RTW Timeline: 4th Century BC

After seeing so many interesting sites and learning many facts about places all around the world, we thought it would be interesting to arrange the different places and events on a timeline to provide more of a context for the different highlights.

Towards the end of the fifth century BC, Athens lost the Peloponnesian War to Sparta and the classic era of Athens came to an end. However, Greece was still a major player in the events of the world, with the conquests of Alexander the Great spreading its influence far and wide.

380 BC – Butrint Fortified With a New Wall

The city of Butrint in present-day Albania was a Greek city that grew in importance during this era, enough so that a large wall was built to protect the inhabitants of the island. We walked through this wall on our visit to the ruins on a day trip from Saranda. This site was later a major Roman city, so the Greek ruins were mixed in with those from later time periods.

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375 BC – Temple to Aesclepius constructed at Epidavros

The Greek city of Epidavros was a pilgrimage site for those looking to be healed of physical ailments. Therefore, a temple to Aesclepius, the god of health, was built here. Not much is left of the temple today. We visited Epidavros as a day trip from Nafplio.

The temple

The temple

360 BC – Tholos at Delphi Built

One of the most iconic ruins at the Greek city and pilgrimage site of Delphi is the partially reconstructed ruins of a tholos, a circular temple. Archaeologists are still debating the purpose of this structure.

In front of the Tholos

In front of the Tholos

Mid 4th Century BC: Stadium at Olympia Moved to its Current Location

The city of Olympia was the site of the ancient Olympic games, a Panhellenic competition between athletes from all over Greece. We spent a nice afternoon in the ruins of this stadium.

Racing the track

Racing the track

350 BC – Tomb of Amyntas built by the Lycians in present-day Fethiye, Turkey

The Lycians were a civilization based along the “Turquoise Coast” of southwestern Turkey which existed concurrently with the Greeks and Romans. They were known for creating elaborate tombs in which the rock was carved to look like wood. A grand example of one of the tombs is carved into the hill overlooking Fethiye.

The Tomb of King Amnytas

The Tomb of King Amnytas

Sometime in the 4th Century BC – King’s Tomb built in present-day Kaş, Turkey

Another type of Lycian tomb we saw was in the style of an elaborate sarcophagus elevated off the ground on a large platform. There is an impressive example of this style of tomb called the “King’s Tomb” in the middle of the modern city of Kaş.

King's Tomb Jelfie

King’s Tomb Jelfie

340 BC – Antikythera Ephebe sculpted

This bronze sculpture was found as part of the Antikythera shipwreck, hence its name. It is considered one of the classic Greek sculptures. Since we can’t see what object the subject is holding, we aren’t sure who it is, but many people believe it is Paris holding the golden apple. We viewed this sculpture at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Paris

Paris

338 BC – Phillippeion in Olympia constructed

Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father, had a monument constructed at Olympia to celebrate his victory in the Battle of Chaeronea, in which he defeated an alliance of Greek city states including Athens.

The Phillipeon

The Phillipeon

330 BC – Temple of Apollo at Delphi rebuilt after an earthquake

The main attraction at Delphi was the Temple of Apollo from which the oracle would issue prophecies and give advice.

Jelfie in front of the entrance to the temple

Jelfie in front of the entrance to the temple

330 BC – Initial Construction of Theater at Epidavros

As mentioned earlier, Epidavros was a pilgrimage site for those looking to be healed. Its main attraction today though is its large Greek theater, which has been amazingly well-preserved. We enjoyed taking turns standing on stage while the other person ran to the top to test the amazing acoustics.

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329 BC – Panathenaic Stadium rebuilt in marble

This large stadium in Athens was the host site for the Panathenaic Games, another Panhellenic festival held every four years. It was extensively renovated and reused for the first modern Olympics as well. We stayed in an Airbnb just behind this stadium during our second visit to Athens.

The view from the end of the stadium. They were setting up for the marathon finish line

The view from the end of the stadium. They were setting up for the marathon finish line

Last Quarter of 4th Century BC – Doric Tomb built in present-day Kaş

In addition to the King’s Tomb mentioned earlier, Kaş also has another impressive Lycian tomb on a hill overlooking the city. It is called the Doric Tomb based on the shape of the column outlines carved into the wall.

Cube Tomb Jelfie

Cube Tomb Jelfie

323 BC – Alexander the Great Dies

We didn’t see any artifacts related to Alexander the Great, but his death was such a large event that we thought it was worth putting onto the timeline for context. He had stretched his empire from Greece all the way to present-day Pakistan. He died at the age of 32.

