Stand at the foot of towering columns which honor the father of all Olympic gods at this 1st Century temple.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as the Olympeion or Columns of the Olympian Zeus, is an impressive ruined temple in central Athens. It’s located less than half a mile (700 meters) to the south of Syntagma Square. Stand in awe of the towering columns that still remain from this temple which was built in ancient times to pay homage to the father of all the Olympian gods.
Only 15 of the original 104 Corinthian columns remain standing, but that’s plenty to give you an idea of the sheer size of the temple. Most of the structure was likely destroyed during an earthquake in the mediaeval period. One of the columns was toppled during a storm in 1852. The clearly defined segments of the remaining portion of this column give you a good idea of how it was constructed.
The building of this massive temple took seven hundred years to complete. The ruler Peisistratos started the project during the 6th Century B.C., but it wasn’t finished until 131 AD, by the Emperor Hadrian. The Classical Greeks left it unfinished during all of those years because they believed it was too big, a symbol of arrogance that man might be equal to the gods. Interestingly, Hadrian commissioned a huge gold-and-ivory statue of Zeus for the inner chamber and another, only slightly smaller, of himself.
Take a look just to the north of the site to see the remains of Roman houses, the city walls, and a Roman bath. Also nearby is the Arch of Hadrian which was erected in 131 AD as a gate between the ancient city and the Roman city of Athens.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is located in central Athens, and is accessible by public transportation. It’s open daily, and admission is covered in the cost of a ticket to enter the Acropolis. The summer is a beautiful time to visit, when the site is lit up at night along with the Acropolis.