The Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens

Trip Start Apr 24, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Greece  , Attica,
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens

I am out after the rich breakfast I had at the hotel and I am going to show you around the Temple of Olympian Zeus first. It is a beautiful spring-like day, the day of my birthday and I am full of excitement and energy. The idea of this freedom of taking a long walk today, along with some sight-seeing, take pictures and talk again with unknown people excites me and I truly want to cover as much as possible through my pictures.

The Arch of Hadrian stands very near the Temple next to one of the busiest streets with heavy traffic. It is the street leading to Syntagma. During the Olympic Games the Arch was cleaned but I notice the change in colour again after all these years. As I walk pass it I notice several tourists trying to take photos. I offer helping a couple whom I find very sympathetic. I happen to appreciate people who offer taking a photo of me when I am travelling on my own. I can surely understand them and I am ready to help if I judge that they will appreciate it. The Arch was erected in 132 AD resembling the gate between the Roman city of Athens and the Ancient one.

I only visited the ruins back in 1974 when I first came from Cyprus but never again. Of course it is a site that all Athenians see daily, and I believe not many would bother visiting. This is usually done by schools when teachers take children to the different Museums and archaeological sites. Otherwise, it is not ordinary to find locals here. The idea of visiting the Temple this morning excites me more and I feel like a tourist in my own city.

I don't know why, but I feel moved after I pay the €2 fee and enter the gates. There are several people posing, others trying to find the best angle to take a picture of the Temple, and those who hold their guide books and are carefully reading about the history of the place. There are times when I envy these people.

Though only a few columns remain of the Temple of Olymia Zeus you don't need much imagination to realize that it had once been one monster of a building.

The building of the Temple began the 6th century by Peisistratos but work was stopped either because of lack of money or because Lisistratus’s son was overthrown in 510 BC. The temple was finished seven hundred years later by the Emperor Hadrian in 131 AD.

During the Third Century with the ruling of the Macedonians Antiochus the IV of Syria began working on it again.  His aim was to build the world’s largest temple. He then hired Cossotius the Roman architect to complete the job but this ended with the death of Antiochus.  In 86 BC, during the Roman rule the general Sulla removed two columns of the temple and had them carried to Rome for the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. With this he influenced the development of the Corinthian style in Rome.

Originally there were 104 Corinthian columns. Out of these only 15 remain standing today, and one of them was blown down in a storm in 1852.

A giant gold and ivory statue of Zeus had been erected by Hadrian and was placed inside the temple, with an equally large statue of Hadrian himself placed next to it.

There is a possibility that the temple was destroyed by an earthquake during the mediaeval period. Unfortunately much of the ruins were taken away for building materials. There was a period in the 1800’s where people used to build on top of pillars or columns and we can see this happening from early drawings.

The paragraph below I copy from the leaflet I was given at the gate."The temple of Olympian Zeus (Olympieion), the largest of the ancient temples of Athens, stands on a low elevation in the ground to the south-east of the Acropolis.  Traces of human settlement on this site date from as early as the Prehistoric period. The antiquity of the sanctuary is attested both by archaeological evidence and the ancient sources.  Pausanias reports that it was founded by Deukalion, the mythical founding father of the Greeks”

I have the chance to meet another sympathetic couple coming from Argentina this time.  They are impressed with their trip to Greece, and we chat for more than half an hour under the huge Ancient Columns. They are Monica who is an English teacher and Alberto who is an Architect. They are highly speaking of their trip to Mykonos, and Athens.   

They are amazed with the Greek culture, the people, and they admit that they faced a similar situation with the economy of their country years back. I try to help them as much as I can by suggesting places not to be missed, suggesting cheap and good restaurants, and I advise them to take the cable car that will take them up to the Lycabettus hill in the evening.

I believe I will hear from them when they return to Argentina. They were flying to Italy the following morning to spend a month with their son.

Now, enjoy the pictures I have taken and like always you are welcome to post your comments.

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rossport on

I envy you to have such beauty on hand but as you said you see it every day so hence you become blind to what is around you and the beauty of it

greekcypriot on

It is very important to learn to appreciate what we owe and what we have around us.
We can find pleasure and happiness even with the least and still be happy.
I find happiness just by being able to walk out there or anywhere. When much younger I thought that beauty was out in exotic islands, or other countries but as I grew older I realized that I was wrong. We Greeks have the treasure of our culture first, and then no matter what is being done to the Greek nation right now nobody can take this away from us. There are many who don’t care much but the majority does care and ….. oh, well, I could go on and write a paragraph but I won’t.

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