The Seven Wonders Of The World
The ancient Greeks loved to compile lists of the marvellous structures in their world. Though we think of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as a single list today, there were actually a number of lists compiled by different Greek writers. Antipater of Sidon, and Philon of Byzantium, drew up two of the most well-known lists. Many of the lists agreed on six of the seven items.
The final place on some lists was awarded to the Walls of the City of Babylon. On others, the Palace of Cyrus, king of Persia took the seventh position. Finally, toward the 6th century A.D., the final item became the Lighthouse at Alexandria. Since the it was Greeks who made the lists it is not unusual that many of the items on them were examples of Greek culture.
The writers might have listed the Great Wall of China if then had known about it, or Stonehenge if they’d seen it, but these places were beyond the limits of their world. It is a surprise to most people to learn that not all the Seven Wonders existed at the same time. Even if you lived in ancient times you would have still needed a time machine to see all seven.
While the Great Pyramids of Egypt was built centuries before the rest and is still around today (it is the only “wonder” still intact) most of the others only survived a few hundred years or less. The Colossus of Rhodes stood only a little more than half a century before an earthquake toppled it.
The Temple of Artemis
The first shrine to the Goddess Artemis was probably built around 800 B.C. on a marshy strip near the river at Ephesus. The Ephesus Goddess Artemis, sometimes called Diana, is not the same figure as the Artemis worshipped in Greece. The Greek Artemis is the goddess of the hunt. The Ephesus Artemis was a goddess of fertility and was often pictured as draped with eggs, or multiple breasts, symbols of fertility, from her waist to her shoulders.
The shrine was destroyed and rebuilt several times over the next few hundred years. By 600 B.C., the city of Ephesus had become a major port of trade and an architect named Chersiphron was engaged to build a new large temple. He designed it with high stone columns. Concerned that carts carrying the columns might get marred in the swampy ground around the site, Chersiphron laid the columns on their sides and had them rolled to where they would be erected. This temple didn’t last long. In 550 B.C. King Croesus of Lydia conquered Ephesus and the other Greek cities of Asia Minor. During the fighting, the temple was destroyed. Croesus proved himself a gracious winner, though, by contributing generously to the building of a new temple. This was next to the last of the great temples to Artemis in Ephesus and it dwarfed those that had come before.
The architect is thought to be a man named Theodorus. Theodorus’s temple was 300 feet in length and 150 feet wide with an area four times the size of the temple before it. More than one hundred stone columns supported a massive roof. The new temple was the pride of Ephesus until 356 B.C. when a tragedy, by name of Herostratus, struck.
Herostratus was a young Ephesian who would stop at no cost to have his name go down in history. He managed this by burning the temple to the ground. The citizens of Ephesus were so appalled at this act they issued a decree that anyone who spoke of Herostratus would be put to death. Shortly after this horrible deed, a new temple was commissioned.
The architect was Scopas of Paros, one of the most famous sculptors of his day. Ephesus was one of the greatest cities in Asia Minor at this point and no expense was spared in the construction. According to Piny the Elder, a Roman historian, the temple was a “wonderful monument of Grecian magnificence, and one that merits our genuine admiration.”
The temple was built in the same marshy place as before. To prepare the ground, Piny recorded that “layers of trodden charcoal were placed beneath, with fleeces covered with wool upon the top of them.”
The building is thought to be the first completely constructed with marble and one of its must unusual features were 36 columns whose lower portions were carved with figures in high-relief (above).
The temple also housed many works of art including four bronze statues of Amazon women. Piny recorded the length of this new temple at 425 feet and the width at 225 feet. Some 127 columns, 60 feet in height, supported the roof. In comparison the Parthenon, the remains of which stand on the acropolis in Athens today, was only 230 feet long, 100 feet wide and had 58 columns. According to Piny, construction took 120 years, though some experts suspect it may have only taken half that time.
We do know that when Alexander the Great came to Ephesus in 333 B.C., the temple was still under construction. He offered to finance the completion of the temple if the city would credit him as the builder. The city fathers didn’t want Alexander’s name carved on the temple, but didn’t want to tell him that. They finally gave the tactful response: “It is not fitting that one god should build a temple for another god” and Alexander didn’t press the matter .
Piny reported that earthen ramps were employed to get the heavy stone beams perched on top of the columns. This method seemed to work well until one of the largest beams was put into position above the door. It went down crookedly and the architect could find no way to get it to lie flat. He was beside himself with worry about this until he had a dream one night in which the Goddess herself appeared to him saying that he should not be concerned. She herself had moved the stone in the proper position. The next morning the architect found that the dream was true. During the night the beam had settled into its proper place.
