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Wonders of the World - Statue of Zeus
Statue of Zeus
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was the most famous artistic work in all of Greece and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and it made a profound impression on all who saw it.

Pausanias, a Greek traveler who wrote the earliest guidebook to ancient Greece in 150 AD, described the statue in great detail; yet he also wrote that "records fall far short of the impression made by a sight of the image." To the Greeks the statue of Olympian Zeus was the incarnate god, and not to have seen it at least once in one's lifetime was considered a misfortune.

Ruling over the gods from his exalted throne atop Mount Olympus, Zeus saw everything, rewarded good conduct, punished evil, and governed all. He was the bringer of thunder and lightning, rain, and winds, and his weapon was the thunderbolt. He was the protector of cities, the home, strangers and supplicants. Altars to Zeus graced the forecourts of houses throughout Greece and pilgrims visited his many mountaintop shrines, but the god's best-known temple was the monumental Temple of Zeus, built in 460 BC in a sacred grove between two rivers at Olympia.

Within this temple the statue of the supreme god sat upon an intricately carved cedarwood throne that was decorated with mythical scenes of lesser gods and heroes rendered in gold, ebony, and precious stones. In his left hand Zeus carried a scepter made of a multicolored alloy of rare metals; crowned with an eagle's head, it symbolized his rule over the earth. His extended right hand supported a life-size statue of Nike, the goddess of victory, and the stool beneath his feet was upheld by two impressive gold lions. His hair, beard, and drapery were made of gold, and his unclothed flesh—head, hands and feet—was rendered in burnished ivory.

To keep the ivory from cracking the god had to be regularly anointed with olive oil, which was collected in a shallow pool beneath his feet. Over 40 feet in height, Zeus was too large to fit in the temple if he stood up—a curious fact to ancient commentators, who thought of the temple as Zeus's actual home.
Presiding over the Olympic Games
Fate of the Statue of Zeus