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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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

22 thoughts on “Calling On Zeus

  1. Zeus is perfect for Z, Madhu – and your pix, new and older, are a terrific tour around some of his sites. I’ve only got a postcard of the Artemisian – such a thrilling piece of work.

    Happy New Year and best wishes for a healthy and happy year full of love and joy and new adventures 🙂

  2. I think the “old scanned” photographs are wonderful. Just today, I was thinking about you and mentioned it on FB. You are incredible, Madhu, really incredible. Your posts are always professional and yet personal visits to exotic places of which I only dream. Happy New Year to you!

  3. Looks like a great place to visit, It’s now on the wish list. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Happy New Year, Madhu! Following your “urges to wander” have been the balm to my wanderlust: what an incredible year! Wishing you evermore intriguing adventures, immense joy and enduring peace ;o)

  5. Lovely photos, Madhu. The skills of the ancients never fail to amaze me. That they have structures (or even just a part of them) that stand to this day is simply amazing. 🙂

  6. Interesting post with great photos, the good old Zeus indeed a story worth – a character with a big appetite for life… 🙂

    Happy New Year to You and Yours… 🙂

  7. 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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