Our Athens trip continued with finding some more epically-proportioned architecture both old and (relatively) new in the form of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Panathenaic Stadium…
Temple of Olympian Zeus
We had seen the Temple of Olympian Zeus from afar via the many taxi rides we had taken around Athens – you can’t really miss it! So, to keep up the awe-factor after visiting the Acropolis of Athens, we took a closer look.
The huge temple was built on the site of an old, much smaller, temple for Zeus, and is dedicated to him as head of the Olympian gods. The scale of the thing, even now with most of it missing, is absolutely colossal.
You can see the Acropolis in the distance of this photo, too 🙂 :
It was apparently completed around 131 AD after around 600 years of construction. It is thought that it was originally destroyed by an earthquake, after which parts were removed and used as building materials elsewhere in the city.
Out of the original 104 columns, only 16 still remain today, one of which fell down in a storm in the late 1800s. Still, for something that’s been around that long, it’s done pretty well!
You can see the fallen column in better detail here:
This isn’t a site which you can spend ages at; we were only here half an hour at most. However, it’s definitely worth seeing if you are in Athens, especially as it’s right in the centre and close to lots of other interesting must-see sites.
The next day we set off early to go look at the Panathenaic Stadium; a giant stadium made entirely out of marble. In its current state, it was used for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and last used in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
The stadium is huuuuge; it can apparently seat 45,000 people. It’s awesome, as you can walk over the entire thing.
Plaques near the entrance listing all Olympic Games venues around the world, as well as other endorsements I can’t read as they are all (quite rightly) in Greek…
Climbing the stadium steps…
Various views strolling around the top…
You can see Mount Lycabbettus in the distance here; this would be our destination this evening…
The unassuming entrance visible on ground level led to an unexpected museum containing Olympic torches from all of the different Olympic Games; it was really interesting.
So what does ‘Panathenaic‘ mean? I had to look this up as had no idea. So, a ‘Panathenaea‘ was a festival held in honour of the goddess Athena; obviously a huge influence on Athens.
The ‘Panathenaic Games‘ were a prelude to the Olympic Games running from 556 BC to the 3rd century AD; incorporating both a religious festival and athletic competitions.
This stadium was originally built on the site of an old racecourse and used for the Panathenaic Games – hence the name. Then it fell into disuse before being excavated again in the 1800s and used for the modern Olympic Games.
These seats are on the ground level at the far end of the stadium, and are much fancier than the rest; I presume they would be used by very important people, such as royalty.
From the fancy royal seats, the stadium looks something like this…
…and then there are these curious double-sided statues! Known as a ‘herm‘ statue from what I could find out, which is a plain statue with a head and genitals…
One side is Apollo (god of music), one side is Hermes (god of commerce).
Again, I would say this is a must-visit site. Plus, the price to get in is really reasonable, and it includes a free audio tour if you want it.
Centre of Athens
We then had a sunny stroll through the National Garden, and came across this pond with a mass of turtles in the centre. I thought it was a sculpture at first!
This rather impressive building is in the centre of the National Garden; it’s an exhibition hall called the Zappeion.
This courtyard-style interior area of the Zappeion was pretty cool, too.
As we were also nearby, we took a wander over to Parliament House off Syntagma Square to see the changing of the guards in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (this happens on Sundays at 11am)…
…and a marching band…
Sorry/not sorry for the history lesson! I hope you find it of some interest as I do, and maybe it’ll encourage you to go visit Athens 🙂
There will be one more Athens post after this, as soon as I get some time to write it!