Colossal telamon stands again in Agrigento

A colossal telamon (an architectural support shaped like a man, also called atlas or atlantid) that once held up the entablature of the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Agrigento, Sicily, stands again. One of only two almost complete remaining telamons of nearly 40 that had supported the 5th century B.C. Doric temple, this statue is the only one to be reinstalled in its original location. The other survivor looms large inside the Regional Archaeological Museum of Agrigento.

Construction of the Temple of Zeus began around 480 B.C. after the allied Greek colonies of Sicily defeated Carthage. Agrigento deployed thousands of enslaved Carthaginian prisoners on massive public works projects, the Temple of Zeus first and foremost. Construction came to an end when the city was conquered by Hiero I of Syracuse around 472 B.C. The temple was never completed, but even with the roof unfinished, it was the largest Doric temple ever built.

The structure was damaged when Carthage besieged the city in 406 B.C. and sacked it after their victory. Earthquakes took their toll too, and in the 18th century the sandstone blocks, unusually small for such a monumental building, were plundered to build the pier of Porto Empedocle.

Only a few walls, scattered stones and column capitals survive today at the temple site. In 2004, a team from the German Archaeological Institute of Rome undertook an extensive cataloging project to record every single element of the temple still in situ. More than 90 stones were identified as parts of at least eight telamons. One telamon had about two thirds of its original stone elements found among the grouping. Those stones were used to reconstruct the telamon.

Architects designed a 40-foot steel structure with shelves on which the stones are placed. There are only small gaps between the blocks so this is an ingenious solution to display the colossus in vertical position with a roof over his bent arms just as he would have been when the temple was still standing.

This is a video of the unveiling to give you a sense of its great scale.