Ancient CorinthThe Archaeological Site
The ruins now visible are those of the Agora (Forum) of the Greek city, as it was in Roman times, which developed mainly during the 1st century A.D. A stately avenue led up to the Forum from Lechaion (Leheo), the city's port on the Gulf of Corinth. The spacious enclosure contained arcades, shops, places of worship, small temples, administrative buildings as well as the city's three ancient fountains, Iera Krini, the Kato Pirini springs and Glafki. On the mound, to the north of the Forum, seven of the thirty-eight columns of the archaic temple of Apollo have remained standing (it was built about the middle of the 6th century B.C.). To the N.W. of the Forum lie the remains of the theater and the Roman Odeon.
Finds from the pre-historic settlements which had existed in the Corinth district consist mainly of tools, pottery, weapons and ornaments. Articles excavated within the area covered by ancient Corinth are vases in the Corinthian style, sculptures belonging to various periods. mosaics, coins, exvotos from the sanctuary of the healer god Asklepeios, etc. Noteworthy also are the so-called early Corinthian vases. One of the more complete sets is that of Roman portrait statues.
An ancient fortified citadel at the foot of which, on the northern side, the city of Corinth was built. The fortress now standing was built in Byzantine times, over the ruins of an ancient structure. Various additions were made by Frankish, Venetian and Turkish conquerors. On the summit, there are ruins of Byzantine, Venetian and Turkish buildings as well as the ancient Ano Prini spring.
Mycenae is the site of a pre-historic citadel fortified with Cyclopean walls with two gates (the Lion Gate and the North Gate) as well as two small auxiliary exits. The first walls were built around 1350 B.C. but the citadel assumed its present form around the year 1200 B.C. Inside the enclosure, the more important buildings are the Granary which, in fact, was the garrison's quarters, the two sanctuaries, Grave Circle "A" which contains six royal tombs of the 16th century B.C. and the living quarters of the dignitaries and of priests in the lower citadel (House of the Warrior Vase, the Ramp House, the South House and the Tsounta House). There is also the Mycenaean palace on the crest of the hill, a smaller palace further east, known as the House of the Columns, the House of the Artists and, finally, at the N.E. extension, the Secret Cistern. Groups of Mycenaean dwellings have been excavated outside the walls as well as Grave Ciicle “B”, nine "tholos" tombs of the Atridae among which the treasure of Atreus, also known as the "Tomb of Agamemnon", the tomb of Clytemnystra, the tomb Aegisthus, and others.
Epidaurus (Epidavros)The Sanctuary of Asklepeios
Little indeed is left of the most important sanctuary that was erected mainly during the 3rd and 4th centuries B.C. In the center of the enclosure stood the temple dedicated to the healer-god Asklepeios. Surrounding it were colonnades where the sick could rest and take cures (one such being known as the "Avaton" or "Enkimitrion" where patients would spend the night seeing visions of Asklepeios in their dreams and thus become cured) as well as places of worship among which was the Tholos, designed by the architect Polyklitos Junior and renowned for its decorative sculptures. Outside the enclosure stood the dwelling of the priests, the doctors, a gymnasium, baths and other structures. To the S.W. of the sanctuary was the 5th century B.C. stadium in which athletic and musical contests were held every four years. At the S.E. end was the Katagogion, by far the largest building in the entire compound. It served as a guesthouse with no less than 160 rooms for visitors who were healthy. In Roman times, hot baths were added to the facilities.
The open-air theater stands to the S.E. and is the best preserved theater in all of Greece. It was the work of the architect Polyklitos Junior (4th century BC.), and seats 14,000 people. It has amazingly good acoustics.
This museum exhibits pieces from the tholos and the temple of Asklepeios, gypsum casts from pediments (sculptures by Timotheos), Roman portrait statues, inscriptions, medical and surgical instruments and exvotos. Many of the inscriptions are, in fact, prescriptions for medicines and descriptions of cures, valuable texts as far as the history of medicine is concerned and sometimes amusing as well.
