The Olympic Games were held every four years in honor of Zeus. Zeus was considered to be the ‘Father of gods and men'. He was the king of all the other gods.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was about 42 feet tall.
The statue was made of a wooden frame and covered in ivory and gold panels.
The sculptor Phidias had previously created a similar sized statue of the goddess Athena. The sculpture of Athena was made for the Parthenon in Athens.
Phidias set up a workshop west of the Temple at Olympia where he would complete most of the work on the Statue of Zeus.
The size of the Statue of Zeus was so large that if Zeus stood up he would have put his head through the roof of the temple.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was destroyed by fire in the fifth century A.D. and there were no copies ever found. All the details of the statue today are taken from depictions on coins and ancient Greek descriptions.
The frame of the statue was made of wood. The statue required special care because the Olympia was a very damp place and humidity could damage the statue. Olive oil was applied to the statue regularly to keep the wood from deteriorating.
A visitor to the Statue of Zeus in 97 A.D., Dio Crysostomos described the statue as being made of gold, ebony, ivory and precious stones. He also said that there were images of animals (such as the half lion/half man sphinx) and Greek gods carved into the chair. In Zeus' right hand was a figure of the goddess of victory Nike. In his left hand he held a scepter topped with an eagle.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was most likely destroyed by fire in the 5th century, either in the Ancient Roman capital Constantinople or in the Temple of Zeus in Olympia.
The statue was damaged by an earthquake in 170 BC but it was repaired.
According to Greek legend, when Phidias completed the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the temple was struck by lightning in response to Phidias’ request of a blessing.
When the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the early fourth century A.D., he ordered that all gold be stripped from any pagan shrines, including the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia included a sceptre, accompanied with a perched eagle in the statue’s left hand and in the right, a statue of Nike, the Ancient Greek victory goddess.
The Olympics were abolished in 392 A.D. by Emperor Theodosius I of Rome. He also felt that the games were a pagan ritual.
All modern depictions of the Statue of Zeus at Olympia are based on historical descriptions, and Ancient Greek artists’ depictions that can be found on Ancient Greek coins.
One theory states that a Greek art collector named Lausus moved the statue to Constantinople. It became part of his private collection. In 475 A.D. a fire swept through Constantinople and the statue was destroyed.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia towered over the people who visited it, causing fear, and it was customary for athletes who participated in the ancient Olympic Games to swear an oath regarding the rules of the games, in the presence of the statue.
Another theory states that the statue was still in its original place in the Olympic Temple in 425 A.D. when it burned down.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was primarily made of cedar wood covered with ivory and gold, and was decorated with precious metals and stones, wood and ivory.
Archaeologists discovered Phidias' workshop in the 1950s. During their excavation they found the tools that he used to create the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was constructed to be 13 metres (43 feet) in height, and was included in the list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.