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Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens

Temple of Olympian Zeus: Legacy of the Hadrian

Temple of Olympian Zeus is one of the most exciting and historical landmarks of Athens where is also known as the Olympieion. Based on the historical information it took several centuries to finish the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Construction of the Temple of Olympian Zeus started in 174 BC and fully completed by the Roman emperor Hadrian in 131 AD. Its architectural properties like very long columns and layout plan are made it one of the largest template ever built in the history. If you are staying couple of days in Athens, you should visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus. I can guarantee peace of mind you won’t regret it. You can spare your morning or afternoon for here and it will be enough.

Temple of Olympian Zeus
You can only see the few remains of the great temple (Source).

History of Temple of Olympian Zeus

I always believe that you should know something about the history you are going to visit. Because when you know something about the place you will look at everything with different thoughts and eyes. This rule same for here of course. Please take a look at the history of this great temple. The temple is located in the south-east part of today’s Athens, very close to the River Ilissos.

The place where the temple is located part of the Athens Acropolis. That means this place is full of historical artifacts. The site has evidence of habitation and settlements from the Neolithic period. A famous Greek traveler and geographer Pausanias claim that the ancient sanctuary of Zeus was created by the Deukalion. Deukalion was to the son of Prometheus in Greek mythology.

Temple of Olympian Zeus at night
You can see the Acropolis from the Temple of Olympian Zeus (Source).

The earliest archaeological evidence over this area dates back to the few more than the 6th BC. Peisistratos who was the son of Hippocrates was a ruler of ancient Athens between 561 and 527 BC. He started to build a very big Doric styled temple in 515 BC. The initial plan of the temples was made by a couple of architects whose name was Antiastates, Callaeschrus, and Antimachides. But the construction works didn’t go after the foundation made by the limestone.

Doric style Greek Temple
Example of Doric style temple in 3D-render (Source).

Endless Construction

After a couple of centuries construction works started again in 174 BC by the Antiochos IV Epiphanes who was the King of Syria. He employed a highly skilled Roman architect Cossutius. By the year of 163 BC columns and entablature of the Corinthian order temple finally finished. Temples were the Corinthian order which means the columns were thin and fluted with vertical lines cut over the surface, like almost the temples around Athens. But once again project stopped because of the death of the Antiochos.

Temple of Olympian Zeus in 1865
You can count the surviving columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus (1865) (Source).

Finally, Completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus

After another couple of centuries, a Roman emperor Hadrian ordered to finish the construction of the temple during his stay in Athens between 124 and 125 AD. Finally, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was finished in 131 AD. Between the years 124 and 132 AD, a rectangular precinct wall built around the temple. A couple of roman baths also constructed over the site and a monumental arch built which name is Hadrian’s Arch. We will give information about Hadrian’s Arch in a minute. Some other temples built after the completion of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Temple of Zeus Panhellenios built south the Temple of Olympian Zeus in 132 AD. Also in 150 AD Temple of Kronos and Rhea built on a very close area within the site. Temple of Zeus Panhellenios and Temple of Kronos and Rhea are relatively small when compared to the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

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Also today, there are very few remains of them. Around all these temples enclosed with Valerian Wall in 260 AD. Construction of this wall started in 256 AD and finished in 4 years. Almost after 200 years, the Basilica Olympieion (Basilica of Ilissos) was built on the northern side of the original precinct wall. Not only the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Temple of Zeus Panhellenios, Temple of Kronos and Rhea, but Hadrian’s Arch and Basilica Olympieion also places worth to see. So, you should spend your time to see all of them.

Hadrian's Arch in Athens
Hadrian’s Arch still standing with its grandness (Source).

Architectural Features of the Temple

The temple was constructed over a wide-open space with 250 x 130 meters of dimension. This method gives an extra grandeur and magnificence to it. Also, this construction area was enclosed by using a porous wall built by using the rocks with high carbonate content. This wall buttressed with a regularly spaced columns along the interior face of the temple. There is a propylon gate in the north-west corner of that wall. In the center of all this, a massive and really big one marble temple raised with a dimension of 110.35 x 43.68 meters. These columns are unusually higher than similar temples. Each column is 17.25 meters high and 1.7 meters of diameter.

Remains of the Temple of Saturn and Rhea

In the beginning, there was a 104 column at the temples but today these numbers of the column are too low than 104. Inside the temple, there was a huge statue of Zeus and Hadrian made from gold and ivory. The fate of those artifacts is unknown. We know the materials of the Temple of Olympian Zeus were re-used in other buildings. Today, we can’t believe this behavior but during that time this was totally normal and common. Now, there only 15 columns of the temple are still standing and remained intact. 2 of them are in the south-west corner and 13 of them are in the south-east corner. Also, there is another collapsed column on the ground. This column collapsed at the storm in 1852.

Remains of the Basilica Olympieion
Remains of the Basilica Olympieion (Basilica of Ilissos) (Source).

Where is the Temple of Olympian Zeus?

Temple of Olympian Zeus and other unique temples and places within this archeological site is located southeast of the Athens Acropolis. We can say that the place the temple is quite central and it is very easy to go there. Hadrian’s Arch is over the Leof. Andrea Siggrou Avenue and lots of buses (165, 227, 790, 856) go through this road. Also, there is a tram stop for T4 and T5 tram lines very north of the temple. Your last option to go to the temple is to use Metro Line 2. Get off at the Syggrou Avenue station and cross it. Now, you can see the temple. Just take a ten-minute walk to it. If you visited Acropolis first you can take a walk from there to Temple of Olympian Zeus.

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Temple of Olympian Zeus Ticket Prices

There are two different types of Temple of Olympian Zeus Tickets for people who want to visit the area. The regular tickets for adults are 6 Euros and 3 Euros for a discount. Also, if you are from the country in the European Union and under 25 you can get a free ticket from the admission at the cash desk. Don’t forget to bring your passport or ID for the free ticket. By the way, you can buy the Athens City Pass for around 30 Euros which is valid lots of museums, historical places and also on public transport. If you are staying a couple of days in Athens it is better to buy the Athens City Pass. Athens City Pass will also give you a priority entrance option.

Temple of Olympian Zeus Hours

The visiting area is opened daily both summer and winter. So, it is possible to visit the temple almost anytime in the year. If you want to visit the area it is better to know the opening and closing hours Temple of Olympian Zeus. You can find the list below;

  • 1 October-15 October 2019: 8 am-6:30 pm
    16 October-31 October 2019: 8 am-6 pm
    1 November-31 March 2020: 8:30 am-4 pm

Temple of Olympian Zeus is only closed on the 1st of January, the 25th of March, the 1st of May, Easter Sunday (Greek Easter) and 25th/26th of December. Also, be aware of that the last visitor is taken to the temple 30 minutes before closing time.

Highlights of  Temple of Olympian Zeus

  • Take Metro 2 to go to the temple
  • Entrance fee to the temple is 6 Euros, free for EU citizens under 25
  • Enter the area through the Hadrian’s Arch
  • Count the remaining columns, you should count up to the 15
  • Examine incredible craftsmanship of the columns and all other things
  • Find the remains of the Temple of Zeus Panhellenios and Temple of Kronos and Rhea
  • Don’t forget to go to the Basilica Olympieion (Basilica of Ilissos)
  • Take a picture of yourself

If you visited the Temple of Olympian Zeus or planning to visit it, please share your experiences, suggestions, thoughts, and questions in the comment section to improve the quality of this post and help other people.

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