The city continued to prosper over the next few hundred years and was the destination for many pilgrims coming to view the temple. A souvenir business in miniature Artemis idols, perhaps similar to a statue of her in the temple, grew up around the shrine. It was one of these business proprietors, a man named Demetrius, that gave St. Paul a difficult time when he visited the city in 57 A.D.
St. Paul came to the city to win converts to the then new religion of Christianity. He was so successful that Demetrius feared the people would turn away from Artemis and he would lose his livelihood. He called others of his trade together with him and gave a rousing speech ending with “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” They then seized two of Paul’s companions and a near riot followed. Eventually the city was quieted, the men released, and Paul left for Macedonia. It was Paul’s Christianity that won out in the end, though.
By the time the great Temple of Artemis was destroyed during a raid by the Goths in 262 A.D., both the city and the religion of Artemis were in decline. When the Roman Emperor Constantine rebuilt much of Ephesus a century later, he declined to restore the temple. He had become a Christian and had little interest in pagan temples.
Despite Constantine’s efforts, Ephesus declined in its importance as a crossroads of trade. The bay where ships docked disappeared as silt from the river filled it. In the end what was left of the city was miles from the sea, and many of the inhabitants left swampy lowland to live in the surrounding hills. Those that remained used the ruins of the temple as a source of building materials. Many of the fine sculptures were pounded into powder to make lime for wall plaster.
In 1863 the British Museum sent John Turtle Wood, an architect, to search for the temple. Wood met with many obstacles. The region was infested with bandits. Workers were hard to find. His budget was too small. Perhaps the biggest difficulty was that he had no idea where the temple was located. He searched for the temple for six years. Each year the British Museum threatened to cut off his funding unless he found something significant, and each year he convinced them to fund him for just one more season.
Wood kept returning to the site each year many despite hardships. During his first season he was thrown from a horse, breaking his collar bone. Two years later he was stabbed within an inch of his heart during an assassination attempt upon the British Consul in Smyrna.
Finally in 1869, at the bottom of a muddy twenty-foot deep test pit, his crew struck the base of the great temple. Wood then excavated the whole foundation removing 132,000 cubic yards of the swamp to leave a hole some 300 feet wide and 500 feet long. The remains of some of the sculptured portions were found and shipped the to British Museum where they can be viewed even today.
In 1904 another British Museum expedition under the leadership of D.G. Hograth continued the excavation. Hograth found evidence of five temples on the site, each constructed on top of the other.
Today the site of the temple is a marshy field. A single column is erect to remind visitors that once there stood in that place one of the wonders of the ancient world.
The Hanging Gardens Of Babylon
The ancient city of Babylon, under King Nebuchadnezzar II, must have been a wonder to the traveller’s eyes. “In addition to its size,” wrote Herodotus, a historian in 450 BC, “Babylon surpasses in splendour any city in the known world.” Herodotus claimed the outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high. Wide enough, he said, to allow a four-horse chariot to turn. The inner walls were “not so thick as the first, but hardly less strong.”
Inside the walls were fortresses and temples containing immense statues of solid gold. Rising above the city was the famous Tower of Babel, a temple to the god Marduk, that seemed to reach to the heavens. While archaeological examination has disputed some of Herodotus’s claims (the outer walls seem to be only 10 miles long and not nearly as high) his narrative does give us a sense of how awesome the features of the city appeared to those that visited it. Interestingly enough, though, one of the city’s most spectacular sites is not even mentioned by Herodotus: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Accounts indicate that the garden was built by King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled the city for 43 years starting in 605 BC (There is a less-reliable, alternative story that the gardens were built by the Assyrian Queen Semiramis during her five year reign starting in 810 BC). This was the height of the city’s power and influence and King Nebuchadnezzar constructed an astonishing array of temples, streets, palaces and walls.
According to accounts, the gardens were built to cheer up Nebuchadnezzar’s homesick wife, Amyitis. Amyitis, daughter of the king of the Medes, was married to Nebuchadnezzar to create an alliance between the nations. The land she came from, though,
was green, rugged and mountainous, and she found the flat, sun-baked terrain of Mesopotamia depressing. The king decided to recreate her homeland by building an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens.
The Hanging Gardens probably did not really “hang” in the sense of being suspended from cables or ropes. The name comes from an inexact translation of the Greek word kremastos or the Latin word pensilis, which mean not just “hanging”, but “overhanging” as in the case of a terrace or balcony.
