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Athens, Greece

Temple of Olympian Zeus

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Big Ideas in Ruins

The construction of this massive temple to the king of the gods was started around 520 BC, by the state's dictator, Hippias, with highly ambitious ideas of rivalling the other famous contemporary temples, at Ephesus and Samos. The platform measured 41 by 108 meters.

Hippias was overthrown, and the project was abandoned during the subsequent period of Athenian democracy, when prestigious works on this scale were frowned on as rather unworthy vanity projects. The temple was finally completed by the emperor Hadrian, during the period of Roman rule, about 600 years after work had started. Damaged in a later sack of the city, the temple was abandoned already when the Christian emperor Theodosius forbade worship of the old gods. It's remained an evocative ruin to this day.

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