Temple of Olympian Zeus

Temple of Zeus in Athens | A Historical Place In Greece

The Temple of Olympian Zeus is a temple located in the heart of Athens, the capital city of Greece. It was dedicated to Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods. The project was not finished until the time of Roman Emperor Hadrian in the second century AD or around 638 years after it had started. The temple, which had 104 enormous columns, was known as the biggest in Greece during the Roman era and was home to one of the biggest sacred statues. It stood in grandeur for only a couple of centuries. In 267 AD, the Heruli damaged the temple.

In 425 AD, Emperor Theodosius II banned the worship of ancient gods and allowed the temple's marble to be repurposed for churches and buildings. During the Ottoman occupation and early Greek State, the temple suffered further damage. A significant portion of the temple still stands today, including sixteen of the original, enormous columns, and it is still a significant Greek archaeological site.

Attractions In The Temple of Olympian Zeus

The Corinthian Order Capitals of The Olympian Zeus

The Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens is famous for its stunning Corinthian columns. These columns are also a defining feature of ancient Greek architecture. There were originally 104 columns, out of which 15 remain today. Each of the columns is 17 metres high and has a distinct Corinthian order style. Elaborate designs, including acanthus leaves, also characterise these columns. This design was the work of Roman architect Decimus Cossutius. Under the leadership of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, he used Hellenistic and Roman influences in the design. The upper part of the column resembles a blossoming acanthus plant. The design of the columns is also similar to the artistic vision of the sculptor Callimachus. 

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Imperial Cult and Panhellenic Ambitions

The Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens honoured the ancient deities. It played an important role in its era's imperial cult and Panhellenic goals. The Roman Emperor Hadrian completed the temple’s construction in AD 131. Upon its completion, the temple symbolised the fusion of Greek and Roman cultures. It also housed majestic statues of Zeus and Hadrian. This enhanced the close ties between religion and imperial power. It was also similar to Hadrian's vision of Athens as a cultural and political power. You can see his impact in the many statues and writings in the temple. This blend of divine and imperial worship is very significant in the temple's history.

Fallen Columns

The fallen columns of The Temple of Zeus, Athens, bear silent witness to the ravages of time and nature. One of these columns collapsed during strong winds in 1852. These ruins tell a lot about the age-old construction techniques used in the temple. They also give insights into the historical turmoil the temple has withstood. The temple's history is evident in these fallen structures. They tell the story of the temple’s building materials being stolen during invasions. They also recount the natural disasters that struck it. They also connect the past and present. This makes you think about the temple’s glorious and troubled history.

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Stylite Monks

The Temple of Zeus in Athens also holds a fascinating connection to the Stylite monks. These monks are known for their unique ascetic practices. They found isolated shelters on top of pillars. Some of these pillars were a part of the temple. Their presence added a distinctive spiritual dimension to the site. Initially, these columns served as a Byzantine watchtower. Later, they became the home of the Stylite monks. Their choice to stay in such an unconventional place tells much about their isolation and spiritual pursuit. The temple's history gives you a glimpse into the different religious activities that used to take place here. 

History of The Temple of Olympian Zeus

Classical and Hellenistic Periods

The foundations of the Temple of Olympian Zeus were laid on an ancient sanctuary dedicated to Zeus. Around 550 BC, tyrant Peisistratus built a temple there, which was later demolished. His sons, Hippias and Hipparchos, began constructing a new temple around 520 BC. The project was abandoned when Hippias was expelled in 510 BC, leaving it unfinished for 336 years. Augustus tried to complete the temple, but it wasn't finished. It was completed during Hadrian's reign in the 2nd century AD, 638 years after it began.

Roman Era

In 124- 125 AD, when Hadrian visited Athens, a massive building program began, completing the Temple of Olympian Zeus. A marble-paved pavement was constructed around the temple, making it a central focus of the city. Hadrian decorated it with statues of himself, the gods, and Roman provinces. The temple was damaged during the Heruli sack of Athens in 267 AD and was likely not repaired. An earthquake in the 5th century destroyed it, and its materials were used for a nearby basilica.

