Built ca. 330 B.C. over the remains of an earlier temple, the Temple of Zeus lies in the center of the Sanctuary of Zeus at Nemea. The 9,240 square foot Temple played a significant role in the Nemea Games, one of the original Pan-Hellenic Games of Ancient Greece. It was before this Temple that, prior to the Nemea Games, the athletes would pay homage to the father of their gods, Zeus. The Temple’s construction included three Greek architectural forms, the Doric, the Corinthian, and the Ionic. 32 limestone columns each standing 42 feet tall, and composed of 13 cylindrical stones, called “drums”, each weighing approximately, 2.5 tons, surrounded the Temple of Zeus. Of those 32 original columns, only three columns remain standing today, the rest gave way to nature, specifically, earthquakes and human intervention—the latter through looting and the removal of the Temple’s material to build other monuments.
Professor Stephen Miller, former Director of the Nemea Excavations, conceived the quest to reconstruct the Temple of Zeus as part of his ongoing efforts to preserve the Ancient Nemea site.
Beginning work on the Temple’s reconstruction was aided by the previous work of Professor Frederick Cooper, Professor of Architecture, University of Minnesota, under whose leadership 1,100 stone blocks located on and around the Temple’s ground were catalogued. It would be in part these catalogued blocks that would be used to re-erect the columns. In 2002 with the Greek government’s permission, Professor Miller began the reconstruction of two columns on the north side, near to where the three original columns still stand. Just prior to his retirement in 2004, and after successfully reconstructing the two columns, Professor Miller, formally established the Temple of Zeus Reconstruction Project, with the Earthquake Engineering Research Center (EERC) and the Nemea Center providing oversight and guidance for the project. Although the Nemea Center is primarily responsible for the conduct and work on the project, the responsibility for overseeing day-to-day reconstruction is held by architect and on-site supervisor Ms. Katerina Sklere, along with civil engineer and restoration consultant, Dr. Konstantinos Papantonopoulos.
From 2004 to 2009, Professor Nikos Makris directed the Project and by the end of 2009, four additional columns were successfully re-erected in the Northeast corner of the Temple. Significant work was completed on the foundations and krepidoma on the east end and in the pronaos, as well as the completion of the placement of all the drums, and the final carving of the exterior surfaces of three columns on the east side. All the columns have been re-erected by using as many of the available original stones, previously catalogued by Professor Cooper, and by the extraction of limestone from a nearby rock quarry, from which the additional blocks are made. Over the following year, infrastructure and reconstruction work not only improved the condition and maintenance of the site but helped to prepare and transport new building material to be placed in their final positions. In 2010, the scaffolding was removed from the previously re-erected columns, offering a more appreciable understanding of the architecture of the Temple to the general visitor. The reconstruction project is a costly venture with each column roughly costing a quarter–million euros. Although Professors Miller and Makris raised much of the funds, including donations from Mr. T. Papalexopoulos, the Opheltes Foundation and the Club Hotel Casino Loutraki, additional private donations are needed to complete the reconstruction of the Temple, including funds for the positioning of the epistyles that will provide the need stability and endurance to the newly re-erected columns.
When completed, the reconstruction of the Temple of Zeus will provide the visitor with a clearer sense of the magnitude and magnificence of the original Greek temple, and most importantly the site will be preserved for generations to come.