Archaeological sites in Turkey are frequently 'decorated' with the reconstructions of ancient structures that often simultaneously delight tourists and outrage historians. The Zeus Temple in Aizanoi is a rare example of an excellently preserved original ancient building. With an exception of three columns that were re-erected after the earthquake from 1970, this temple has remained in its splendid glory since the ancient times, untouched by modern construction teams.
The Zeus Temple is also noteworthy as one of the best-preserved Roman temples in the area of Turkey and even world-wide. This is the main historical attraction of Aizanoi, standing on a low hill, surrounded by the fence.
The construction of the temple, which was the main religious sanctuary of the city, started in the last half of the 2nd century AD. The preserved inscriptions indicate that emperor Hadrian was responsible for its commission.
The temple stands on a many-stepped podium and was built of marble. It is surrounded by a peristasis in a pseudodipteral arrangement, originally with 15 Ionic columns on its long side and 8 on the short side. The podiom itself measures 33 X 37 meters. Nowadays, only the columns on the western and northern side are still standing.
The temple was dedicated to two deities. Zeus - the ruler of the Olympians - was worshipped in its aboveground section, and the underground part of the building was the place of Cybele cult. Stylistically, the part dedicated to Zeus was built in accordance with the Greek patterns and the underground section - with the Roman ones as the barrel vaults are clearly visible.
The battle scenes depicted on the walls of the building come from much later period. They were made by the Tatars and illustrate their lives and battles fought in the 13th century AD. Nearby the entrance to the temple grounds there is an enclosed area where some interesting fragments of temple decorations are collected. Opposite the temple there are the remains of a small bouleuterion, but its history remains unknown.