Temple of Zeus, Olympia

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Wilhelm Lübke's illustration of the temple as it might have looked in the 5th century BC

The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was an ancient Greek temple in Olympia, Greece, dedicated to the mythical god Zeus. The temple, built between 472 and 456 BC, was the very model of the fully developed classical Greek temple of the Doric order.[1]

Setting[edit]

Probably been established towards the end of the Mycenaean period. The Altis, the enclosure with its sacred grove, open-air altars and the tumulus of Pelops, was first formed during the tenth and ninth centuries BC[2] Greece's "Dark Age", when the cult of Zeus was joined to the already established cult of Hera.[3]

Statue of Zeus[edit]

It housed the renowned statue of Zeus, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Chryselephantine statue was approximately 13 m (43 ft) high and was made by the sculptor Phidias in his workshop on the site at Olympia. He took about twelve years to complete it. On his head was a sculpted wreath of olive sprays. In his right hand he held a figure of Nike, the goddess of victory, also made from ivory and gold, and in his left hand, a scepter made with many kinds of metal, with an eagle perched on the top. His sandals were made of gold and so was his robe. His garments were carved with animals and with lilies. The throne was decorated with gold, precious stones, ebony, and ivory. The statue was the most famous artistic work in Greece.

Construction[edit]

The temple was constructed by the architect Libon, with carved metopes and triglyph friezes, topped by pediments filled with sculptures in the Severe Style, now attributed to the "Olympia Master" and his studio.

The main structure of the building was of a local limestone that was unattractive and of poor quality, and so it was coated with a thin layer of stucco to give it an appearance of marble like all the sculptural decoration on the temple

Subsequent history[edit]

Ruins of the temple.

The Roman general Mummius dedicated twenty-one gilded shields after he sacked Corinth in 146 BCE; they were hung upon the columns. In 426 CE, Theodosius II ordered the destruction of the sanctuary, and earthquakes in 522 and 551 devastated the ruins and left the Temple of Zeus partially buried.[4]

The site of the ancient sanctuary, long forgotten under landslips and flood siltation, was identified in 1766. In 1829 a French team partially excavated the Temple of Zeus, taking several fragments of the pediments to the Musée du Louvre. Systematic excavation began in 1875, under the direction the German Archaeological Institute, and has continued, with some interruptions, to the present time.

In Film[edit]

The 1997 Disney animated film Hercules depicts the Temple of Zeus as the only communication Hercules has with his father while he is a mortal. Zeus communicates by possessing the statue within the temple. In an episode of the animated series, Zeus further uses this ability to address an issue on Earth by using the statue to visit other cities near Athens.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°38′16″N 21°37′48″E / 37.63778°N 21.63000°E / 37.63778; 21.63000