Entry is included in your Acropolis ticket – and the temple of Olympian Zeus is considerably quieter.
Standing proud in central Athens, the temple of Olympian Zeus is one of the most remarkable ancient temples anywhere in the world. Certainly it was the largest temple in ancient Greece, and its 17m columns cannot fail to impress the first-time visitor.
640 Years in the Making
Construction began in 520 BC on the orders of a pair of Athenian tyrants, who were looking to create the mightiest temple ever built. To that end, they commissioned three great architects of the day to draw up the plans. These designers did not disappoint. The temple was to be constructed on a vast platform measuring 108m by 41m, with enormous double colonnades at the front and back - a scale that had never been seen before. Unfortunately, the tyrants were overthrown before it could be completed, and the temple lay half-finished for over six hundred years before the Roman emperor Hadrian decided to complete the job. He was then so taken with his own generosity that he had a colossal statue of himself built immediately next door.
Pillars of Hercules
Sadly, the centuries have taken their toll on this ancient monolith. The statue of Hadrian has long gone, and of the 104 Corinthian columns which once supported the roof, just 15 are left standing. It is surprising, though, how little this diminishes their visual impact as they tower above you against the sky. At nearly ten times the height of an average man, it seems impossible that they could have been built so long ago, and so solidly. The effect is awe-inspiring.
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