Zeus Temple

Location: Ancient Olympia   

Olympia Temple of Zeus: The ruined Temple of Zeus that stands today in the archaeological site of Olympia was built to honour the chief of the gods. It was probably constructed at around 470 B.C, when the ancient Olympic Games were at their peak. In fact, there is an interesting story behind the construction of this temple. In 470 B.C, there was a war between Elis and Pisa, two neighboring powers in the area of Olympia. Finally, Elean was defeated and as a penalty the town gave the funds for building a magnificent temple right outside the stadium of Olympia.

It took almost thirteen years to complete the temple till 457 B.C. When it was completed, the Spartans gifted a golden tripod for placing it on the top of the gable. This gesture on the part of the Spartans was to celebrate their victory over Athens in the battle of Tanagra. The architect was named Libon and he made the entire design of the temple following the Doric style.

The Temple of Zeus in Olympia is a hexastyle building, which was erected over three steps of stylobate. The entire monument was made of limestone and is covered with stucco. Parian marble was used for making the sculptures inside the temple and Pentelic marble was used to construct the roof tiles. The temple has thirteen columns on both sides and six columns each at two ends. Pronaos, Naos and Opisthodomos were its three compartments.

The construction of the temple was never entirely complete. It went under renovation many times. While, for example, the floor was initially made of colorful mosaics with pebbles and stones, later these were enveloped by marble. The sculptures on the pediment and the metopes depicting the 12 labors of Hercules were awesome but unfortunately we do not know their sculptors. Three different stories were sculpted on the east pediment, the west pediment and the metopes.

However, the most impressive content of the temple was the magnificent golden and chryselephantine statue of Zeus, which is considered to be one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World. This 13-metres tall statue was made by Phedias, the most talented sculptor of ancient Greece, in his workshop in Olympia. Unfortunately, both the temple and the statue of Zeus were destroyed by an earthquake.

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