The Temple of the Olympian Zeus in Athens: This half-ruined temple is dedicated to Zeus, the king of the Olympian Gods, which explains the monument's name. It stands within walking distance from the Athens center, only 500 meters southeast of the Acropolis and 700 meters south of Syntagma Square. This temple is very close to other monuments of Athens, such as the Panathenaic Stadium, the Arch of Hadrian and Zappeion Megaron.
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The construction of the temple started in the 6th century BC and its design was appointed to the architects Antistates, Callaeschrus, Antimachides, and Porinus. At first, it was intended to be built out of limestone in the austere Doric style and was meant to be the hugest of all temples. However, its construction stopped in 510 BC due to political disorders, when the tyrant Hippias was exiled from Athens.
The temple remained incomplete for the next 336 years. In 174 BC, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Syria started its reconstruction, changing the building material from limestone to high-quality Pentelic marble and the architectural style from Doric to Corinthian. In fact, it was the first time that the Corinthian order was used for the exterior decoration of a temple. However, when Antiochus died, the project was not completed and the monument remained unfinished once again.
More information about the Temple of Olympian Zeus
In 125 BC, the Roman emperor Hadrian included this temple in his Athens building program. Many statues of gods and Roman emperors adorned the temple, including an enormous statue of Zeus made of gold and ivory. In its final form, the temple had 104 columns of 17 meters in height and 2 meters in diameter each.
Unfortunately, this temple was about to stand in grandeur for only a couple of centuries.
In 267 AD, during the rapine of Athens from the Heruli, the temple and a large part of the town were damaged.
In 425 AD, following the dominance of Christianity, the Byzantine emperor Theodosius II prohibited the cult of ancient Greek and Roman gods in the temple. In fact, he allowed people to use its fine marble for the construction of churches, houses and other buildings in the town. By the end of the Byzantine period, in the middle 15th century, only 21 of the 104 columns had survived.
The temple suffered more damage during the Ottoman occupation and the first decades of the Greek State. In 1852, a severe storm totally destroyed the cella and the great statue of Zeus. By that time, only 15 columns survived and a sixteenth column was lying on the ground.
A project for the excavation and restoration of the temple finally started in the late 19th century by the British Archaeological School of Athens. The German archaeologist Gabriel Walter excavated the site again in 1922, succeeded by Greek archaeologists under the supervision of Ioannis Travlos. in 1960
Despite the hardship it has been through, the temple of Olympian Zeus is still considered one of the finest ancient monuments of the city.
How to get there
There are many ways to reach the Temple of Olympian Zeus from any location in Athens.
Private transfers: We recommend using an online pre-booked transfer service, which provides transfer by taxi, minibus, or private VIP car and arranging a pickup directly from the port, airport, or your hotel. Alternatively, there’s the option of arranging a pickup by a local driver directly at the following numbers: (0030) 18288, (0030) 18222, (0030) 18180. You can also book your taxi online.
On foot: As the Temple of Olympian Zeus is located in a central area of Athens, it can be easily reached on foot from Syntagma Square in approximately 10 minutes.
By metro: The closest metro station is Akropoli (Red Line). Note that the Temple of Olympian Zeus is located within a 5-minute walking distance from the metro. Get a map of the metro here.
By bus/trolleybus: Since the Temple of Olympian Zeus is located in one of the most central regions in Athens, there are many bus stops nearby. Check the routes and the official timetables on OASA Telematics.
By tram: The closest tram stop is Leoforos Vouliagmenis (Route 6, Syntagma-Pikrodafni). Get a map of the tram here.