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A Tribute to the Statue of Zeus at Olympia

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Statue of Zeus at Olympia

A Tribute to the Statue of Zeus at Olympia

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, created by the famous Athenian sculptor Phidias around 435 BCE, was one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.

This same sculptor created the many notable pieces, including the stunning and enormous Statue of Athena Parthenos, located in the Parthenon.

The Temple of Zeus – an awe-inspiring and remarkable four-storey building – was built to honor the god of gods, Zeus. The temple also became the home of the Ancient Olympic Games.

Located in Olympia, it was designed by the architect Libon, as it was too simple a task for Phidias, who was instead commissioned to build the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.

Building the Iconic Statue of Zeus at Olympia

The gigantic 13 meter tall, chryselephantine statue was created in Phidias’ workshop, one piece at a time using a unique and time-consuming method involving wooden framework, ivory sheets, and gold panels.

The ornate, seated figure was decorated with precious and semi-precious stones, ebony, ivory, and gold.

Pausanias, a 2nd-century AD traveler and geographer described the statue in great detail. He wrote:

  • The statue of Zeus wore a gilded robe carved with lilies and animals and made of glass.
  • In its left hand, it held a scepter, supporting an eagle.
  • Its head was crowned with a sculpted olive wreath.
  • Clasped in its right hand was a small statue of a crowned Nike.
  • Zeus’ feet adorned golden sandals were supported by a decorated footstool.
  • Its head nearly grazing the ceiling of the 40-foot-high ceiling temple.

What Happened to the Statue of Zeus?

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia stood strong for hundreds of years, enduring earthquakes, but was destroyed by the Great Fire of Lauseion. around the 5th century AD.

Today, the modern world knows of the historic statue only from ancient Greek descriptions, engraved gems, and coin representations.

Archaeological digs unearthed only a few columns and some evidence of the workshop of Phidias in the 19th and 20th centuries, where the Statue of Zeus once stood.