of Zeus which during a period of more than a 1000 years were periodically celebrated by the Greeks of all families and all states. In the Roman period, as Greece became less important in the games, Olympia did not decline. Tiberius and Nero were victorious there. The Exedra (or Nymphaeum) of Herod Atticus is the termination of an aqueduct built by Herod Atticus and extending from the upper valley of the Alphaios to Olympia. The lower part is occupied by a cistern or reservoir, flanked by two circular marble erections with eight columns and above is a large vaulted semicircular space, the niches in which formerly contained the statues of the family of Herodus and the imperial house.9

Standing in the area of the Nymphaeum of Herod Atticus there are two columns of cipollino with a diameter of .35 m. /1 Rf at the top and approximately 3 m. /10 Rf high. They have metal bands in the middle of the shaft and collars (Plate 3.17). Lying on the ground in the same area are at least six pieces of cipollino. Two are .38 m. /1.28 Rf in diameter with dowel holes .08 - .10 m. in diameter and .04 m. deep. Four are .35 /1 Rf - .36 m. /1.2 Rf in diameter (Plate 3.18). These pieces might show evidence of at least six columns in the Nymphaeum and would fit in with the reconstruction showing the Nymphaeum in the background (Plate 3.19).

9 Greece, Handbook for Travellers, Karl Baedeker, Baedeker, London 1894, p.325 and p.335.

Maps and Plates

Plate 3.17.jpg

Plate 3.17 Two cipollino columns in the area of the Nymphaeum of Herod Atticus, Olympia.

Plate 3.18.jpg

Plate 3.18 Fragments of cipollino columns in the area of the Nymphaeum of Herod Atticus, Olympia.

Plate 3.19.jpg

Plate 3.19 Reconstruction, showing the Nymphaeum and background, Olympia.