The Unknown Story behind a Building on Top of the Temple of Olympian Zeus



Athens in 1833 by Johann Michael Wittmer.

Dr. Paul Cooper is an author from England. While studying about ancient monuments and how they have changed over the years for his PhD thesis, he came across with something weird regarding the temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, Greece.

Cooper found a rare picture of the temple dating back to 1858. There, the author noticed a small building being built on top of the columns of the temple, something he noticed for the first time.

So, he reasonably wondered if this picture is authentic or someone put this there deliberately using Photoshop.

Athens in the 19th century

Cooper then found the exact same picture, but the building was missing. The story was becoming interesting…

What was the point of having two identical pictures of a temple with the first one depicting a construction on top of the columns and the second one without it?

Cooper decided to extend his research in order to find the truth behind this peculiarity.

This is when he found a painting depicting Athens in 1833. The English researcher saw clearly that the temple of Olympian Zeus was depicted having on top of two of its columns this rectangular building. In addition to this, he found a postcard of 1862, where the temple is also depicted with this mysterious construction.

Cooper now thought that he knew the answer.

If we go back in history, we will meet dozens of Christian monks and Saints known as ‘stylites’.

Christian monks living on top of pillars

Stylites were Christians who decided to spend their lives standing or dwelling on pillars, high above the ground.

This was their own way of coming closer to God and atone for their sins.

There are numerous religious paintings and icons depicting stylite Saints standing on top of columns and pillars.

So, after the temple of Olympian Zeus was partially destroyed during the 3rd century BC, Christian stylites started the construction of a building on top of the temple.

But why was the building on top of the temple destroyed?

The answer for Cooper is simple: The new Greek State, after the independence from the Ottomans, trying to revive the glorious past of the Greek antiquity, didn’t want to keep the Christian or Muslim additions to the ancient ruins of the country.

That’s why they tried to restore the temple of Olympian Zeus, by removing this construction.