Temple of Zeus, Katakolo, Greece | CruiseBe
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Temple of Zeus

Olympia, Greece
History and museums
ancient ruins, historic site, temple

The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was an ancient Greek temple in Olympia, Greece, dedicated to the god Zeus. The temple, built between 472 and 456 BCE, was the very model of the fully developed classical Greek temple of the Doric order.



The temple was probably established towards the end of the Mycenaean period. The Altis, the enclosure with its sacred grove, open-air altars and the tumulus of Pelops, was first formed during the tenth and ninth centuries BCE Greece's "Dark Age", when the followers of Zeus had joined with the followers of Hera.

Statue of Zeus

The temple housed the renowned statue of Zeus, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue was approximately 13 m (43 ft) high, and was made by the sculptor Phidias in his workshop on the site at Olympia. The statue's completion took around 12 years. On the head was a sculpted wreath of olive sprays. In the right hand, Zeus held a figure of Nike (the goddess of victory), also made from ivory and gold - and held in the left hand a scepter made with many kinds of metal, with an eagle perched on the top. Zeus' robe and sandals were made of gold. His garments were carved with animals and with lilies. The throne was decorated with gold, precious stones, ebony, and ivory. The statue was Greece's most revered artistic work.


The temple was constructed by the architect Libon, with carved metopes and triglyph friezes, topped by pediments filled with sculptures in the Severe Style, now attributed to the "Olympia Master" and his studio.

The main structure of the building was of a local limestone that was unattractive and of poor quality, and so it was coated with a thin layer of stucco to give it an appearance of marble like all the sculptural decoration on the temple

Subsequent history

The Roman general Mummius dedicated twenty-one gilded shields after he sacked Corinth in 146 BCE; they were fixed at the metopes of the eastern front side and the eastern half of the south side. In 426 CE, Theodosius II ordered the destruction of the sanctuary, and earthquakes in 522 and 551 devastated the ruins and left the Temple of Zeus partially buried.

The site of the ancient sanctuary, long forgotten under landslips and flood siltation, was identified in 1766. In 1829 a French team partially excavated the Temple of Zeus, taking several fragments of the pediments to the Musée du Louvre. Systematic excavation began in 1875, under the direction of the German Archaeological Institute, and has continued, with some interruptions, to the present time.

In film

The 1997 Disney animated film Hercules depicts the Temple of Zeus as the only communication Hercules has with his father while he is a mortal. Zeus communicates by possessing the statue within the temple. In an episode of the animated series, Zeus further uses this ability to address an issue on Earth by using the statue to visit other cities near Athens.


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