The Greek geographer Strabo, who described the gardens in first century BC, wrote, “It consists of vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt.”
Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, stated that the platforms on which the garden stood consisted of huge slabs of stone (otherwise unheard of in Babel), covered with layers of reed, asphalt and tiles. Over this was put “a covering with sheets of lead, that the wet which drenched through the earth might not rot the foundation. Upon all these was laid earth of a convenient depth, sufficient for the growth of the greatest trees. When the soil was laid even and smooth, it was planted with all sorts of trees, which both for greatness and beauty might delight the spectators.”
How big were the gardens? Diodorus tells us it was about 400 feet wide by 400 feet long and more than 80 feet high. Other accounts indicate the height was equal to the outer city walls. Walls that Herodotus said were 320 feet high. In any case the gardens were an amazing sight: A green, leafy, artificial mountain rising off the plain. But did it actually exist? After all, Herodotus never mentions it.
This was one of the questions that occurred to German archaeologist Robert Koldewey in 1899. For centuries before that the ancient city of Babel was nothing but a mound of muddy debris. Though unlike many ancient locations, the city’s position was well-known, nothing visible remained of its architecture. Koldewey dug on the Babel site for some fourteen years and unearthed many of its features including the outer walls, inner walls, foundation of the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar’s palaces and the wide processional roadway which passed through the heart of the city.
While excavating the Southern Citadel, Koldewey discovered a basement with fourteen large rooms with stone arch ceilings. Ancient records indicated that only two locations in the city had made use of stone, the north wall of the Northern Citadel, and the Hanging Gardens.
The north wall of the Northern Citadel had already been found and had, indeed, contained stone. This made it seem likely that Koldewey had found the cellar of the gardens. He continued exploring the area and discovered many of the features reported by Diodorus. Finally a room was unearthed with three large, strange holes in the floor. Koldewey concluded this had been the location of the chain pumps that raised the water to the garden’s roof.
The foundations that Koldewey discovered measured some 100 by 150 feet. Smaller than the measurements described by ancient historians, but still impressive.
One can only wonder if Queen Amyitis was happy with her fantastic present, or if she continued to pine for the green mountains of her homeland.
The Maussoleum at Halicarnassus
In 377 B.C., the city of Halicarnassus was the capitol of a small kingdom along the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor. It was in that year the ruler of this land, Hecatomnus of Mylasa, died and left control of the kingdom to his son, Mausolus. Hecatomnus, a local satrap to the Persians, had been ambitious and had taken control of several
of the neighbouring cities and districts. Mausolus in his time, extended the territory even further so that it finally included most of southwestern Asia Minor.
Mausolus, with his queen Artemisia, ruled over Halicarnassus and the surrounding territory for 24 years. Mausolus, though he was descended from the local people, spoke Greek and admired the Greek way of life and government. He founded many cities of Greek design along the coast and encouraged Greek democratic traditions.
Then in 353 B.C. Mausolus died, leaving his queen Artemisia, who was also his sister (It was the custom in Caria for rulers to marry their own sisters), broken-hearted. As a tribute to him, she decided to build him the most splendid tomb in the known world. It became a structure so famous that Mausolus’s name is now associated with all stately tombs through our modern word mausoleum. The building was also so beautiful and unique it became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Soon after construction of the tomb started Artemisia found herself in a crisis. Rhodes, an island in the Aegean Sea between Greece and Asia Minor, had been conquered by Mausolus. When the Rhodians heard of his death they rebelled and sent a fleet of ships to capture the city of Halicarnassus. Knowing that the Rhodian fleet was on the way, Artemisa hid her own ships at a secret location at the east end of the city’s harbour.
After troops from the Rhodian fleet disembarked to attack, Artemisia’s fleet made a surprise raid, captured the Rhodian fleet, and towed it out to sea. Artemisa put her own soldiers on the invading ships and sailed them back to Rhodes. Fooled into thinking that the returning ships were their own victorious navy, the Rhodians failed to put up a defense and the city was easily captured quelling the rebellion.
The Mausoleum overlooked the city of Halicarnassus for many centuries. It was untouched when the city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. and still undamaged after attacks by pirates in 62 and 58 B.C.. It stood above the city ruins for some 17 centuries.
Then a series of earthquakes shattered the columns and sent the stone chariot crashing to the ground. By 1404 A.D. only the very base of the Mausoleum was still recognizable. Crusaders, who had occupied the city from the thirteen century onward, recycled the broken stone into their own buildings. In 1522 rumours of a Turkish invasion caused Crusaders to strengthen the castle at Halicarnassus (which was by then known as Bodrum) and much of the remaining portions of the tomb was broken up and used within the castle walls. Indeed sections of polished marble from the tomb can still be seen there today.
