Stories in Stone at Olympia

Trip Start Sep 07, 2008
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Trip End Dec 09, 2008


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Flag of Greece  , Peloponnese,
Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The only thing left to do on our excursion to the Peloponnese before departing back to Athens was to roam through the Antiquities Museum at Olympia and the the Museum of the Olympic Games. At the Antiquities Museum, Indy showed us the sculptures that appeared on the eastern and western pediments of the Temple of Zeus, and told us the stories that the sculptures are acting out.

On the west pediment, the sculptures depict a Greek wedding. Centaur men had been invited to the wedding, but they got drunk and decided to carry off the Greek women. The Greek men had to battle the Centaurs to save the women. If this story sounds familiar, it is the same myth told in the frieze surrounding the Temple of Haphastus we saw in the Greek Agora a month ago.

The east pediment featured a king who promised the hand of his daughter and the rule of the kingdom to any man who could defeat the king in a chariot race. Thirteen men had challenged, and all had died. The king would let the challenger get ahead in the race, then spear him in the back from his chariot.

Young Pelops decided he would challenge, but he was wiser. He promised the first night with the princess to the chariot maker if the chariot maker would switch the king's axles with wax axles. The race commenced and as the chariot warmed up and the king was just about to spear Pelops through the back, his chariot fell apart and the king was killed.

Pelops, the princess, and the chariot maker drove off. But then the chariot maker tried to collect his prize, and Pelops decided the chariot maker had to be killed too.

Pelops became the king, and that's why we call this land the Peloponnesian. But his offspring founded the House of Atreus that was cursed for Pelops' bad behavior. Meneleaus, Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Iphigenia, Orestes, Aegisthus... they all came to violent ends.

It was an amazing experience to watch the sculptures in the museum come to "life" as Indy narrated their stories.
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