Temple of Zeus and Adrian's arch


The temple of Olympian Zeus is one of the most ancient ones, since here was the place of worship of Zeus from the beginning of history. Peisistratus the tyrant, wanted to construct a majestic temple around the end of the 6th Century BC, but in the meantime the tyranny fell from power and his plans were canceled by democratic Athens. This temple was never completed.

A century later, the Peisistratus' regime was so much hated by the democratic Athenians that they didn't want to complete a work that reminded them of his tyranny. Therefore, this material was used to build the Themistocleian walls. Many centuries later, during the Hellenistic period, a ruler of the Hellenistic kingdom of Seleucids in Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes, wanted to complete the work so that his name would be associated with glorious Athens. But death put an end to his plans. Serious damage was inflicted on the partly built temple by Lucius Cornelius Sulla's sack of Athens in 86 BC. While looting the city, Sulla seized some of the incomplete columns and transported them back to Rome, where they were re-used in the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. Finally the Roman Emperor Hadrian completed the temple about 700 years after Peisistratus had raised the first immense columns 7 feet 10 inches in diameter. The temple was inaugurated at 121 A.D. The 104 Corinthian marble columns of the Roman sanctuary were a third smaller, Though still the largest in Europe, as was the temple itself, 354 by 135 feet.

Hadrian was born in Spain but as many roman emperors had studied politics, rhetorics and philosophy in Athens and that's why he did not want to hurt the feelings of his Athenian professors, classmates and friends. This site was a beautiful suburb full of trees and plants that lay within the city walls. With river Ilissos watering the always thirsty Attic land and enlivening vegetation, the ancient Athenians called this area "gardens". The Temple of Olympian Zeus was badly damaged during the Herulian sack of Athens in 267. It is unlikely to have been repaired, given the extent of the damage to the rest of the city. Assuming that it was not abandoned it would certainly have been closed down in 425 by the Christian emperor Theodosius II when he prohibited the worship of the old Roman and Greek gods. Fifteen columns remain standing today and a sixteenth column lies on the ground where it fell during a storm in 1852.

hadrians arch athens tourHADRIAN'S ARCH

This arch was built by the Athenians themselves in 131 AD to honor the emperor Hadrian and to thank him for the completion of the temple of Olympian Zeus. Thankfully, the arch was completed on time, the day the emperor came to inaugurate the temple! This gate had another function. It commemorated the boundaries of the city, after its expansion,and included the area of Zappeion, the National Garden and syntagma. This new district was established by Hadrian himself. This event is mentioned in the two inscriptions carved on the arch. On the side of the old city the inscription says: Here is Athens, the former city of Theseus. On the side of the new district another inscription says: Here is Hadrian's city and not Theseus'.


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