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Written by Arjunan on April 19, 2020 Share on

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Located south-east of Athens’ Acropolis, near the river Ilissos, stands one of the largest creations of the ancient world, The Temple of Olympian Zeus, dedicated to the King of Olympian Gods in Greek mythology. The Temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as the Olympieion was built over several centuries starting in 6th century BCE during Athenian tyrants, who envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world, but it was not complete till the Reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 2nd century CE, some 638 years after the project began. A Greek traveller who lived in the period of Emperor Hadrian claimed that the ancient sanctuary to Zeus was first created at the site by the mythical figure of Deucalion, the son of Prometheus.

A walled marble-paved precinct was constructed around the temple, making it a central focus of the ancient city. A giant gold and ivory statue of Zeus and Hadrian was erected inside the temple’s cella next to each other due to which the ancient Greeks left the temple to crumble during invasions as they considered it as a symbol of arrogance to compare people to God. The temple which included 104 colossal columns and housed one of the largest cult statues in the ancient world was renowned as the largest temple in Greece during the Roman reign. The Temple’s glory was short-lived, a century after its completion it fell into disuse after being plundered during a barbaric invasion. It was never repaired after that loot and was reduced to ruins thereafter.

In the centuries that followed after the fall of the Roman Empire, it was extensively quarried for building materials to supply for the building projects happening elsewhere in the city. Despite all the inconvenience caused during various centuries the structure still holds substantial parts of the temple, notably sixteen columns of the original gigantic structure and it continues to be a part of a very important archaeological site of Greece.

Today, the temple is an open-air museum, part of the unification of the archaeological site of Athens. Fifteen columns remain standing and the sixteenth column lies on the ground where it fell during the storm in 1852, three and a half decades before the excavation by Francis Penrose of the British School of Athens. The second round of excavations began in 1922 by the German archaeologist Gabriel Welter and the third by Greek archaeologists led by Loannes Travlos in the 1960s. Nothing remains of the cella or the greatest statue that it once housed. The temple, along with the surrounding ruins of the other ancient structures, is a historical precinct administered by the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Greek Interior Ministry.

Though only a few columns remain of the temple it does not take much imagination to realise that this was on a monster of a building with its colossal Corinthian columns, cult statues and the marble walls. Pickyourtrail votes that the Temple of Olympian Zeus now stands as the archaic marvel of the ancient world.

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