June 24, 2024

Temple of Olympian Zeus

Though just fifteen columns of the original 104 are still standing, what remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus is magnificent. Its scale is colossal, and when finally completed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian after 600 years of stop-and-start construction, the marble temple stood as the largest in both Greece and Rome. (During the years of Athenian democracy, the temple was left unfinished because the Greeks of that period thought it anti-democratic to build on such a scale. Aristotle cited the temple as an example of how tyrannies engaged the populace in great works for the state and left them no time, energy or means to rebel.) Size notwithstanding, there is a grace to the design: elegant in their symmetry, the fifty-five foot-tall columns are capped by ornate Corinthian capitals which seem to open up towards the heavens like flower buds  A 16th column blew over in 1852 and is still lying where it fell like so many dominoes, giving me the feeling that it’s much impressive as a romantic ruin than it ever could have been as a temple.

Temple of Olympian Zeus - fallen column

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