The temple of Zeus is located in the center of The Altis. It was built by the Eleans from the spoils of the Triphylian war and dedicated to Zeus. Construction began ca. 471 BCE and was completed before 456 BCE by the architect Libon of Elis.
The temple was peripteral hexastyle with thirteen columns at the sides and had an east-west orientation. The columns were of local shell-limestone and covered with white stucco. Only the pediment sculptures, roof tiles and lion's head water spouts were of marble. The cella was divided into three naves by two double rows of seven columns. At the far end stood the statue of Zeus, one of the 'seven wonders of the ancient world', created by Phidias ca. 430 BCE. It portrayed Zeus enthroned, holding a scepter in his left hand and a winged Victory in his right. The east pediment depicted the chariot race between Pelops and Oinomaos. The west pediment depicted the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, arranged round the central figure of Apollo. The twelve metopes, six at each end over the entrance to the pronaos and the opisthodomos, depicted the Twelve Labors of Hercules, son of Zeus.
The temple was burnt by order of Theodosius II in in CE 426. Badly damaged by the fire, it was finally destroyed by earthquakes in CE 551 and 552. After the abolition of the Olympic Games, the statue was carried off to Constantinople where it perished in a fire ca. 475 CE.
For more information, see the Hellenic Ministry of Culture website: http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/2/eh251.jsp?obj_id=500
The Archivision Collection of Ancient Sites was funded by the Jack Martin Balcer Library Endowment.
Keywords: Greece, Peloponnese, Ilias, Nomos, Olympia, ceremonial and/or religious structures, Ancient Greek, Classical, Mediterranean. Photographed by Scott Gilchrist, Archivision.