Zeus Olympia

ouzo on the rocks

apartment, excursions and art historical guide

Peloponnese, Greece

The temple of Zeus in Olympia


Around 460 BC in the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia, next to the temple of Hera, a temple to Zeus himself was built. The local architect Libon was responsible for the design.

In the 2nd century AD, the temple was extensively described by Pausanias. And after collapsing in the 5th century AD, he was covered by a thick layer of mud and sand as a result of an earthquake and flooding. The site was fora very long time not visited and that resulted in the fact that the place got its well-preserved remains.

The temple was built in the Doric style and follows the rule (from the 5th century BC) that the number of columns on the side of the temple had to be double plus one of the number at the front. In this case, six in front, so thirteen at the sides. The entrance was on the east side. The map shows that the porch columns and the (slightly thinner) columns in antis are aligned.

The proportions of the columns (and thus the height of the temple) shows the development from the solid archaic to the classic slenderness with thinner columns.

The height of the columns on the front amounts to 4,64 times the diameter at the base and that of the columns at the sides 4,72 times. The columns are therefore stronger than those on Aegina, but slimmer than those in Corinth.

Pausanias visited the temple and described it. Both pediments were in his time decorated with sculptural groups, but the metopes on the exterior of the temple were bare. The frieze above the portal entrances did have sculpted metopes; six on the front side, and six at the back.

See the section "Olympia" for a description of the Olympia pediments and metopes.

plan of the temple of Zeus in Olympia, 460 BC

the temple of Zeus in Olympia anno 2014

photo © willem van leeuwen

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