Dating to the 5th century BC and restored by the Romans 500 years after, this temple is larger than the Parthenon in Athens. A reflection of the wealth and importance of the region of Cyrene in the ancient Greek world.
Cyrene was founded in c.630 BC as a colony of the Greek island of Thera, which had become too crowded. The ancient Greek city of Cyrene – Cyrenaica known today as Shahhat, was name the Athens of Africa. Cyrene was named after the Kyre son of god Apollo. In fact Pindar tells the story of how Apollo took nymph Cyrene from Northern Greece to Libya and had a child with her.
The temple was destroyed during a Jewish rebellion in 115 AD, which took place in various Roman districts as far as Cyprus and then was restored in 120 AD.
In fact under Marcus Aurelius, Cyrene was still restoring religious many areas due to the Jewish riots, all these at the end of Trajan’s reign in the Empire. The new constructions was a miracle for the fortune, victory, and power of the imperial family as well as the Senate and the Roman people.
In the great earthquake of 365 AD felt in all the Med, the temple collapsed and stayed neglected for centuries. Italian archaeologists restored the temple of Zeus to its present state in 1957. Some of the lost fluting was added to the columns in order to simulate the its original appearance. All work for restoration in Libya ceased in 1974. The temple is now an UNESCO World Heritage site.
This temple of Zeus built in the Doric style, with two rows of 17 X 8 Doric columns, 70 X 32 meters. Though initially a Greek temple, later stonework on the temple shows evidence of Egyptian style workmanship. After the Jewish Revolt when the temple was restored it was given a new marble frontage and a high podium in the traditional Roman style follow the Empire’s fashion.
Archaeological evidence suggest that animal sacrifices were carried out within the temple. Thought there is some contracting evidence about which God this temple was dedicated too. Whilst there is agreement that it was to honor father of all Greek Gods, Zeus, some researchers argued that the temple served later as for Greek – Libyan Zeus Ammon. This can be seen from the numerous coins found in the area by various archaeologists bearing the head of Zeus – Ammon. Probably this convention was during Hellenistic period. Later on under Roman rulers this temple was devoted to Jupiter.
Alexander the Great’s desire to visit the oracle of a God known as Zeus-Ammon led to one of the strangest and most mysterious chapters of his life, some relating him with this temple of Zeus in Libya.