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Zeus at Olympia

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Statue of Zeus by Phidias

Statue of Zeus by Phidias

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7 Wonders of the Ancient World > Zeus Statue

The Athenian sculptor Pheidias (Phidias) is considered the greatest of the classical sculptors, so in 440 B.C., when it was decided that Zeus should preside via statue at the Olympic games, at Olympia*, those responsible for honoring the king of the gods commissioned Pheidias. The enormous ivory and gold-covered statue of Zeus that Pheidias crafted sat in a Doric temple built c. 450 B.C. by the architect Libon.

Even in a sitting position, the statue of Zeus was forty feet high. The god's head was so close to the top of the temple it looked as though he would lift the roof if he stood up. Pausanias, a major travel writer who lived in the second century A.D., gives us a valuable look at the statue when he ways of it,

"On his head is a sculpted wreath of olive sprays. In his right hand he holds a figure of Victory made from ivory and gold... In his left hand, he holds a sceptre inlaid with every kind of metal, with an eagle perched on the sceptre. His sandals are made of gold, as is his robe. His garments are carved with animals and with lilies. The throne is decorated with gold, precious stones, ebony, and ivory."
[URL = <http://ce.eng.usf.edu/pharos/wonders/zeus.html>]

You'd think it would be hard to dispose of such a large statue quietly, but we don't know what happened to it. It may have been destroyed in a temple fire.

*For the location of Olympia, in Elis, Greece, see Bc on Map of Greece 500-479 B.C.

The Ancient Olympics - Starting Point for Information on the Olympics

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