Temple of Zeus

Visitors to Greece looking for the Temple of Zeus will find two different temples of significance built to honor the king of all Greek mythology gods. There are the ruins of the once great Temple of Zeus at Olympia, and the remnants of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus in Athens. The Temple of Zeus in Olympia was built between 470 BC and 456 BC, while the Temple of Zeus in Athens took much longer to finish, with construction beginning in the 6th century BC and lasting until the 2nd century AD. Although both of these temples are reduced to the parts more than the whole, they offer intriguing insight into the glory of ancient Athens architecture.

The Temple of Zeus in Athens is located near the center of the city, just about a quarter of a mile to the southeast of the Acropolis, and within a quarter mile south of Syntagma Square and the Parliament Building. Along the walk from Syntagma Square, you pass along the eastern edge of the famed Plaka neighborhood and pass the National Garden. Just east of the Temple of Zeus in Athens, you can visit “Kallimarmaron”, also known as the Panathinaiko Stadium. That is one of the best things about the attractions in Athens - they are within easy reach of each other.

The history of the Temple of Zeus in Athens takes it through quite a time-line. The temple was placed on the site of a previous temple. Construction began in 515 BC and was headed by the Tyrant of Athens, Pisistratus. Pisistratus was the son of Hippocrates, and ruled Athens at various different stages. When Hippias, son of Pisistratus was overthrown 5 years later, work on the temple was abandoned. With the coming period of Athenian democracy, it would be deemed that the temple remain unfinished. Classical Greeks of that time supposedly thought it an act of hubris to build such a structure. The history of the Temple of Zeus took a turn when the Macedonian Empire took control of Athens, and in the 3rd century BC works were resumed on the temple. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, king of the Hellenistic dynasty, contracted a Roman architect named Cossutius to make the temple the largest in the world. Work again halted, however, when in 164 BC Antiochus died. Not until the 2nd century AD would the move begin to finish the temple, and it was initiated by Hadrian. Sometime between the years 129 and 131 the Temple of Zeus was finished. An interesting note in the history of the temple of Zeus is that Hadrian, upon dedicating the temple to Zeus, erected two large statues in the center of the building. Both were large and one depicted Zeus, the other one Hadrian himself.

If you are looking to visit the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, you can often find Greece vacation packages or a number of Greece tours that include a stop there. Otherwise, it can be reached from cities like Thessaloniki and Athens by bus or train on the route to Pyrgos. Renting a car in Greece, you can head to Olympia on your own, if you wish. In nearby Pyrgos, you will find some good hotels and restaurants if you need a place to stay. The original Olympic Games were held at Olympia and the Temple of Zeus at Olympia once held one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World. It was the impressive statue of Zeus, and it was the work of the Greek sculptor, artist and architect Phidias. The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was built with rectangular dimensions with 6 large columns at the front and back, and 13 on the sides. It was an impressive classical structure, with sculptures and accents added by the anonymous Olympia Master. The statue of Zeus, which no longer remains in existence, would have been gigantic. Even with Zeus sitting down, the statue was 40 feet tall and filled the temple almost to the sides where it sat. The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was toppled by an earthquake in the 5th century AD.

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