Calling On Zeus

I am down to the last alphabet of my A-Z challenge and I can’t think of a place to take you to, whose name starts with Z! Zurich is a dim memory with no images to give it a boost. Zanzibar still a distant dream. So I decided to go calling on the God of Thunder himself.

I start with Olympia, the place Zeus is primarily associated with, and where stood his colossal statue – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The temple of Hera. In the foreground is the Altar of Olympian Zeus, where the Olympic torch is lit.
The temple of Hera. In the foreground is the Altar of Olympian Zeus, where the Olympic torch is lit.

This is what the traveler (the original travel writer!!) Pausanias had to say about that statue:

I know that the height and breadth of the Olympic Zeus have been measured and recorded; but I shall not praise those who made the measurements, for even their records fall far short of the impression made by a sight of the image. Nay, the god himself according to legend bore witness to the artistic skill of Pheidias. For when the image was quite finished Pheidias prayed the god to show by a sign whether the work was to his liking. Immediately, runs the legend, a thunderbolt fell on that part of the floor where down to the present day the bronze jar stood to cover the place.

Nothing remains of that legendary statue or the temple, save these rows of sawn columns.

Temple of Zeus, Olympia
Temple of Zeus, Olympia

And some sculptures that once adorned the pediments of the temple, displayed in the museum on site. Quite the anticlimax! Of course, you could wander up and take a peek at the mother of all stadiums!

The Temple of Olympian Zeus, also known as the Olympieion, in the center of Athens has at least 15 of the original 104 Corinthian columns standing. Its foundation was laid in 515 BC and incredibly completed around 130 BC, to make it the largest standing temple in Greece at that time, even larger than the Parhenon!

Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens
Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens

Jerash, or Gerasa in Jordan, is an amazingly well preserved Greco-Roman site, which has more to offer than a temple to Zeus. A must visit in my opinion. Only go early, or later in the evening, or you run the risk of being burnt to cinders. But you just might have to take that chance, if you want to witness the midday Roman chariot races!

Temple of Zeus, Jerash
Temple of Zeus, Jerash

And finally, the  ‘Seat of Satan‘!

This is actually the ruins of the temple of Dionysus. The great altar of Zeus is now in the Pergamom museum in Berlin

That Great Altar of Pergamom, now resides in a museum of the same name in Berlin. But it’s original abode, near modern Bergama in Turkey, remains one of the most atmospheric sites dedicated to Zeus that I have seen.

I was surprised to learn, however, that the only one of the temples to Zeus still standing, is to be found in Cirene in Libya, along with other fabulously well preserved Greco – Roman ruins! Someday…if the region doesn’t implode before then.

For now, a very Happy New Year to all you wonderful people! Stay safe, stay happy.

PS: Header image of the Artemisian Bronze from Wikicommons. I couldn’t locate my own, even after turning my cupboard upside down! Don’t miss it if you are ever in Athens.
And due apologies for the quality of the Olympia images that have been scanned from old prints.

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Hi, I'm Madhu. Wanderer. Travel blogger. Story teller. Bitten late and hard by the travel bug, I am on a mission to make up for lost time.

22 thoughts on “Calling On Zeus

  1. Astonishing! A pity about the chopped chunks of the Temple of Zeus in Olympia … hope you weren’t crushed to discover it that way … but the midday Roman chariot races would completely make it up to me!

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