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Ancient Zeus-Worshipping Altars and Temples
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  10/22/11
By: Yona Williams

Zeus was the mightiest of ancient Greek gods and the ruler of Mount Olympia. There were many places in the past that were devoted to the worship of the god. In this article, you will learn more about some of the ancient locations that you can still visit that have a connection to Zeus worship.

Altar of Zeus

Ancient Pergammum was once home to an infamous Zeus altar situated on the Acropolis that offered views of what is now known as modern-day Bergama, Turkey. Built by Eumenes II (197-159 BC), the Zeus Altar served as a remembrance of the city's victory over the Galatians that was won under the leadership of Attalus I. During Byzantine times, the temple was left to neglect and then later dismantled. Pieces of the marble from the altar were used to construct the Byzantine defensive walls.

However, the altar was not altogether forgotten, as a German engineer named Carl Humann rediscovered the Zeus Altar in 1871. He took the altar back to Germany, which is now on display at the PErgamon Museum in Berlin. To this day, the Turkish government is in the process of attempting to reclaim the artifact from the country.

A visit to the original site of the Zeus Altar leaves much to be desired, but a tourist can still catch a glimpse of how the shrine was great at one time. When it was still in its initial place, the altar was aligned with a temple dedicated to Athena. In the distance, the two temples appeared together. A rather large stairway on the west side led to the altar.

Temple of Zeus at Olympia

Constructed during the 5th century BC, the Temple of Zeus at Olympia was among one of the many buildings that emerged during the time period. The design for the temple came from an architect named Libon (of Elis). The structure was built between 470 BC and 460 BC – using local shell limestone that was covered by fake marble stucco comprised of lime. For its time, it was admired for its great size and was the largest temple in the region.

Some of the features of the temple included a marble-tiled roof and lion-shaped marble gargoyles on the roof. There were also marble statues located at the east pediment that displayed the preparations for a chariot race between two heroes. The western pediment statues were of a fight between the Laphthae and Centaurs, which took place during the marriage of Pirithous and Deidameia. The 12 labors of Heracles came to life above the entrances of the temple, which have since been partially restored. People come to see these to study the Greek art that was dominant following the Persian Wars.

Unfortunately, what you see of the structure is a shell of its former self. The site suffered damage at the hands of Christian zealots later earthquakes. Today, visitors can still see the base of the temple and the fallen columns.


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