Medieval & Modern Periods

Over the centuries, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was used for building materials for medieval Athens. By the end of the Byzantine period, only 21 of the original 104 columns remained. In 1759, Turkish governor Mustapha Agha Tzistarakis destroyed one column to use its marble for the Tzistarakis Mosque. Of the 16 columns, 15 are still standing and the 16th is lying on the ground. It fell during a storm in 1852. The chamber and the massive statue it originally held are lost.

Temple Of Zeus Architecture

The Temple of Olympian Zeus was constructed on an open area about 250 by 130 meters, which added to its magnificence. This space was supported by Corinthian columns placed at regular intervals. A propylon gate made of Hymettan marble was positioned in the wall's northwest corner. There were twenty columns on the long side and eight on the short side. Double rows were arranged down the length, with triple rows at each short side. As a result, there were 104 columns at first.

Ornamental Corinthian caps made from two enormous pieces of marble top the columns. Moreover, gold and ivory statues of Zeus and Hadrian were housed within the cella. Only fifteen of the temple's columns remain standing today due to damage sustained by the temple and the reuse of its materials in other structures. Another column, which had its column drums beautifully stretched out in a perfect line, fell victim to a storm as recently as 1852 CE and now lies across the ground.

The Construction of The Temple of Olympian Zeus

The construction of the Temple of Zeus is a monumental tale of ancient Greek architectural ambition. The project began in the 6th century BC under Peisistratos the Younger. It would last nearly seven centuries. The temple's construction was finally completed under the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 132 AD. He also commissioned Hadrian's Arch nearby as a grand gateway. It would link the temple with the ancient city. This arch, completed in 131 AD, featured exquisite carvings and inscriptions. It also celebrated Hadrian as the founder of Athens.

The Temple of Zeus was located 500 metres southeast of the Acropolis. It had 104 colossal Corinthian columns in the early years, each towering at 15 meters. The temple was also crafted from the pristine white marble of Mount Pentelicus. Today, only 15 of these impressive columns remain, with one lying intact on the ground. Each of these tells a story of past glories and the passage of time.

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Plan Your Visit to Temple of Olympian Zeus

Location & Opening Hours
How to Reach
Best Time to Visit
Tips to Visit

Temple of Zeus Location:

The Temple is located in Athens, Greece. It is about 500 metres southeast of the Acropolis. The temple is approximately 700 metres south of the centre of Athens, Syntagma Square. The official location of the Temple is Archaia Olympia 270 65, Greece. 

Temple of Zeus Opening Hours:

  • November to March: The Temple is open every day of the week between 08:30 a.m. and 03:00 p.m., with the last entry at 02:30 p.m. 
  • April to October: It remains open between 08:00 a.m. and 07:00 p.m., with the last entry time at 06:30 p.m.
  • The Temple remains closed on January 1st, March 25th and May 1st. It is also closed on Easter Sunday, December 25th and December 26th.

By Bus

You can avail a bus ride to the Akropolē bus stop from the Athens city centre. This stop is located 250 metres away from the Temple ticket office and takes a 5-minute walk.

By Car

The Temple is approximately 1.9 kilometres from the Athens city centre. The car ride takes 10 minutes to cover. To drive there, go along Rovertou Galli (Ροβέρτου Γκάλλι) 5. Then, continue to Rovertou Galli 39 road. From there, turn right onto Dionysiou Areopagitou Road, and you will find the temple at the road's end.

By Metro

If you wish to avail the metro, you must get off at the Acropoli station, which is 1.5 kilometres away. From the station, you can walk for 5 to 7 minutes and reach the temple.

The best time to visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens is spring or early fall. These seasons offer pleasant weather, avoiding summer's scorching heat and winter's chill. Mornings, particularly right after opening, are ideal for a visit. This time ensures a more tranquil experience.

It allows you to fully appreciate the site's majesty. Weekdays are preferable as they are typically less busy compared to weekends. Late afternoon can also be magical, with the setting sun casting a golden hue over the ancient columns. This creates a breathtaking and photogenic scene.

