Temple of Zeus Olympios

The area located at the south east of the Acropolis had been devoted to Zeus Olympios long time before the construction of the temple, which is sometimes called as the Olympieion. This is the god who worshipped at Olympia, the most important center of his cult and the place where the ancient Olympic had held.

It has long history since the mythological period and it is said that the sanctuary was established by Deukalion, who survived the catastrophic flood by Zeus to eradicate mankind. Archaeological evidence shows already in the early 6th century BC a large temple was built.

n the second half of the century, Peisistratos the tyrant started to erect a gigantic Doric temple with the depth of over 100m. Aristotele records that it was intended to waste the time and power of citizens and prevent them to revolt. With the end of the monarcy, however, they abrupted the construction and the temple was abandoned. Themistokles reused some blocks for the construction of his walls. Even Perikles, who reconstructed the Acropolis, did not rebuild the temple.

Only in the 174 BC, when Athens had lost her political power, Antiochos IV of the Seleucid Kingdom took up the reconstruction and changed the plan larger and the style into the Corinthian order. The death of the king, however, disrupted the erection. It is said that the columns taken by Sulla in 82 BC to Rome had a great impact on the Roman architecture.

Finally in the 124 AD, this temple suffered long hard time came to be completed. The Roman emperor Hadrian, known as pro-Greece, visited Athens and ordered to reconstruct the temple. In 129 AD, he visited again to attend the completion ceremony. Two years later, he dedicated an enormous chryselephantine statue of Zeus copied from the great cult figure at Olympia.

Although only 15 columns are preserved now, the temple, the largest in the Greek Mainland, originally had 104 columns with 3 lines of colonnades at the front and back and 2 lines at the both sides. The long slender column is topped by an elegant Corinthian capital consisting of acanthus leaves and tendrills. Since we can still enjoy the solemnity of the temple from the present state, it must have overpowering attraction in the original.