Temple of Zeus Facts

Temple of Olympian Zeus Facts

Discover the magical beauty of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, one of the world’s largest ancient temples, as you explore Greece. Situated in Athens, the temple was once home to the Statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The structure is a symbol of Greek and Roman traditions of art and architecture and has 15 stunning Corinthian columns that attract thousands of visitors. Among the well-known Temple of Zeus facts is that it was constructed in the Athenian Acropolis premises to honour Zeus, the Greek King of Gods.

One of the famous Temple of Zeus facts is that it took six centuries to be built, and was completed in 131 CE. The complex was home to several statues and portraits dedicated to Roman Emperor Hadrian and several Greek deities, most of which were destroyed in a sixth-century earthquake. Much of the original temple lies in ruins today but is still one of the top attractions to visit in Athens.

The Temple is Part of The Acropolis

The Temple of Olympian Zeus stands as part of the Athenian Acropolis, where excavations show that the site has seen human occupation since the Neolithic period. Local folklore says that the temple was constructed by Deukalion, a Greek mythological figure known as the son of Prometheus. On the other hand, historical records note that temple construction began in 515 BCE under the Roman tyrant Peisistratus. He commissioned Greek architects Antiastates, Antimachides, and Callaeschrus, who created the structure in the Doric style of architecture.

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Construction of The Temple was Abandoned for Some Time

Among the lesser-known Temple of Zeus facts is that the construction of the temple was abandoned for a few decades under different rulers. The temple was founded in 515 BCE under Peisistratus, but construction stopped when his son was overthrown as the ruler. The process restarted under Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV of Syria, who commissioned Cossutius, a Roman architect to further design the temple. However, upon the death of Antiochus in 164 BCE, it was again abandoned until the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian who completed the process in 131 CE.

It Took Six Centuries to Complete The Temple of Olympian Zeus

The stunning Temple of Olympian Zeus was completed for more than six centuries under the reign of different rulers. The Athenian landmark was commissioned by the Roman ruler Peisistratus in 515 BCE, although the project was later abandoned under successive rulers. The building process was restarted under the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes who led the temple work for a decade before his death. It was finally under the Roman Emperor Hadrian that the temple was completed in 131 CE.

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The Temple of Olympian Zeus was Destroyed by a Storm and an Earthquake

After its completion in the first century CE, the Temple of Olympian Zeus faced massive destruction due to a powerful earthquake in the sixth century CE. This natural disaster led to devastation and subsequent abandonment of the site. Another tragedy hit in 1852 when a massive storm destroyed the iconic statue of Zeus and the cella of the temple. One of the surviving 16 columns also fell, which led to the current existence of 15 Corinthian columns.

A Barbarian Invasion Led to Vandalism of The Temple

One of the intriguing Temple of Zeus facts is that a century after its construction was wrapped up, it was brutally vandalised by barbarians. In 267 CE when Athens was attacked, the then ruler Valerian used stones from the temple’s columns to construct a protective wall. The wall, however, failed to stop the barbarians who entered the city and plundered the temple bare. The situation worsened over the centuries, and by the fifteenth century, only 21 of the 104 Corinthian columns had survived. 

There were Several Statues at the Temple of Olympian Zeus

Popular Temple of Zeus facts include the knowledge that the ancient complex was home to several statues. The main cella of the temple had a colossal statue of Zeus, while the entrance had four massive stone portraits of King Hadrian. Another highlight was a majestic stone statue of Hadrian, which was placed behind the temple complex in honour of his generosity towards Athenians. Other important statues within the structure were dedicated to Greek gods as well as images of Roman provinces. 

The Corinthian-Style Arch of Hadrian Acted like a Gate

The Arch of Hadrian of the Temple of Olympian Zeus acted like an entrance to the massive complex. Constructed in the Corinthian style, the arch symbolised the shift from ancient Athens to the Roman Hadrianopolis. On either side of this elegant arch were Greek inscriptions that stated that it was not the city of Theseus but of Hadrian. The arch was among the later additions to the Athenian Acropolis, which marked the all-powerful position of Hadrian in the Panhellenic capital. 

The Remaining Columns of The Temple have been Featured in Several Artworks

It is among the commonly known Temple of Zeus facts that the structure had 104 columns when it was completed in the second century CE. Today, you would find fifteen of these columns intact on the premises while the sixteenth lies broken. As a stunning part of the Athenian skyline, the columns have been featured in several artworks like paintings, sketches, and photographs for several centuries. These works have helped scholars recreate the original structure and conditions of the iconic temple

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Monks Lived in The Temple of Olympian Zeus

Stylite monks used to live at the Temple of Zeus, which is among the rarely-known Temple of Zeus facts. The earliest records about them residing on the premises are from the early nineteenth century when travellers stated they lived atop the temple columns. They believed that living atop the Corinthian columns brought them closer to God. Many Athenians and other visitors brought food and other offerings for the monks, which they accepted through baskets tied by them to the ancient columns.

A Concert was Held at The Temple

While the ancient Temple of Zeus lies in complete ruins today as compared to its original grandeur, it is used to conduct live music concerts. The first such concert was organised in the year 2001 during the Mars Mission by NASA. The group Vangelis held the Mythodea Chorus among the ruins of the Corinthian columns under the direction of Declan Looney, an Irish filmmaker. The event was broadcast over 20 television networks and attended by Athenians dressed in ancient Greek costumes.

FAQ's of Temple of Zeus Facts

Is there any fact of the Temple of Olympian Zeus?

Yes, there are several known facts about the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The most well-known fact is that it was home to the Statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Additionally, the structure was completed over six centuries.

Why was the construction of the Temple of Zeus abandoned for some time?

Owing to its construction over six centuries, the process was abandoned upon the death of contemporary patrons. The construction was first abandoned for almost two centuries after Peisistratus, and then for a few decades after King Antiochus IV Epiphanes due to his death.

How was the Temple of Olympian Zeus destroyed?

Although there are different theories regarding the destruction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the structure was ruined by a powerful earthquake in the sixth century CE. Whatever remained of the structure was destroyed by plunder and vandalism over centuries.

When was the Temple of Olympian Zeus built?

Construction of the Temple of Zeus began in 515 BCE and was completed after almost six centuries in 131 CE. It was commissioned by the Roman tyrant Peisistratus, worked upon by Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and completed under Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Why did monks live in the Temple of Olympian Zeus?

Stylite monks of the nineteenth century lived atop the columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus as they believed their colossal height brought them closer to God. They received food and offerings through baskets tied to the top throughout their lives.


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