MystrasAlong the foothill of Mount Taigetos, known as Mizithra, the ruins of a dead Byzantine city are spread. Its fortress, palaces, mansions and dwellings of the poor, its monasteries and churches are easily seen. The castle dominates the surroundings from the summit, an excellent vantage point and an impregnable fortification, built in 1249 A.D. by William de Villehardouin. A few years later, it passed into the hands of the Byzantines and the northern sector, below the castle, began to be inhabited. In the ensuing two centuries, there came into being first the Ano Hora (Upper Town) and then the Kato Hora (Lower Town). Each defended by walls h
In Upper Mystras stood the Palace of the Despots, a rare specimen of Byzantine civic buildings, the grand hall which is well preserved. A little higher up are the remains of the palace church of Aghia Sofia. In the lower town stand the ruins of the majority of the monastic and ecclesiastic buildings.
Tradition has it that the last of the Byzantine emperors, Constantine the 12th, Palaeologos, was crowned in the Cathedral Church of Mystras, which is dedicated to the martyr Demetrios. The floor of the church is decorated with the base relief of the double-crested Eagle of Byzantium. One of the Cathedral buildings shelters the Museum which contains mostly architectural members from various other buildings. The church of the Evangelistria has beautiful sculptured decoration while the churches of Aghii Theodori and Panaghia Odigitria (also known as "Afentiko") belong to the Vrontochi monastic complex. Built in the 13th century AD., the church of Aghii Theodori is the oldest in Mystras. A little more distant are the Pantanassa convent (the only one occupied by nuns) in whose grounds there is a very elegant designed chapel and the Perivleptos Monastery containing some of the finest frescoes to be seen in Mystras (end of 14th century, A.D.).
OlympiaAt the foot of the Kronion Hill stretches the space formed by the wedge of land between the converging rivers of the Alfios and the Kladeos. This was the site called the Sacred Grove of the Altis, regarded as belonging to Zeus which, in historically recorded times, the most famous of Greek sanctuaries was established. Formerly it had been a place of worship of pre- Hellenic deities. Every four years, athletic contests were organized here in honour of Zeus, lasting seven days.
According to legend, the Olympic Games began after a vic tory by Pelops against Oenomaos, King of Pissa. Historically the Olympic Games began in 776 B.C. Up to the 5th century B.C., the sacred enclosure contained the Heraion, the Prytaneion, the Pelopeion and the Hippodameion, while at the foot of the Kronion Hill stood the twelve Greek city treasures. Outside the enclosure to the west was the Stadium with a 45,000 seating capacity (men only were allowed in). Access to the Stadium was along a vaulted passage: and, to the south, was the Vouleutirion where the Olympic Senate met. From the 5th century onwards, the sanctuary assumed its final form with the impressive temple of Zeus (Peripteral in the Doric style), the Metroon, the Arcades (Stoa of Echo and the Southern Stoa), the Gymnasium and the Palaestra, the living quarters of the priests, the large Leonidaion Hostel an the Filippeion. To the south of the dwellings of the priests, excavations revealed the studio of the sculptor Phideias in which he carved the gold and ivory statue of Zeus. Finally, in Roman times, the villa of the Roman emperor Nero was added, also the "Exedra" of Herod Atticus and Roman baths.
The Olympic Games ceased in 393 A.D. after the edict issued by Theodosius the Great which forbade all pagan festivals. They were revived for the first time after fifteen centuries, in 1896 in the marble stadium in Athens. Today, an international Olympic Academy functions at Olympia. There is also a Museum of Olympic Games where data connected with the Olympic Games are displayed together with a collection of commemorative postage stamps.
The two Museums at Olympia contain most interesting exhibits. Among various other items, there is the most impressive collection of sculpture of the austere style (first half of the 5th century B.C.). There are also the pediments and metopes of the temple of Zeus. The east pediment portrays preparations for the chariot race between Pelops and Oenomaos while the west pediment shows the battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs. The twelve metopes, three of which are gypsum casts, depict the twelve Labours of Hercules. Two more masterpieces of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. are to be seen in the originals of the sculptors Paionios with his statue of Niki (Victory) and of Hermes by Praxiteles. Of the terracotta sculptures, the most complete is a composition of Zeus and Gannymede (most probably from a temple pediment). There is also a rich collection of bronze articles such as figurines and small effigies, tripods, strips, arms and portions of armour (helmets, breastplates, grieves, etc.). Among these is a Persian helmet from the booty captured by the Athenians, after the battle of Marathon. Plus the helmet worn by Miltiades, the victorious commander of the Athenian forces in that battle.