The Statue of Zeus was a giant figure about 12 m tall. The renowned Greek sculptor Phidias made this statue at the sanctuary of Olympia. At some time around 435 B.C, the statue of Zeus was erected at the Temple Of Zeus. It was destroyed around the 5th century A.D. The Greek descriptions and representations on coins are its only source of information.
How Did The Statue Look?
The 12 m tall statue of Zeus was the tallest statue of its time. In this statue, Zeus was seated on a cedarwood throne. The throne in-turn had ornamentations of ebony, ivory, gold plates, and other precious stones. The statue occupied half the space of the temple built to hold it. As the geographer Strabo noted, the statue would “unroof the temple” if it was to stand up. This mighty ornamented representation of Zeus remains unparalleled to the present day. Archaeologists have not yet discovered any representations of the statue on marbles or bronze. According to their calculations, nothing of the sorts has survived.
What Is The History Behind The Construction Of The Statue?
In the latter half of the 5th century B.C., the Eleans employed Phidias to build the sculpture. Phidias had earned his fame from his previous massive statue of Athena Parthenos in Parthenon.
Pausanias, the 2nd century A.D. geographer left a detailed description of the statue. According to him, the statue wore an olive crown and a gilded robe made from glass. This robe of Zeus had beautiful carvings of animals and lilies. A small chryselephantine statue of crowned Nike rested of Zeus’ right hand. While in his left hand was a scepter with an eagle on top. In front of the statue rested a reservoir of olive oil. This olive oil protected the statue from external damages. It also doubled the apparent height of the statue making it look taller than reality.
What Caused The Loss And Destruction Of The Statue Of Zeus?
According to some sources, a fire in the 435 A.D. destroyed the temple and the statue.
Archaeologists have later found, what they call, ‘Phidias’ workshop’. Excavations have unraveled tools and molds used for working gold and ivory. They believe that Phidias used these tools to create the masterpiece.
Interesting Facts About The Statue Of Zeus
- The statue was once destroyed in 170 B.C. by an earthquake.
- Lausus, a Greek art collector, had moved the statue to Constantinople. At Constantinople, he had made it a part of his private collection.
- The statue of Zeus required special care due to the humid and damp weather conditions at Olympia.
- Phidias selected cedar as the material for the throne because cedar is resistant to insects and decay.
- Zeus’ skin would crack and crumble if not treated with olive oil every day.
- The statue of Nike on Zeus’ right hand was almost the size of a human being.
- Phidias was unable to find a stone that big for the statue. So, he used his ingenious skills to create a more elaborate structure of Zeus.