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Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens

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View of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Photo © caribb.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as the Olympieion, is an Greco-Roman temple in the center of Athens, southeast of the Acropolis. Begun in the 6th century BC, it was not completed until the reign of the Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD. In was at that time the largest temple in Greece.

History

The Olympieion's foundations were laid (on the site of an earlier temple) by the tyrant Pisistratus in 515 BC, but the work was abandoned when Pisistratus's son, Hippias, was overthrown in 510 BC.

During the years of Greek democracy, the temple was left unfinished, apparently because the Greeks of the classical period thought it anti-democratic to build on such a scale. Aristotle cited the temple as an example of how tyrannies engaged the populace in great works for the state and left them no time, energy or means to rebel.

Work resumed in the 3rd century BC, during the period of Macedonian domination of Greece, under the patronage of the Hellenistic king Antiochus IV of Syria. Antiochus hired the Roman architect Cossutius to design the largest temple in the known world, but when Antoichus died in 164 BC the work was delayed again.

In 86 BC, after Greek cities were brought under Roman rule, the general Sulla took two columns from the unfinished temple to Rome to adorn the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. These columns influenced the development of the Corinthian style in Rome. In the 2nd century AD, the temple was taken up again by Hadrian, a great admirer of Greek culture, who finally brought it to completion in 129 or 131.

The temple was probably destroyed by an earthquake during the medieval period, and disassembled for building materials. The Olympieion was first excavated in 1889-1896 by Francis Penrose of the British School in Athens, who also played a leading role in the restoration of the Parthenon. Further work was done in 1922 by the German archaeologist Gabriel Welter and in the 1960s by Greek archaeologists led by Ioannes Travlos.

Today, along with the surrounding ruins of other ancient structures, the Olympieion is a historical precinct administered by Ephorate of Antiquites of the Greek Interior Ministry.

What to See

The graceful ruins of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus can be clearly seen from the Acropolis and are floodlit at night. The temple is made of fine marble brought from Mount Pentelus and originally measured 96 meters long and 40 meters wide.

Hadrian had erected a giant gold and ivory status of Zeus in the cella, and placed an equally large one of himself next to it. Unfortunately, however, nothing remains of these or anything else from the interior of the temple.

There were originally 104 Corinthian columns, each 17 meters high; 48 of these stood in triple rows under the pediments and 56 in double rows at the sides. Only 15 columns remain standing today, with lovely Corinthian capitals still in place. A 16th column blew over in 1852 and is still lying where it fell.


Quick Facts on the Temple of Olympian Zeus

Site Information
Names:Διός; Ναός του Ολυμπίου; Naos tou Olimbiou Dios, Kolonnes; Temple of Olympian Zeus; Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
City:Athens
State:Attica
Country:Greece
Categories:Temples
Faiths:Ancient Greek; Ancient Roman
Feat:Largest
Styles:Greek
Status:ruins
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Athens, Greece
Coordinates:37.969309° N, 23.733076° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of the Temple of Olympian Zeus

Below is a location map and aerial view of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.

References

  1. Temple of Olympian Zeus (Athens) - Wikipedia (some text used under GFDL)
  2. The Temple of Olympian Zeus (the Olympieion, also known as the Kolonnes) - Frommer's
  3. Athens: The Temple of Olympian Zeus - Virtual Tourist user reviews
  4. Olympieion - Hellenic Ministry of Culture
  5. Olympíeion Zeus and Pcyli Adrianoú - AAA Europe Travel Book

More Information

Article Info

Title:Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:07/30/2010
Permalink:www.sacred-destinations.com/greece/athens-temple-of-olympian-zeus/greece/athens-temple-of-olympian-zeus
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