  • Wear shoes with good support to ensure that you explore the temple comfortably.
  • Avoid sitting on the grass beside the temple since it is prohibited. You can only sit on dedicated benches on the premises.
  • Carrying water is essential for hydration to combat the often intense heat. 
  • Visiting The Temple of Zeus in Athens early in the morning is recommended. This way, you can avoid the usual crowds and the midday heat.
  • Allocate sufficient time to explore and truly appreciate the site's rich history and intricate architecture. Check for any special cultural events for an enriching experience.
  • Enhance your visit with a guide or an audio guide. It can provide valuable historical insights and context.
  • Always remember to respect the preservation rules to maintain the sanctity of this historical monument.

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FAQs of Temple of Olympian Zeus

Why is the Temple of Olympian Zeus Famous?

The Temple of Zeus in Athens is renowned for its historical and architectural significance. It was one of the largest temples in the ancient world, dedicated to Zeus, the chief deity in Greek mythology.

The temple, known for its grandeur and colossal size, featured 104 massive Corinthian columns, of which only 15 remain standing today. These ruins symbolise ancient Greek civilisation's artistic and The Temple of Zeus in Athens is famous for its historical and architectural significance.

It was one of the largest temples in the ancient world. It is dedicated to Zeus, the chief deity in Greek mythology. The temple was also known for its grandeur and colossal size. It featured 104 massive Corinthian columns, of which only 15 remain standing today. These ruins symbolise ancient Greek civilisation's artistic and cultural achievements. 

cultural achievements, making it a focal point for historians and tourists.

What are the opening hours of the Temple of Olympian Zeus?

The Temple of Zeus Athens operates year-round, with varying seasonal hours. From April to October, the visiting hours are from 08:00 a.m. to 07:00 p.m., offering ample time for tourists. The opening hours are shorted during the winter months, from November to March. The temple is open from 08:30 a.m. to 03:00 p.m. during these months. These hours are subject to change for maintenance or special events.

What is the best time to visit the Temple of Zeus?

The best time to visit the Temple is spring (April to June) or early fall (September to October). These months offer mild weather, enhancing the outdoor experience. Early mornings or late afternoons are ideal for avoiding the midday sun and crowds. This also provides a more tranquil atmosphere and better lighting for photography.

Are there any tips for Visiting the Temple of Zeus Athens?

Comfortable walking shoes are necessary due to the uneven terrain when visiting the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Staying hydrated is essential, especially during the hot summer months. An early morning visit is recommended to avoid crowds. Carrying a guidebook or audio guide can enrich your understanding of the site's history. Check for special events, as they can add to the experience.

Is there any dress code of the Temple of Zeus?

There is no formal dress code for the Temple. However, wearing comfortable and respectful attire suitable for walking and weather conditions is advised. Since the temple is an ancient, revered site, dressing modestly is recommended.

Is photography allowed in the Temple of Olympian Zeus?

Photography is permitted and encouraged at the Temple. The ancient columns, against the backdrop of Athens, make for a spectacular photographic subject. Early morning or late afternoon offers the best natural lighting for photos. Taking photographs during this time also highlights the temple's architectural details.

How much does it cost to go to the Temple of Zeus?

Entry to the Temple costs approximately 6 euros, or INR 545, for adults. Concessions are available for students and seniors on certain free admission days, like national holidays. The ticket price is nominal, considering the historical value. You also get the experience of witnessing ancient Greek architecture here. 

Is it worth visiting the Temple of Zeus Athens in Greece?

Yes, the Temple of Zeus is definitely worth visiting. It offers a unique opportunity to witness the remains of one of the most significant structures in ancient Greece. The temple provides insights into Greek mythology, ancient architectural techniques, and the cultural significance of Zeus in Greek society.

When was the Temple of Zeus Constructed?

The construction of the Temple began in the 6th century BC under the Athenian leader Peisistratos. However, the temple was completed in the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian in 131 AD. This lengthy construction period saw various modifications and enhancements. The structure also reflects the architectural and cultural transitions from the classical Greek to the Roman era.

What is the history of the Temple of Olympian Zeus?

The construction of the Temple commenced in the 6th century BC. It began under the Athenian leader Peisistratos, but was halted due to political changes. The Romans resumed the project, and Emperor Hadrian completed it in 131 AD. The construction of the temple took over 600 years. This reflects the changing political landscapes and cultural influences from Greece to Rome.


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