'Supreme' Zeus found

Sunday, August 3, 2003

— Archaeologists working on a river bed near the mythological home of the ancient gods uncovered remains of the first temple known to be dedicated to the "supreme" Zeus, the team leader said.

The 2,400-year-old headless marble statue was found along with 14 columns depicting eagles, one of the symbols of the chief deity of ancient Greece, archaeologist Dimitris Pantermalis said Friday.

The find is significant because it offers a sense of how Zeus was represented during an important period of transition in ancient worship. Experts believe the Hypsistos -- or "supreme" -- Zeus emerged as a more dominant figure as Greeks moved away from the many gods and cults that included dozens of variations of Zeus.

"We know how the ancients depicted this Hypsistos Zeus. It is the first time we see it," said Pantermalis, who has led digs for 35 years at Dion near Mount Olympus, about 40 miles south of Thessaloniki.

Pantermalis said the statue was found about 10 days ago during work to expand the Vaphyras River to prevent flooding.

"There is a chance the head will be found because the digs in the mud that covered this temple have not been completed," he added.