The Temple of Zeus in Athens was one of the most powerful temples in ancient Greece, eclipsing even the Parthenon on the Acropolis. Some massive columns still bear witness to its former splendour today.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens may not be one of the best known, but it is without doubt one of the most impressive sights in the capital of Greece. In ancient times, the Olympieion, about 500m from the Acropolis, was one of the largest and the only Corinthian temple in the country.
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PICTURES: Temple of Zeus in Athens
Origin of the Temple of Zeus in Athens
Construction of the Temple of Zeus was originally begun under King Antiochos IV in the 2nd century BC, and the oldest foundations even date back to the 6th century BC.
However, the Olympieion was only completed from 124 to 132 AD under Emperor Hadrian, who was a great admirer of Greek culture. He is still remembered today by the monumental Hadrian's Gate, through which the grounds of the Temple of Zeus can be entered.
Larger than the main temple of the Acropolis
The magnificent temple complex made of Pentelic marble was a massive 110 metres long and 43 metres wide. By comparison, the Parthenon, built almost 100 years later and the largest temple on the Acropolis, has a floor area of just under 70 by 30 metres.
The temple of Zeus was surrounded by a double row of a total of 104 Corinthian columns, which were around 17 metres high. Fifteen of the enormous columns, one of which weighs around 150 tonnes, are still standing upright today. The rest probably fell victim to an earthquake in the Middle Ages. The first excavations at the Temple of Zeus began in 1889.
From Lykavittos, the Athenians' local mountain, the impressive complex is easy to spot on its green lawn in the city's snow-white sea of houses.
Tip: The Temple of Olympian Zeus is included in the Athens Combi Ticket, which is valid at a reduced price for four days for the Acropolis Museum, the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and its Museum, Kerameikos, the Dionysus Theatre, the Temple of Zeus and the Roman Agora, and is available at each of these attractions.