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Seven Wonders of Ancient World/Statue of Zeus in Olympia

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When sculptor Phidias finished his masterpiece presumably even he was suprised and ecstatic. The greatest greek sculptor of the ancient world completed his work in about three years not without help it’s clear, you can’t complete a colossal statue tall around 12 meters all alone! For eight hundred long years the statue of Zeus was admire with amazement,wonder and also a little bit of subjection by worshipers which every time were entranced in front of father of gods!

Such masterpiece had a resounding success throughtout Greek Roman world but i could not be otherwise. It is a statue chryselephantine which is made up by gold and ivory that was commissioned by priests of Olympia in order to complete the great temple of Zeus.Success and magnificent of such statue were not enough to save it from adverse destiny that it would have since even this wonder of world was lost for ever and then we will see how and why. How was statue of Zeus? Have come down to us several descriptions also extremely detailed from greek-latin authors,however unluckly has not reached us no copy of such masterpiece assuming that there has ever been any! According to ancient historical greek Strabo, Phidias would have confided to one of his collaborators that he was inspired by some verses of Iliad for the creation of his statue. Always according to Strabo the proportions of the statue compared to its placement in the temple were at the limit since head of god was close to the ceiling! In fact historical wrote that whether the statue of god could have stood up it would have without doubt uncovered the roof! All of that accentuated the monumental scale and size of such work that was able to intimidate very easily many worshippers which admired it on a daily basis.

statue of Zeus
Possible appearance of statue of Zeus

This is the desciption write by ancient greek writer and geographer Pausanias:

“The God made of gold and ivory,is seated on a throne.On his head is a crown worked in shape of olive branches. In his right hand holds a Nike likewise chryselephantine, with a bandage, and on her head a crown. On left hand of the God is a golden scepter of all types of metal,and the bird that is laid on scepter is an eagle. Even shoes of God are gold and also his mantle. In the mantle are embroidered animal figurines and lily flowers.”

The description of Pausanias agreed with many other descriptions that reached us which celebrate statue as a absulute masterpiece and place it rightly among seven wonders of world! So much admiration for this colossal sculptural work that Roman emperor Caligula tried in every way to take possession of statue of Zeus(who probably would named statue of Jove) to take it to Rome without succeeding.Who knows if perhaps Roman emperor managed to to take it to Rome would be able to save it from its inauspicious destiny. In fact statue of Zeus had no good fortune; with the coming of new Christian religion temple of Zeus progressively was left to decay so that statue was taken by Lausus, who was an high byzantine official ,which placed it in his own palace in Constantinople,as private collection of pagan artworks. Unluckly in that palace there were bad destiny that awaited masterpiece of Phidias,indeed a terrible fire destroyed hopelessly both palace and all artworks contained in it,among which the statue of Zeus!

In the atelier used by Phidias have been found various traces of materials who the great sculptor used to create his work. Have not been used only gold and ivory but also materials more humble like ceramic,obsidian,glass paste while the main utensils found have been awls,chisels,hammers,shovels and lead sheets.

All the work, effort and struggle to build such wonder of ancient world,were not enough to preserve magnificence of this impressive statue,as were not enough gold and ivory to make it resist to the fury of natural elements as the fire; pagan religion fell as well as the most glorious statue of father of gods,which was replaced by the new God of new Christian religion, namely Jesus Christ. However christians did not give up to forge big statues of their god in spite of explicity ban that their religion imposed them. The statue of Christ Redeemer in Brazil remids in size and monumentality the glory of statue of Phidias ,only time will tell how long this new wonder of world will resist to the strict laws of  Mother Nature!  

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