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Temple of Zeus in Olympia – History, Design, & Ruins

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Temple of Zeus in Olympia

Temple of Zeus in Olympia – History, Design, & Ruins

Today, the ruins of the Temple of Zeus in Olympia stand in the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia. It was built in honor of the god of all gods in circa 470 BCE when the Olympic Games of ancient times were at their peak.

Legend has it that the neighboring powers near Olympia, Pisa and Elis, were at war. The city-state of Elis was ordered to fund the construction of the remarkable temple by the Olympia stadium, as a penalty for its defeat in the war.

Temple of Zeus in Olympia Details

Libon, a famous architect was commissioned to design the Temple of Zeus in Olympia. It was completed 13 years later, in 457 BCE in the Doric Order, the first style of Classical Architecture with simple circular capitals which top the columns.

The hexastyle building is was constructed with limestone and finished with stucco. It rested on thick stylobate, with 13 columns on either length and six on its widths. Its three compartments were Pronaos, Naos, and Opisthodomos.

The Temple of Zeus in Olympia contained sculptures made of Parian marble and its roof tiles of Pentelic marble.

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Upon its completion, the Spartans made an offering for their victory against the Athenians in the Battle of Tanagra. They gifted a golden tripod to be placed on the peak of the gable of the temple.

The Temple of Zeus had undergone several renovations over time, even though it was never completely finished. For instance, initially, the floor was finished in colorful stone and pebble mosaics. But, later it was topped by marble.

The temple featured carved metopes. The sculptures that depicted Hercules’ 12 labors were stunning, although their sculptors are unknown.

Of course, the most crucial element in the temple is the 13-meter-high gold and chryselephantine Statue of Zeus at Olympia – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

It was crafted by Phidias, the most talented and sought after sculptor of his time. Sadly, there is no remnant of the incredible Statue of Zeus, as it was completely destroyed.

As for the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, we can see its ruins and imagine its grandeur. Statues from the east pediment of the temple are on display in the Archaeological Museum of Olympia.

Photo credit: Karta24