Athens: Roman Empire and Olympian Zeus Essay

Submitted By marisalila89
Words: 2280
Pages: 10

Three interesting sites in Athens include the Olympieion, Roman Market, and Hadrian?s library.? The emperor Hadrian[1] played an important role in the history and construction of all three of these sites, lending his name to parts of the various structures.? All three sites are located within close proximity of each other, and serve as examples of the vibrant, changing, and extensive history of the city of Athens.? The architectural styles are also definitive of the many different artistic and cultural eras these monuments have endured.??


The Olympieion is also called the Kolonnes or the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, and according to tradition, it dates back to the time of the mythical Deucalion, according to Pausanias, and is connected to ancient cosmogonies.[2]? According to other ancient sources, this ancient temple was also associated with the early cults of Zeus?hence the name.? Construction of the Temple of the Olympian Zeus began in approximately 515 BCE by Peisistratos the Younger, but it was not finished due to the ?fall of tyranny in Athens.?[3]? Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of Syria, tried to resume the construction around 174 BCE, and it was finally finished under Hadrian (who was intrigued by Greek art and culture) in 124-125 CE.[4]?

The rectangular-based temple stands 250 meters long by 130 meters wide, making it one of the largest temples in the ancient world, though as Frommer?s remarks, ?it may be more appealing as a ruin than it ever was as a contender for the title ?mother of all temples.??[5]? Nevertheless, this temple, one of seven wonders of the ancient world,[6] is the largest temple in Greece, and the largest temple built in the Corinthian[7] style of architecture.? Originally, the structure probably consisted of about 104 to 108 columns (there is disagreement among sources), however today only 16 remain.? Of those 16, only 15 remain standing, as one was struck by lightning in 1852.[8]? These large columns stand 17.25 meters high and have diameters of approximately 1.7 meters.? The gate to the temple was built by Hadrian in 131 CE and functioned as a triumphal arch.? The inscriptions found here are also interesting parts of Hadrian's arch.? On the northeast side (the side facing the Acropolis), the inscription reads, ?This is Athens, the ancient city of Theseus.?? On the southeast side, however, there is a different, contrary inscription that reads, ?This is the city of Hadrian and not Theseus.?[9]?

The statue of Zeus

Inside the temple of the Olympian Zeus, statues of both Zeus and Hadrian could once be found?a visual representation of the historical eras this temple has spanned.? The statue of Zeus, unlike the other six wonders of the ancient world, was not indestructible, and archaeology has made little progress in recreating what it must have looked like.? We do know, however, that it was made of gold and ivory.? Pausanius, a traveler to Greece in the second century CE wrote of the statue in his Description of Greece, and his description is the only known straightforward description, though the statue is alluded to and referenced in other literary works.? Pausanias described the statue in great detail.? A sample of this description is as follows:

? The god sits on a throne, and he is made of gold and ivory.? On his head lies a garland which is a copy of olive shoots.? In his right hand he carries a Victory, which, like the statue, is of ivory and gold; she wears a ribbon and--on her head--a garland.? In the left hand of the god is a scepter, ornamented with every kind of metal, and the bird sitting on the scepter is the eagle.? The sandals also of the god are of gold, as is likewise his robe. On the robe are embroidered figures of animals and the flowers of the lily.? The throne is adorned with gold and with jewels, to say nothing of ebony and ivory.? Upon it are painted figures and wrought images.[10]

Pausanias also writes that a woolen curtain ?adorned