The Temple of Olympic Zeus (Tempio di Giove Olimpico) is among the more famous monuments in the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. This unfortunately not very well preserved temple has some features that distinguish it from the other temples in the valley.
Temple of Olympic Zeus Agrigento
Address: Via Panoramica dei Templi 92100 – Agrigento (tel. +39 0922621657). Official website: www.parcovalledeitempli.it. Opening hours: From 08.30 to 19.00. Entrance fee: 10 Euro (discount: 5 Euro). Combi-ticket with Archaeological Museum: 13,50 Euro (discount: 7 Euro). From mid-July to mid-August the valley is open in the evenings from 19:00 to 22:00 on weekdays and from 19:00 to 23:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. On the first Sunday of the month, the monument is accessible free of charge.
History and description
The Tempio di Giove Olimpico exhibits a number of features that distinguish it from most Greek temples. The temple has the normal six columns on the façade and back, but not the detached columns on the sides. These have been replaced by semi-circular columns built against the wall of the cella.
Construction of the temple began after victory at the Battle of Himera (480 BC). Himera was a city-state in northern Sicily, which went on to be completely destroyed a few years later by the troops of Theron of Akragas. Prisoners from Carthage were used as laborers.
Because of new wars and earthquakes, the temple was never finished.
The tyrant Theron had had a huge temple in mind when he decided to build it. Therefore, although not a single column is still standing, the monument still leaves a grandiose impression. The columns were at least 17 meters tall and had a diameter of 4.42 meters. A man could stand in their grooves.
The most striking characteristis of the Temple of Olympian Zeus was the use of so-called telamones. These were huge statues of men, made of stone blocks and standing nearly eight feet tall. In addition to ornamentation, they also served to support the entablatures within the temple. One of the telamones is on display in the city’s Archaeological Museum. A cast of a telamon stands in the center of the cella.