"The Olympieion of Athens, built on the plain, had to be in exact counterpoise to the Parthenon on its hill"

The Olympieion of Athens (or Temple of Olympian Zeus) was completed under Hadrian, but on foundations established under the Athenian Tyrants, Hippias and Hipparchus, in the 6th Century BC. There is an irony about this statement, which can hardly be accidental on Yourcenar's part, in that the Parthenon of the 5th Century BC was placed on the hill in counterpoise to the unfinished temple below, seen as a symbol of the hubris of the Tyrants. Others, including the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 174 BC, and the Emperor Augustus in the 1st Century AD, had planned to complete the Olympieion, but failed to do so. It was only Hadrian who actually succeeded in doing so, thus redefining what might or might not be seen as hubris.

The Olympieion of Athens
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Olympieion of Athens - Credit: Dominique Leuenberger