The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

Located in the Greek Peloponesus lies a small place named Olympia. Olympia was, as the name suggests the place where the ancient Greeks held their Olympic Games. During this time a truce was called and contestants from lands as far away as Egypt and Syria showed up to compete.

At Olympia there was a stadium, for the games, and a temple grove, or Altis. The temple of Zeus here was a relatively modest affair and as the games increased in popularity and importance it was decided Zeus needed a bigger temple.

Between 470 and 460BC, Libos of Elis started the temple he was to finish in 456BC. It turned out to be his masterpiece. Following the classic design of the Parthenon and the Artemis temple in Ephesus, it was build on a raised platform with 13 pillars supporting each side and six pillars supporting the back and the front end. Statues depicting the 12 Labours of Hercules could be seen on the short sides.

However, local dignataries deemed it was too simple for Zeus so they ordered a statue to be put inside the temple.

They choose a man named Phidias, famed for his work on the 40 foot high statue of Athena, to do the job. According to the records the statue Zeus was to be 40 feet high and nearly 22 feet wide. Seated on an elaborate throne his head nearly touched the ceiling of the temple. Stabo wasn’t too impressed with this as he wrote complaining that if Zeus ever would stand up from his throne he would have to lift the roof of the temple. Other, however, though tit was much more impressive as it filled the temple to bursting with implied power.

The throne was inlaid with many kinds of gems and metal and showed a multitude of fantastic animals. On his right hand Zeus carried a Nike, or victory goddess, while in his left he carried a scepter crowned with an eagle. The staue was made out of wood and covered with gold (for the hair and robes) and ivory (for the skin). They ivory had to be regularly oiled to prevent it from cracking.

In 225AD the Olympics were abolished by Theodosius I, a Christian Roman emperor, who considered the games a pagan rite. The staue was moved to Byzantium where it was destroyed by fire in 462AD.