The Panathenaic Stadium (Greek: Παναθηναϊκό Στάδιο, Panathinaïkó Stadium, [panaθinaiko staðio]) [a] or Kallimarmaro (Καλλιμάρμαρο [kalimarmaro], lit. “beautiful marble”) is a multi-purpose stadium in Athens, Greece. One of the main historic attractions of Athens, it is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.
The stadium was built on the site of a simple racecourse by the Athenian statesman Lykourgos (Lycurgus) c. 330 BC, primarily for the Panathenaic Games. It was rebuilt in marble by Herod Atticus, an Athenian Roman senator, by 144 AD and had a capacity of 50,000 seats. After the rise of Christianity in the 4th century, it was largely abandoned. The stadium was excavated and hosted in the 1869 Olympics Zappas in 1870 and 1875. After being refurbished, it hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the first modern Olympics in 1896 and was the venue for 4 of the 9 Contested sports. It was used for various purposes in the 20th century and was once again used as an Olympic venue in 2004. It is the finishing point for the annual Athens Classic Marathon. It is also the last venue in Greece from where the Olympic flame handover ceremony to the host nation takes place.
The stadium is built in what was originally a ravine between the two hills of Agra and Ardettos, south of the Ilissos river. It is now located in the central Athens district of Pangrati, to the east of the National Gardens and the Zappeion Exhibition Hall, to the west of the Pangrati residential district and between the twin pine-covered hills of Ardettos and Agra. Up to the 1950s, the River (now covered by, and flowing underneath, Vasileos Konstantinou Avenue) ran in front of the stadium’s entrance, and the spring of Kallirrhoe, the sanctuary of Pankrates (a local hero) and the Cynosarges public gymnasium were nearby.
Originally, since the 6th century BC, the racecourse existed at the site of the stadium. It hosted the Panathenaic Games (also known as the Great Panathenaea), a religious and athletic festival celebrated every 4 years in honor of the goddess Athena. The racecourse had no formal seating and the spectators sat on the natural slopes on the side of the ravine.