Model of ancient Olympia

Made in 1980

This model shows the site of Olympia, home of the ancient Olympic Games, as it looked around 100 BC. On a scale of 1:200, it represents the buildings, monuments and landscape of Olympia, but there would also have been thousands of statues. The largest of these was a gold and ivory statue of the god Zeus, over 13 metres tall.

Statues were also set up to honour heroes and statesmen and the vast numbers of athletes who had won at the Games. It was like an open-air Olympic hall of fame.

Olympia was the oldest sanctuary of Zeus, the supreme god of Greek mythology. The Games were held in his honour, as he was believed to grant athletes their strength and skills. Visitors came to Olympia for the Games every four years since at least 776 BC.

The Games lasted for over 1000 years, but finally came to an end when the site was ravaged by invasions, flooding, earthquakes and a decree outlawing pagan cults.

The model was commissioned in 1980 for a major exhibition on the Olympic Games at the British Museum. It has since been displayed both in London to coincide with various Olympic Games and also in numerous locations around the world.

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J Swaddling, The Ancient Olympic Games (London, The British Museum Press, 2011)