Statue of Zeus at Olympia

Statue of Zeus at Olympia

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was made by the famed Greek sculptor of the Classical period, Phidias, circa 432 BC on the site where it was erected in the temple of Zeus, Olympia, Greece. [ [ Statue of Zeus] from [ encyclopæ] . Retrieved 22 November 2006.]


The seated statue, some 12 metres (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 Seven Wonders: The Statue of Zeus at Olympia] by Alaa K. Ashmawy from [] . Retrieved on 30 September 2007.] 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 Elis and Roman coins and engraved gems [Gisela M. A. Richter, "The Pheidian Zeus at Olympia" "Hesperia" "'35".2 (April-June 1966:166-170) p. 166f, 170. Details of the sculpture in this article are corroborated in Richter 1966.] but a very detailed description of the sculpture and the throne was recorded by the traveller Pausanias, in the second century AD. In the sculpture, he was wreathed with shoots of the olive 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 metals, on which an eagle perched. ["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, and his robe is also gold. His garments are carved with animals and with lilies. The throne is decorated with gold, precious stones, ebony, and ivory." (Pausanias, "Description of Greece" 5.11.1-.10). Pausanias was informed that the paintings on the throne were by the brother of Phidias, Panaenus.] 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 beheld the god in person,” while the Greek orator Dio Chrysostom declared that a single glimpse of the statue would make a man forget his earthly troubles. [ [*.html#51 Or. 12.51] ]

The date of the statue, in the third quarter of the fifth century BC, long a subject of debate, was confirmed archaeologically by the rediscovery and excavation of Phidias' workshop.

According to a legend, when Phidias was asked what inspired him -- whether he climbed Mount Olympus to see Zeus, or whether Zeus came down from Olympus so that Phidias could see him -- the artist answered that he portrayed Zeus according to Book One, verses 528 - 530 of Homer´s Iliad cite book |last=Zamarovský|first=Vojtěch|authorlink|title=Za sedmi divy světa|pages=pp. 186|] :

:: "ἦ καὶ κυανέῃσιν ἐπ' ὀφρύσι νεῦσε Κρονίων":: "ἀμβρόσιαι δ' ἄρα χαῖται ἐπερρώσαντο ἄνακτος":: "κρατὸς ἀπ' ἀθανάτοιο μέγαν δ' ἐλέλιξεν Ὄλυμπον."

:: "He spoke, the son of Kronos, and nodded his head with the dark brows,":: "and the immortally anointed hair of the great god":: "swept from his divine head, and all Olympos was shaken." [ [ Iliad, I, 528-530] ]

Loss and destruction

The circumstances of its eventual destruction are a source of debate: the eleventh-century Byzantine historian Georgios Kedrenos [Georgius Kedrenos, "Historiarum Compendium" §322c, in "Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae" 34, vol. I, p. 564, according to Richter 1966 note 1.] recorded the tradition that it was carried off to Constantinople, where it was destroyed in the great fire of the Lauseion, in 475. [Schobel 1965; Richter 1966.] Others argue that it perished with the temple when it burned in 425 AD. According to Lucian of Samosata in the later second century, "they have laid hands on your person at Olympia, my lord High-Thunderer, and you had not the energy to wake the dogs or call in the neighbours; surely they might have come to the rescue and caught the fellows before they had finished packing up the swag." [Lucian's dialogue "Timon the Misanthrope", translated by H. W. Fowler And F. G. Fowler.]

Phidias' workshop rediscovered

Perhaps the greatest discovery came in 1954-58 with the excavation of the workshop at Olympia where Phidias created the statue. Tools, terracotta molds and a cup inscribed "I belong to Pheidias" were found here, where the traveller Pausanius said the Zeus was constructed. [ [ "Phidias", "Oxford Dictionary of Art,"] ] [ [ K. Kris Hirst, "A Walking Tour of Olympia, Greece",] ] [ ["Olympia, Workshop of Pheidias", "Perseus Building Catalog,"] ] This has enabled archaeologists to re-create the techniques used to make the great work and confirm its date.



* Kenneth D. S. Lapatin, "Chryselephantine Statuary in the Ancient Mediterranean World," Oxford U Press (2001) ISBN 0198153112
* Alfred Mallwitz and Wolfgang Schiering, "Die Werkstatt des Pheidias in Olympia I: Olympische Forschungen V," Berlin: Walter de Gruyter (1964)
* [ Wolfgang Schiering, "Die Werkstatt des Pheidias in Olympia II: Werkstattfunde: Olympische Forschungen XVIII," Berlin: Walter de Gruyter (1991)] ISBN 3110124688

ee also

* Chryselephantine sculpture
* Phidias

External links

* [ "The Statue of Zeus at Olympia"]
* [ Colin Delaney, "A Wonder to Behold: The Statue of Olympian Zeus"]
* [ Archaeopaedia: Statue of Zeus] With bibliography
* [ (Ellen Papakyriakou) Olympia: Art: the chryselephantine statue of Zeus]
* [ Michael Lahanas, "The colossal Zeus statue of Pheidias"]
* [ David Fenzl "Recreating Olympic Statuary"]

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