The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was a giant seated figure, about 13 m (43 ft) tall, made by the Greek sculptor Phidias in circa 435 BC at the sanctuary of Olympia, Greece, and erected in the Temple of Zeus there. A sculpture of ivory plates and gold panels over a wooden framework, it represented the god Zeus sitting on an elaborate cedarwood throne ornamented with ebony, ivory, gold, and precious stones. It was regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World until its eventual loss and destruction during the fifth century AD. No copy of the statue has ever been found, and details of its form are known only from ancient Greek descriptions and representations on coins.
The great, seated statue as fashioned by Phidias occupied half the width of the aisle of the temple built to house it. “It seems that if Zeus were to stand up,” the geographer Strabo noted early in the 1st century BC, “he would unroof the temple.” The Zeus was a chryselephantine sculpture, made with ivory and gold panels on a wooden substructure. No copy in marble or bronze has survived, though there are recognizable but only approximate versions on coins of nearby Elis and on Roman coins and engraved gems.
In the 2nd century AD, the geographer and traveler Pausanias gave a detailed description. The statue was crowned with a sculpted wreath of olive sprays. It had gold sandals, and a golden robe carved with animals and lilies. In its right hand was a small chryselephantine statue of crowned Nike, goddess of victory. Its left hand held a sceptre inlaid with many metals, supporting an eagle. The throne was decorated in gold, precious stones, ebony, and ivory. According to the Roman historian Livy, the Roman general Aemilius Paulus (the victor over Macedon) saw the statue and “was moved to his soul, as if he had seen the god in person,” while the 1st century AD Greek orator Dio Chrysostom declared that a single glimpse of the statue would make a man forget all his earthly troubles.