Today’s Panathenaic Stadium has a very long history. As early as the 6th century BC, a racecourse existed at the site of the stadium. It hosted the Panathenaic Games celebrated every 4 years in honour of the goddess Athena. The racecourse had no formal seating and the spectators sat on the natural slopes on the side of the ravine. In the 4th century BC a 260 m long stadium of limestone was built with a few rows of stone benches around the track. Between 140 A.D. and 144 A.D., the stadium received its final appearance under Herodes Atticus. The new stadium was built completely of ashlar masonry in marble from the nearby Mount Pentelicus. In the late 4th century the Roman Emperor banned Hellenistic festivals and spectacles and the stadium was abandoned and fell into ruin.
It was only in the 19th century when the remains of the stadium were excavated, mainly between 1869 and 1870 under the German-born architect Ernst Ziller. End of the 19th century followed the great revival. The stadium was fully reconstructed according to Ziller's plans, for the first Olympic Games of modern time in 1986. It is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble and therefore is also called Kallimarmaro (beautiful marble) by the locals.