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Palaestra at Olympia

a Pleiades place resource

Creators: Noura Alavi, Santiago Dietche Copyright © The Contributors. Sharing and remixing permitted under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (cc-by).
Last modified Jul 05, 2018 12:22 PM History
Palaestra in the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia

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The Palaestra at Olympia is a ruin on the west bank of the Kladeos River. Aligned almost perfectly with the cardinal directions, the palaestra takes the form of a large square lined with columns, with a courtyard in the middle. The north side contains the main ephebeum, or exercise room, and a water channel runs through the entire structure. The architecture follows the Corinthian order, but the colonnade around the courtyard is of the Doric order, and other architectural details reflect the Ionic order. It is unclear when this monument was abandoned or destroyed.

Towards the end of the third and beginning of the second century BCE, palaestras were used primarily for boxing and wrestling matches, although they also housed social gatherings of other sorts. Every palaestra was equipped with rooms dedicated to powdering, washing, a punching bag, oil storage, youth activities, and intellectual pursuits. In this period, palaestras usually existed only as one element in larger gymnasium complexes. The standardization of the architectural form during this period reflects a set of values and practices shared across the Hellenistic Greek world.

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Noura Alavi, Santiago Dietche, Jeffrey Becker, and Adam Rabinowitz, 'Palaestra at Olympia: a Pleiades place resource', Pleiades: A Gazetteer of Past Places, 2018 <> [accessed: 21 September 2023]

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