Temple of Hera

The Temple of Hera provides a picture of ancient Greece. These archaeological ruins in Olympia are a taste of what the city was like in its glory days. Best known as the host of the ancient Olympic games, the city continues to play a role in the modern games. Every four years, the Olympic Torch is lit at the Temple of Hera in Olympia Greece just like it was in ancient times.

The ancient architects of the Heraion (another name for a temple dedicated to Hera) chose a spot on the Peloponnesian Peninsula to build this monument. The exact spot for the Temple of Hera in Olympia Greece is on the south slopes of a hill called Kronios. Legend has it that the first temple was dedicated around 1100 BC by the residents of the city of Eleia, which pre-dated Olympia. However, archaeologists believe that history of the temple is a little more recent. The original temple was likely built around 650 BCE with additional architectural elements added later.

The Temple of Hera was dedicated to a major deity—the Greek goddess married to Zeus. She was the queen of the Olympic people and her husband was the chief of the gods. She provided aid to Jason and Argonauts, helping them find the golden fleece. As was the case for most Greek gods, Hera had a dark side. She was jealous of Heracles, Zeus's son with a mortal woman. She dispensed snakes to attack him in his crib, but the infant survived. Much later, she sent the Amazons to cause trouble when Heracles was on a quest. A Temple of Zeus stands near by the Heraion in Olympia, dating from 515 BC.

Many visitors include time in Olympia in the Greece tours, especially those interested in ancient history. A good guide can explain the story of the Temple of Hera, illustrating what it looked like in its glory days. The temple would have been long and wide, rather than high, as is typical for Doric-style temples. The first columns were made of wood, gradually replaced by stone over time. The ones standing today date from different eras, including the Roman era. The ancients fascinated the Romans as they do today's travelers and history buffs. The Romans placed some of the choicest artifacts in the Heraion, making it a kind of museum.

Those who time their vacations just right will be treated to lighting of the Olympic torch. This ceremony kicks off a few months before the games and the torch is lit at the opening ceremonies. Many gather of the Temple of Hera in Olympia Greece to witness the lighting of the torch. A woman, dressed in the garb of an ancient Greek priestess, will light the torch and recite a monologue (in Greek of course) signaling the start of the summer games. The torch is lit in the same way it was in the olden days. A mirror, in the shape of a parabola, focuses the sun's rays to a single point. The heat generated ignites the fuel and the torch is carried into the Olympic Stadium where the games first took place.

If the scheduled day is cloudy, a torch lit on a previous sunny day is used to light the Olympic torch. The torch for the winter games is lit closer to the Olympic stadium, at the monument to Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern games.

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