The great statue of Zeus at Olympia was sculpted by the Athenian artist, Pheidias.
Ancient Olympia Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, is one of the best-known archeological sites of ancient Greece. Ancient Olympia was a sanctuary associated with games and the worship of the gods. Olympia is situated in a valley of Ilias, by the foot of Mt. Kronos, in western Peloponnese. Visitors today can discover Zeus' sacred place at the Archaeological Site, the Archaeological Museum, the museum of Ancient Olympic Games and the Museum of modern Olympic Games.
Statue of Zeus- One of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World, the famous Statue of Zeus, was created by the Athenian sculptor, Phidias. Phidias was also responsible for the awe-inspiring Statue of Athena in the Parthenon as well as additional smaller sculptures at Plataea and Marathon. The temple of Zeus in Olympia Greece, created by the architect, Libon, was magnificent in itself. It had been constructed to honor Zeus and serve as a more fitting location for the Olympic Games, which until then had been held in Peloponnesus. The temple was as high as a four story building is today but was determined to still be too simple for the King of Gods and thus Phidias was commissioned to build the Statue of Zeus. The Statue of Zeus was created piece by piece in the workshop of Phidias and was completed around 456 B.C. and assembled in the Temple of Zeus.
As one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia was located inside the Temple of Zeus, that once stood in modern-day Greece. The statue, made by the Greek sculptor Phidias, was created to please the god in 432 BC.
The statue was an impressive 40 feet high (12 meters) and covered in shining ivory over a wooden frame. Zeus’ beard was covered in gold, as well as his robe and sandals that were also encrusted with jewels. The throne on which Zeus sat was made of cedar wood, inlaid with ebony, ivory, gold, and jewels. Zeus held in his left hand a shining scepter, on top of which an eagle perched, ready to take off at any moment and do the god’s bidding. In Zeus’s left he held a statue of Nike, the goddess of victory. The statue and the temple of Zeus was created to praise the Zeus and to show his glory and power to the people who visited.
There is no copy of the statue that has ever been found, and details are known only from Ancient Greek descriptions in writings and on coins. The statue was so glorious that the Greek orator Dio Chrysostom declared: “A single glimpse of the statue would make a man forget all his earthly troubles.”
The seated statue, some 12 meters (39 feet) tall, occupied the whole width of the aisle of the temple built to house it. "It seems that if Zeus were to stand up," the geographer Strabo noted early in the first century BC, "he would unroof the temple." The Zeus was a chryselephantine sculpture, made of ivory and gold-plated bronze. No copy in marble or bronze has survived, though there are recognizable but approximate versions on coins of nearby Elis and on Roman coins and engraved gems. A very detailed description of the sculpture and its throne was recorded by the traveler Pausanias, in the second century AD. The sculpture was wreathed with shoots of olive worked in gold and seated on a magnificent throne of cedarwood, inlaid with ivory, gold, ebony and precious stones. In Zeus' right hand there was a small statue of crowned Nike, goddess of victory, also chryselephantine, and in his left hand, a sceptre inlaid with gold, on which an eagle perched. Plutarch, in his Life of the Roman general Aemilius Paulus, records that the victor over Macedon, when he beheld the statue, “was moved to his soul, as if he had seen the god in person,” while the first century AD Greek orator Dio Chrysostom declared that a single glimpse of the statue would make a man forget all his earthly troubles./
There is no definitive knowledge of its destruction. The statue was thought to be destroyed by the Roman Emperor Caligula, when he ordered all especially beautiful icons to the gods to be brought to Rome to have their heads removed and replaced with his. Other theories of its destruction exist, such as perishing in the fire that destroyed the Temple of Zeus in the 5thCentury A.D.
After completing his work on the Acropolis in 438 BC, Pheidias was commissioned by the Olympian priesthood to design and produce a chryselephantine statue of the god (P. Valavanis). The statue took Pheidias over 12 years to complete, and the result was so astounding that those who saw the statue marveled and placed it among the seven wonders of the world (J. Swaddling). Pheidias is said to have used verses from Homer’s Iliad as inspiration for his masterpiece (H. Schobel). The following lines served as a basis for his interpretation:
In the 1950′s an excavation uncovered the workshop of Phidias which was discovered beneath an early Christian Church. During the excavation, the tools of the ancient sculptor was found and some bore serial numbers which corresponded with plates used in the design of the Zeus statue.
Sadly while only fragment of the temple were discovered, the statue is completely gone.
The Statue of Zeus was a chryselephantine sculpture that all but overwhelmed the temple. The method for crafting a chryselephantine sculpture involved carving thin sheets of ivory around a wooden frame. The ivory is then accented with sheets of gold leaf to represent hair, armor, etc. Sometimes precious or semi-precious gems are used for eyes, weaponry and jewelry.
Zeus, the god of thunder, was portrayed seated on a throne of cedar wood inlaid with ivory, gold, ebony and precious stone. Dual engraved sphinxes supported the armrests. According to Pausanias, a 2nd century AD traveler, the Statue of Zeus was embellished with olive shoots worked in gold. In Zeus’ right hand rested a miniature statue of the goddess of victory, Nike. The small statue of Nike was also chryselephantine in nature.
A gold inlaid scepter with an eagle atop it was in Zeus’ left hand. The head of the Statue of Zeus nearly touched the ceiling of the temple which was elevated just over forty feet. Strabo, a noted geographer, stated that if the legendary Zeus were to arise “he would unroof the temple.” Phidias requested an indication of approval of the statue from Zeus himself and legend has it that lightening struck the temple shortly after the statue was completed.
The Statue of Zeus withstood attacks from both nature and competitors for many years. Caligula, the Roman Emperor, attempted to have the Statue of Zeus removed from the temple and relocated to Rome. Caligula, the Roman Emperor, was jealous over the Statue’s apparent hold on his newly subjugated people. He ordered the Statue of Zeus removed from the temple in Olympia, Greece and relocated to Rome where he intended to remodel the statue into his own likeness. When contractors arrived to and attempted to remove the statue however, the scaffolding they had erected around the statue shook and broke apart. Legend has it the incident was accompanied by a noise that sounded like laughter. The contractors fled.
The Statue of Zeus remained, enduring earthquakes and other attacks by Mother Nature, until eight centuries later when the Roman emperor closed the temple at the urgings of Christian priests. It is generally thought that the Statue of Zeus was taken apart and hauled off to its new home in Constantinople in A.D. 394. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of Lauseion in A.D. 462. During archaeological digs in the 19th and 20th century, a mere few columns were unearthed along with evidence of Phidias’ workshop in the location where the Statue of Zeus was said to have been built. These few items are to this date the only remaining evidence of this magnificent monument.
Royston L James is author of World Wonders Seven, an educational website devoted to the seven wonders of the world.
The site has info on all the world’s wonder lists, ancient wonders of the world, the modern, the medieval even the underwater wonders!Statue of Zeus
“Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece and Statue of Zeus is one of 7seven wonders of the wold”
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was the most famous artistic work in all of Greece and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and it made a profound impression on all who saw it.
Pausanias, a Greek traveler who wrote the earliest guidebook to ancient Greece in 150 AD, described the statue in great detail; yet he also wrote that "records fall far short of the impression made by a sight of the image." To the Greeks the statue of Olympian Zeus was the incarnate god, and not to have seen it at least once in one's lifetime was considered a misfortune.