After Alexander’s death, Greece entered into what is known as the Hellenistic period. Greece’s influence remained strong, but its art and culture would not continue to make the great steps forward that it had during the classical period. In addition, a new power began to arise in the Mediterranean which would shape the next few centuries.

Olympia, Greece

After taking care of some business in Athens, we headed into the Peloponnese peninsula. Our first stop was Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games.

Getting There

Olympia is a small town, so it isn’t super easy to get to. But, we thought we had seen that there was a bus from Athens to Olympia at 1:00, so we aimed for that bus.

Getting to the bus station in Athens is actually a huge pain, since it is not located anywhere near a metro station. Google told us that we could take the metro and then a local bus, so we attempted that. We caught the metro as planned but then did not see the bus come. We were about to give up when it finally came. We hopped on, then realized it was headed the wrong direction! We got off and tried to head back to try again… and it started raining. We tried to catch a cab and none would stop. Talk about moments of misery. Eventually we did find a cab which took us to the station. In the end this was probably for the best, because by this time it was pouring, and the station was in the middle of a confusing industrial zone.

The ride itself was long but uneventful. We knew that most people were probably getting off at Pirgos, the biggest town near Olympia, but were pretty confident we could just stay on since neither the ticket agent nor the driver informed us otherwise. Instead, in Pirgos everyone got off and we were told that the bus ended there after all. The next local bus to Olympia didn’t leave for an hour and a half, so we had to kill time in the Pirgos bus station. We didn’t end up making it to Olympia until almost 8:30!

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On a positive note, we did get to see this nice rainbow on the way

Where We Stayed

The “town” of Olympia has a very touristy vibe: it really only exists to provide tourist services for the ancient site nearby, so there isn’t much to speak of in terms of local flavor. We found a cheap hotel on booking.com called Anesi Rooms to Rent. We had a small but servicable room with a nice hot shower and a sizable balcony. The wifi was strong as well, so we spent our downtime drinking wine and watching some shows on the Internet.

Bonus points if you can figure out which show we're watching!!

Bonus points if you can figure out which show we’re watching!!

 

What We Did

Since we weren’t in much of a rush, we planned to spend two full days in town checking out the archaeological site and the various museums. However, for some reason two of the museums are closed on weekends, so our only two activities were checking out the site and the main archaeological museum which luckily were still open.

Olympia Archaeological Site – Olympia was the host site for the ancient Olympic Games from the 8th century BC all the way until the 2nd century AD. These ancient games were not just an athletic competition: they were also a chance for the Greeks to pay tribute to their Gods. Therefore, the site has quite the collection of ruins, both for athletic and sacred events.

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The sacred structures are concentrated in an area called the Altis. The oldest structure is the Temple of Hera, one of the older Doric temples in Greece. They still light the flame for the modern Olympic Games in front of this temple. The biggest temple is the Temple of Zeus. Only one of the giant Doric columns has been reconstructed but it is still quite impressive (you can still see pieces of the other columns that tumbled to the ground during an earthquake in the 6th century AD). Another impressive building is the circular Phillepeon, commissioned by Philip of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great).

The big stadium is still intact. It doesn’t look like a modern stadium in that the only seats are for the judges – the spectators would just sit on the sloping grassy hills on all sides of the track. One cool thing is that you can run on the track today. The old starting lines are still intact, so we took the opportunity to run back and forth between them (in the ancient games, they would run back and forth instead of running laps). Within the site, we also walked through the ruins of various structures built to house visiting dignitaries, and a large colonnaded courtyard within which the athletes would train.

Olympia Archaeological Museum – As was the case at Delphi, Olympia has a separate museum where many of the sculptures and other artifacts found at the site. We were actually disappointed in the route that the Rick Steves guide suggested to take through the museum: the museum itself was laid out chronologically, but his tour took us randomly through the more important artifacts. After we finished his tour, we actually went back and did went through all the rooms again just to get a better sense of the timeline of events at the site.

Here are some of the highlights from the artifacts we saw:

Where We Ate:

Since Olympia is such a tourist town, there aren’t many inspired dining options. We did end up eating out twice. The first time, we just went to the small restaurant next door to the Anesi (where we stayed) that is actually run by the same people that run the hotel – our waiter was the same person who checked us into the room. The second night we just randomly picked one of the tourist restaurants and got a pizza in order to take a break from gyros and souvlaki for a night.

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Final Thoughts

The ancient site of Olympia is very impressive. We especially enjoyed exploring the ruins once the large tour groups had left by mid-afternoon. The town of Olympia itself is not too exciting, so don’t plan on spending much more than a day or two.

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