The choice of Olympia
For centuries, the Olympic Games were considered the most important celebration of all Panhellenic festivals. The various myths associated
to the Games do not help in a full understanding of the exact reasons
why Olympia was chosen for the conduct of the Games nor do they
explain its becoming a very important religious center for the Greek
world. When faced with this difficult challenge archeology is our
most valuable ally.
Based on mythology, history and archeology it can be assumed that already by the 10th century BC Olympia was a cult place, known to the elite of Western Peloponnese. The character of the original dedications (animal figurines) reveals agricultural and pastoral interests, whereas horse and chariot figurines reflect the interests of more wealthy people. Obviously, Olympia came to be a regional cult place for people of different social background and various interests. In a region divided into small-scale territorial units, neutral religious centers functioned as meeting places of the local elite.
A broadening of the cult activities held in Olympia came by the late 8th century BC, when participation was expanded to include a larger number of city-states in the worship festivities at Olympia. The region of Elis, where Olympia lies, was resettled again (750-700 BC) and several dispersed settlements were formed in the area. From this period and on, the sanctuary gradually became a crucial place of celebration, a place that inspired and attracted numerous visitors from different areas of Greece throughout antiquity.