In the central area of the sanctuary is the Temple of Zeus, which was built by the architect Libon, a native of Elis, with the city’s war booty in the mid Vth century BC (470-457 BC).
It is a Doric peripteral temple, with six columns across the short sides and thirteen down the long ones, in local limestone, covered in painted stucco.
Parian marble was used only for certain parts of the entablature and roof, as it was also for the sculptures decorating the pediment and the metopes on the frieze.
© Photo credits by Ronny Siegel under CC-BY-2.0
The cell had a double colonnade, on two orders or levels, and was divided into two parts by marble balustrades painted by Panainos, the famous Athenian painter who may have been the nephew of Pheidias.
In front of the black stone base of the sacred statue was a basin with white marble sides which contained the oil necessary for the upkeep of the ivory parts of the statue.
The chryselephantine statue of Zeus, one of the seven wonders of the world, depicted the god with Nike in his right hand and a sceptre in his left, seated on an ebony throne decorated with mythological figures and scenes in relief, in the round and encrusted.
The temple’s metopes and pediments, which are kept in the Museum of Olympia, are regarded as some of the greatest masterpieces of what is known as the Severe style (from 500 to about 450).
They were executed by a sculptor known as the “master of Olympia” between 470 and 460 BC. The east pediment depicts the preparations for the chariot race between Oinomaos and Pelops (in which the hero defeated the king, thus winning the hand of his daughter Hippodameia) as Zeus, father of the gods, watches on.
The west pediment depicts the battle between the Lapiths and the Centaurs which ensued when the latter got drunk and attempted to abduct the Lapith women, as Apollo watches on.
The metopes on the frieze depict the Labours of Herakles.
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