Apr
16
2009

What is the Temple of Olympian Zeus?

Temple of Olympian Zeus - courtesy icelight - CC-BY

Temple of Olympian Zeus - courtesy icelight - CC-BY

The Temple of Olympian Zeus also known as the Olympieion, is a temple that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods.  It was finished fairly late in ancient history and is located in the center of Athens. It was in use for less than a century. It was the largest temple in Greece and housed one of the largest cult statues in the ancient world. Construction begun around 520 BC but for political reasons, work stopped in 510 BC.  The temple remained unfinished for 336 years before work began again. It was not until 174 BC that the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes revived the project. However, construction came to a halt again in 164 BC with Antiochus death. The temple was only half-finished by this time. It was not until Hadrian in the 2nd century AD that the project was finally completed, 650 years after it had begun.

The Temple was severely damaged during the Herulian sack of Athens in 267 and is unlikely to have been repaired. Over the following centuries, the temple was brought down by earthquake and was quarried to provide building material for the houses and churches of Athens. By the end of the Byzantine period, it was almost totally destroyed. Fifteen Corinthian Order columns are standing today and a sixteenth column lies on the ground where it fell during a storm in 1852. Nothing remains of the cella or the great statue that it once housed.

For more information about Athens and Classical Architecture

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