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The Temple of Olympian Zeus

Though only a few columns remain of the Temple of Olympia Zeus it does not take much imagination to realize that this was one monster of a building.

Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, GreeceThe building of the Temple of Olympian Zeus actually began in the 6th Century by Peisistratos but work was stopped either because of a lack of money or because Pisistratus's son, Hippias, was overthrown in 510 BC. The temple was not finished until the Emperor Hadrian completed in 131 AD, seven hundred years later. There were other attempts to continue the building. The Classical Greeks (487-379)left it unfinished because they believed it was too big and symbolized the arrogance of people who believed they were equal to the Gods. During the Third Century when the Macedonians ruled Athens work was begun again by Antiochus the IV of Syria who wanted to build the world's largest temple and hired the Roman architect Cossotius to complete the job, but this ended when Antiochus died. In 86 BC, during Roman rule the general Sulla took two columns from the unfinished temple to Rome for the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill which influenced the development of the Corinthian style in Rome.

Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, GreeceOriginally there were 104 Corinthian columns of which only 15 remain standing. One of the columns actually blew down in a storm in 1852. Hadrian had erected a giant gold and ivory status of Zeus inside the temple with an equally large one of himself next to it. Nothing remains of these statues. It is not known when the temple of Zeus was destroyed but it probably came down in an earthquake during the mediaeval period. Like other ancient buildings much of it was taken away for building materials. In the early 1800s a stylite (a group of ascetics who spent long periods sitting or standing on top of pillars or columns. The word comes from the Greek stylos for column.) built his dwelling on top of one of the columns of the temple and it can be seen in early paintings and drawings.

Nearby is the Arch of Hadrian which was erected in 132 AD as a gate between the ancient city and the Roman city of Athens.

You can click on these photos to see them full-size

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See also:
The Acropolis
, Museums of Athens,
Plaka
, History of Greece

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