Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
On our first day in Athens we got cloudless blue skies, and the columns looked magnificent against the blue. There was one column which lay fallen and looked like sliced up cookies. It was blown down in a storm in 1852. The magnitude of the columns silences you. The base measures 96m by 40m, and each of those columns are 17m tall. Travel guide book DK advises for best photographs afternoons are the best and thankfully we were able to time the visit.
The construction of this grand temple was started in 6th century BC but was completed in 131AD.
The building of the Temple of Olympian Zeus 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. 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.
I saw similar columns in the ruins of Temple of Castor and Pollux in Forum, Rome.
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 medieval period. Like other ancient buildings much of it was taken away for building materials.