The first evidence relevant to the worship of Pelops and Hippodamia, in the area of Olympia, appeared during the Mycenaean period.
The mythological tradition of the area is connected to the ancient king of Pisa, Oenomaus, son of the god Ares. Oenomaus had received a prophecy that the end of his life would come with the marriage of his daughter Hippodamia, whom he...
begot with his wife Sterope. In an attempt to avoid the prophecy, the king announced that he would give his daughter to the one who would beat him in a chariot race. He, however, used unbeatable weapons and immortal horses, gifts from his father. During the races, many brave young men were killed. Oenomaus buried their bodies close to the Hippodrome of Olympia and nailed their heads over the gates of his palace. The last suitor was Pelops, son of Tantalus, who fell instantly in love with Hippodamia and she with him. The only person who could help them was Oenomaus' charioteer, Myrtilus, son of Hermes and gifted with his father's cunning. Pelops promised to give Myrtilus half of Oenomaus' kingdom if he would help him win. Myrtilus accepted and, before the start of the race, he replaced the axle-pins of the king's chariot with wax pegs which, once the race had started, melted and the wheels fell off. Oenomaus became tangled up in the reins and was killed. Pelops, therefore, won the race and took Hippodamia for his wife along with the whole kingdom of Oenomaus. When Myrtilus later tried to rape Hippodamia, Pelops killed him and then went to Oceanus where he was purified by Hephaestus and returned to become king of Pisa, wise and strong. He also renamed the land, which was formerly called Apia, to Peloponissos (the Island of Pelops), or the Peloponnese.
Without doubt, Pelops was the most important mythical person of the Peloponnese. In the sacred grove of Olympia, the inhabitants founded a sanctuary to honour him at which they would offer sacrifices every year. The belief that the Olympic games were established and took place in memory of Pelops was also very popular.
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