Wonder of the Ancient World: The Grand and Powerful Statue of Zeus
The statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and arguably the most famous statue of its day. Once built as a shrine to honor the Greek god Zeus, this statue was considered the incarnate of the Greeks’ most important god, and not to have seen it at least once in one’s lifetime was considered a misfortune. The size of a four story building and seven times the height of an average man, it was the tallest statue of the Mediterranean world. It also remained the statue to whom the original Olympic Games were played in honor.
According to legend, the altar of Zeus stood on a spot struck by a thunderbolt, which had been hurled by the god from his throne high atop Mount Olympus, where the gods assembled. 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 a sacred grove between two rivers at Olympia on the west coast of Greece. The city of Olympia housed not only the Temple of Zeus, but also hosted the Olympic Games. They were first started in 776 BC and held every four years. One difference between the ancient and modern Olympic Games is that the ancient games were played within the context of a religious festival. They were held in honor of Zeus, considered the father of the Olympic Games. To honor Zeus, a temple was commissioned by the citizens of Olympia in 470 BC.
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