The Statue of Zeus at Olympia - Ancient Wonder

Post a Comment
The ancient Greeks, no greater god dwelt on sacred Mount Olympus than Zeus. He looked like a man and thought like one, he even had human failings that caused him tiresome domestic problems, but he was the supreme god. Zeus was indeed beloved by all the Greeks. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia is one of the seven wonders of the ancienf world and one of the seven wonders of the world.

Four hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ, the Greeks decided to show tangible evidence of this devotion. They would build a temple at Olympia with a splendid image of Zeus. With a strong will they set to work. When the temple was finished, the Greeks asked each other who should create the statue of zeus. Everyone agreed upon Pheidias, a sculptor of great renown. The fact that Pheidias was busily working in Athens was no bother they would wait until he was ready.

It was a long wait, More than ten years passed before Pheidias could come wearily to Olympia. But when he saw the grand design that was intended for Zeus he must have been fired with wonderful ideas. In his little workshop Pheidias began to fashion a seated figure made entirely of gold and ivory. He fastened gold plates about a wooden core of timber to form the draperies, and used slices of ivory for the figure's flesh.

The god, adorned by all the arts of the ancient jeweler, engraver and painter, was seated on a throne. On his head was a wreath imitating sprays of olive. In his right hand he carried a winged statue of the goddess Victory, who was also made of ivory and gold and had a wreath on her head.

In his left hand Zeus carried a sceptre, with an eagle perched upon it. His sandals, like his clothes, were made of gold. His throne was covered with gold and jewels, ebony and ivory, and it had all sorts of beasts and images painted on it.

"Wonderful!" declared the Greeks, when they looked upon their enthroned Zeus, who was about eig t times larger than a man. A celebrated orator called Dio Chryso tom, who went to see the golden statue, praised it even more. "The sight of the figure would make a man forget all his troubles, however worn out he might be with sleeplessness and sorrow," he declared.

Most of what we know about the Olympian Zeus comes from a few ancient coins on which it was depicted, and the writings of a traveller named Pausanias, who tells us: "It is said that the god himself bore witness to the art of Pheidias. When the statue had just been completed, Pheidias prayed to the god to give a sign if the work was to his liking, and straightaway a thunderbolt struck that part of the floor where, even to my time, stood the bronze pitcher."

Pausanias doesn't tell us, though, anything about the head of the god or the look in his eye, which must have been what a visitor would see first, coming through the doors at the end of the soundless temple and beholding the huge seated figure at the other end. A coin of the time shows that Zeus had long hair, falling straight down the neck, a full beard and a moustache with long ends falling over the beard.

The Romans called Zeus Jupiter, and it is said that their Emperor Caligula had a madman's plan to take the Zeus to the Capital in Rome and to substitute his own head for that of the god. But, as the story goes, his workmen were driven away by terrifying peals of ghostly laughter that broke out when they laid hands on the throne.

What became of Zeus? Nothing is known. The figure must have perished at Olympia in an earthquake, or in one of the barbarian attacks upon fifth century Greece.

Related Posts

Post a Comment

Subscribe Our Newsletter