Architecture Around the World

Temple of Olympian Zeus
Athens, Greece

Click on photos for larger size

Photo taken from Likovitos Hill

Corinthian columns


The temple of Olympian Zeus is the largest in Greece, exceeding even the Parthenon in size. Work began on this vast edifice in the 6th century BC, in the reign of the tyrant Peisistratos, who allegedly initiated the building work t gain public favor Although there were several attempts over many years to finish the temple, it was not completed until 650 years later.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian dedicated the temple to Zeus Olympios during the Panhellenic festival of AD 132, on his second visit to Athens. He also set up a gold and ivory inlaid statue of the god inside the temple, a copy of the original by Pheidias at Olympia. Next to it he placed a huge statue of himself. Both these statues have since been lost.

Only 15 of the original 104 Corinthian columns remain, each 17 m (56 ft) high - but enough to give a sense of the enormous size of this temple, which would have been approximately 96 m (130 ft) wide. Pentelic Corinthian capitals were added to the columns by a Roman architect in 174 BC in place of the original, simple Doric columns.

The temple is situated next to Hadrian's Arch, built in AD 131. It was positioned deliberately to mark the boundary between the ancient city and the new Athens of Hadrian.

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Photos and their arrangement © 2001 Chuck LaChiusa
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