On the way to the Acropolis I found the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Those majestic ruins that protruded above the treetops were an invitation. The day was ending in Athens and I left the Acropolis for the morning of the next day and went to contemplate the “endless temple”. Did not understand? I will explain.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is about 500 meters away from the Acropolis of Athens, a colossus that was completed almost 2,000 years ago. However, the history of the construction of the temple dedicated to Olympian Zeus is much older.
The Temple of Olympian Zeus began to be built in the 4th century BC and due to fights, obstacles and disputes, it was only completed in the year AD 132 during the rule of Emperor Hadrian. It was more than 700 years before the temple was completed and for that reason it is known as the “endless temple”.
Originally the Temple of Olympian Zeus had 104 Corinthian columns, occupying an area 96 meters wide by 40 high. It was a colossal work all in marble from Mount Pentelic.
When the temple was ready, Hadrian ordered two statues to occupy the interior of the temple: one of his own, obviously and one of Zeus, all in gold and ivory. Not satisfied, Adriano had an 18 meter high marble arch known as the Hadrian’s Gate built. This arch symbolized the separation of ancient Athens – that of Theseus (Greek) – from modern Athens, that of Hadrian (Roman).
Adriano’s Gate has remained in the same place ever since, creating this imaginary division, despite the fact that today the city is one. The imposing construction frames what remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, of the 104 columns, only 15. The temple collapsed during a major earthquake in the Middle Ages.
However, what remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus still serves to imagine the grandeur that was such an important place in Greek history.
How to visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Temple of Olympian Zeus is close to the Acropolis Station of the Athens metro. This is the same station to visit the Acropolis of Athens, however, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is on the opposite side of the Acropolis.
Probably the Hadrian’s Gate will be the first image you will have of the place. However, his entrance is from the side, on Vasilissis Olgas Avenue facing Zappeion Gardens.
Entrance in high season costs 12 Euros (spring and summer) and in low season (autumn and winter) costs 6 Euros.
The visit is cool, there are so many centuries of history that we can barely measure the age of it all. Although the temple is in ruins, it is an immense privilege to be able to be there.
Something that disappointed me a little and that extends to the whole city (with the exception of the Acropolis), is that I found everything a little abandoned and poorly maintained in Athens. It’s okay that the blame for the discarded garbage is on the visitor, but in general, it was a little disappointing to see the state the city was in.
The truth is that Greece, and especially Athens, has been plunged into a deep financial crisis since the 2004 Olympics and that is no secret to anyone. However, it is, as I said above, visiting Athens and places like the Acropolis, the Agora and the Temple of Olympian Zeus and an invaluable privilege.