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Photo of the week: The temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens

This is one of my favorite places in Athens. A giant of a temple, this one still manages to dwarf the visitor and instill a sense of awe, despite the fact that only a handful of its 104 columns still stand. Surrounded by busy avenues, the site nevertheless manages to remain calm and serene, like a time capsule isolated from the busy city.

Well worth a visit, this temple was begun in the 6th century BCE, was abandoned, begun again four centuries later and finally completed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, in the 2nd century AD. However, it was sacked and burnt about 150 years later, by a band of marauding barbarians.

Greece by then had changed in more ways than one and late antiquity was giving way to the early middle ages. Unable to fund an extensive renovation, and gradually turning away from the old religion, Athenians left the temple to slowly fall into ruin. Today, although breathtakingly beautiful, it is but a faint echo of  what must have been an impressive sight.

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