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
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.