2/12/2010

The World's Longest Work in Progress - The Temple of Zeus in Athens

You may remember the bridge to "nowhere" that was built in Alaska. It did not connect to anything and became political fodder to discredit Sarah Palin. I do not want to talk about politics. The thing is that governments have been wasting money on “loser” projects ever since they erected the first two mud huts and called them a village. The city of Athens was no exception. The temple of Olympian Zeus was a project started in the 6th century BC. At the time, it was envisioned to be a temple to rival the great temples of the world, particularly the famous Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, but the project was never completed until the 2nd century AD. That is over 600 hundred years from concept to completion. Think about that. Our country has existed for less than 300 years.

The sons of the tryant Pisistraus, Hippias and Hipparchos started the temple on 520 BC to honor their father. They envisioned a colossus temple. It is located below the Acropolis, 500 meters south and east. The platform was 41 m x 353 m, about the same size as an NFL football field. Majestic columns would stand 55.5 feet high. Some are 6 feet in diameter. Work halted in 510 BC when the tyrants were overthrown and Hippias was exiled. The temple sat with only the platform and a few columns completed until 174 BC. That is 336 years! In 174 BC, Antiochus IV became king of Athens. He thought that he was actually a reincarnate of Zeus and decided to finish the structure. Sadly, he died when it was only half finished

When the Romans took over, they sacked Athens in 86 BC and sent columns and statues from the partially completed work back to Rome for use in their own Temple of Jupiter. It was not until Hadrian took power in the 2nd century that he committed the resources to complete the work in grand style. It is sad there are no photos or paintings to show us its grandeur. Great works never seem to last. The temple was damaged in 267 AD when Athens was sacked yet again and finally fell into disuse as Christianity took over.

Today the magnificence that might have been stands stoically in the center of Athens. The platform and columns that remain are enough to take your breath away.
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