Architecture‎ > ‎

Temple of Zeus at Olympia


466-456 BC


Local limestone covered with stucco.

Marble for metopes and trigylphs.



Peripteral temple.

East opening cella.

Distyle in antis, pronaos and opisthodomos.

Approach ramp.

Folding gates between pronaos and columns.

Screens across naos restricting access to cult statue.

Two tier Doric colonnade in naos.



Column height 32 feet.

Gallery at height of architrave.


Golden tripod put in by Spartans (victory against Athens).

6 sculpted metopes over columns of porches.

Sculpted East and West pediment.

Cult statue of Zeus.

Unusual Features

Canon Doric temple.

Have to step inside to view metopes.

Unified theme of competition.

Screens restricting access.

Approach ramp.

Viewing gallery.

West Pediment

Subject matter/appropriateness

Centaurs fighting Lapiths.

Metaphor for Greeks and Persians.

Apollo important god at this time.

Composition suitability

God presiding over a scene of violence.

19 figures – all figures in conflict poses apart from Apollo.

Vertical lines on Apollo’s drapery – only calm figure in the scene.

Triangles add variety and pattern.

Background filled with drapery.

Representation of action

All figures are involved.

Figures overlapping because of chaos.

Natural fighting – not looking at viewer.

Bodies show emotion – faeces don’t (dignified).

Drapery slipping off the women.

Narrative clarity

Crowded scene, difficult to see due to number of characters involved.

Greeks (Lapiths) are civilised, Persians (Centaurs) are barbaric.

Representation of gods

Apollo less defines muscles than Zeus on East.

Unusual for Apollo to be there – temple of Zeus.

Drapery around shoulders.

Overseeing but more involved than Athene at Aegina.

Material drapery used as support.

Representation of male body

Action poses – popular for Early Classical

Doesn’t show as much representation as East pediment.

More interaction and characters have tense muscles.

East Pediment

Subject matter/appropriateness

Chariot race – Pelops and Oinomaos.

Zeus overseeing the event.

Moral message.

Local river gods setting the scene.

Composition suitability

Vertical drapery shows lack of movement.

Calmness before action – suspense.

13 figures in the scene.

Space filled well – variety in shapes.

Representation of action

Females concealed.

Starting to see relaxing of female poses.

Movement of seer accurately displays emotion.

Actions convey they aren’t interested.

More involved closer to centre.

Narrative clarity

Action goes from corners inwards.

Shows Zeus is most important.

Story centred round the men.

Prophet adds to clarity.

Rules for race being spoken.

Representation of gods

Zeus tallest and most important.

Zeus is similar to God of Artemisium.

God of Justice overseeing cheating.

Relaxed pose.

Overseeing event.

Representation of male body

Character’s age easily identified by their body and muscular physique.

Slave boy shows boredom and lack of interest.

Relaxed pose.

Severe expression.