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Statue of Hera and Zeus at Panathenaic stadium, Athens. (Sean Wallace-Jones / Adobe Stock)

Ancient Olympia: Site Of The Sacred Hieros Gamos

Long before the Greek Olympic Games became the dominion of a male god, ancient symbolism was embedded in the Hieros Gamos (Sacred Marriage ceremony) practiced at Olympia, a sanctuary in a serene valley called Altis, nestled between the Alpheus and Cladeus Rivers in the regional district of ancient Elis, tucked away in the north-west corner of the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece.  The Hieros Gamos or Sacred Marriage, embodied the union of the male and female, to celebrate fertility and new life born from the Mother-Goddess. Initially only women participated in rituals and games to honor the goddess, but then invaders usurped the land and annexed the sanctuary and installed their male god, Zeus at Olympia.

The region of Elis was split into three parts; Ceole in the north where the polis of Elis was situated; Pisatis in the middle with the polis of Pisa; and Triphylia, the mountainous area in the south bordering the Alpheus River. The sanctuary of Olympia fell within the administration of Pisa. The name ‘Olympia’ could derive from the word Olympus, an epithet of the goddess Olympia Ge (Mountainous Ge).

19th-century engraving depicting the Sanctuary of Olympia (acrogame/ Adobe Stock)

19th-century engraving depicting the Sanctuary of Olympia (acrogame/ Adobe Stock)


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