The Zeus Statue

the zeus statue at olympia

The Olympia statue of Zeus, constructed in the 430s BCE under the direction of great Phidias, the Greek sculptor, was even larger than Athena’s statue in the Parthenon.  Following its move to Constantinople, the statue of Zeus at Olympia was lost in later Roman times, but it enthralled the world of the ancient era for 1,000 years.

the reason for building

Phidias, who had previously overseen the creation of Athens’ Parthenon and its massive sculpture of the region’s patron deity Athena, was commissioned to create an equally gigantic Zeus statue at Olympia.

description of statue

The statue was usually positioned in the center of the structure so that when the doors were opened, it could see the sacrifices and rites being done in that god’s honor just outside.

description of statue

The statue of Zeus was chryselephantine and made of ivory and gold over a wooden core, with the god’s skin in ivory and his hair, garments, and rod in dazzling gold added in hammered sheets.

description of statue

The base was adorned with images from Aphrodite’s birth. Finally, Phidias signed the base, writing, “Phidias, son of Charmides, an Athenian, created me.”

how it was created

It appears plausible that the work at Olympia lasted a comparable amount of time. What we can be certain of is that he never worked alone; he was always a team leader who oversaw the artisans of various professions.

about the temple

It was built in the Doric style, but its timber columns were rebuilt with stone columns later on. Researchers discovered the head of a statue of Hera, Zeus’ wife and the deity of marriage, in this antique temple.


Richard Chandler, who would excavate for six years, will find the location in the 19th century. From 1936 until 1966, the site would be explored once again.

description oF THE TEMPLE

The temple of Zeus was traditional in architecture according to ancient Greek standards. It was rectangular and completely ringed by a series of 10m high columns. 


When authors such as Callimachus of Cyrene, Herodotus, and Antipater of Sidon, and prepared shortlists of the most amazing sites of the ancient world, seven such monuments constituted the first ‘bucket list.’ The Zeus statue at Olympia was added to the existing list in the 2nd century BCE, but it was already well-known by that time.