In 1846 the Museum sent the archaeologist Charles Thomas Newton to search for more remains of the Mausoleum. He had a difficult job. He didn’t know the exact location of the tomb and the cost of buying up all the small parcels of land in the area to look for it would have been astronomical. Instead Newton studied the accounts of ancient writers like Pliny to obtain the approximate size and location of the memorial, then bought a plot of land in the most likely location.
Digging down, Newton explored the surrounding area through tunnels he dug under the surrounding plots. He was able to locate some walls, a staircase, and finally three of the corners of the foundation. With this knowledge, Newton was able to figure out which plots of land he needed to buy.
Newton then excavated the site and found sections of the reliefs that decorated the wall of the building and portions of the stepped roof. Also a broken stone chariot wheel, some seven feet in diameter, from the sculpture on the roof was discovered. Finally, he found the statues of Mausolus and Artemisia that had stood at the pinnacle of the building.
Today these works of art stand in the Mausoleum Room at the British Museum. There the images of Mausolus and his queen forever watch over the few broken remains of the beautiful tomb she built for him.
The Great Pharos Lighthouse
In the fall of 1994 a team of archaeological scuba divers entered the waters off of Alexandria, Egypt. Working beneath the surface they searched the bottom of the sea for artifacts. Large underwater blocks of stone were marked with floating masts so that an Electronic Distance Measurement station on shore could obtain their exact positions. Global positioning satellites were used to further fix the locations.
The information was then fed into computers to create a detailed database of the sea floor. Ironically, these scientists were using some of the most high-tech devices available at the end of the 20th century to try and discover the ruins of one of the most advanced technological achievements of the 3rd century, B.C.:
The Pharos. It was the great lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The story of the Pharos starts with the founding of the city of Alexandria by the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.. Alexander started at least 17 cities named Alexandria at different locations in his vast domain. Most of them disappeared, but Alexandria in Egypt thrived for centuries and continues even today.
Alexander the Great choose the location of his new city carefully. Instead of building it on the Nile delta, he selected a site some twenty miles to the west, so that the silt and mud carried by the river would not block the city harbour. South of the city was the marshy Lake Mareotis. After a canal was constructed between the lake and the Nile, the city had two harbours: one for Nile River traffic, and the other for Mediterranean Sea trade. Both harbours would remain deep and clear
Alexander died soon after in 323 B.C. and the city was completed by Ptolemy Soter the new ruler of Egypt. Under Ptolemy the city became rich and prosperous. However, it needed both a symbol and a mechanism to guide the many trade ships into the busy harbour. Ptolemy authorized the building of the Pharos in 290 B.C., and when it was completed some twenty years later, it was the first lighthouse in the world and the tallest building in existence, with the exception of the Great Pyramid.
The lighthouse’s designer was Sostrates of Knidos. Proud of his work, Sostrates, desired to have his name carved into the foundation. Ptolemy II, the son who ruled Egypt after his father, refused this request wanting his own name to be the only one on the building. A clever man, Sostrates had the inscription:
SOSTRATES SON OF DEXIPHANES OF KNIDOS ON BEHALF OF ALL MARINERS TO THE SAVIOR GODS
chiselled into the foundation, then covered it with plaster. Into the plaster was chiselled Ptolemy’s name. As the years went by the plaster aged and chipped away revealing Sostrates’ declaration. The lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos and soon the building itself acquired the name. The connection of the name with the function became so strong that the word “Pharos” became the root of the word “lighthouse” in the French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian
The lighthouse was apparently a tourist attraction. Food was sold to visitors at the observation platform at the top of the first level. A smaller balcony provided a view from the top of the eight-sided tower for those that wanted to make the additional climb. The view from there must have been impressive as it was probably 300 feet above the sea.
There were few places in the ancient world where a person could ascend a man-made tower to get such a perspective. How then did the world’s first lighthouse wind up on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea? Most accounts indicate that it, like many other ancient buildings, was the victim of earthquakes. It stood for 1,500 years but was damaged by tremors in 365 and 1303 A.D. Reports indicate the final collapse came in 1326.
Did the divers actually find the remains of Pharos in the bottom of the harbour? Some of the larger blocks of stone found certainly seem to have come from a large building. Statues were located that may have stood at the base of the Pharos. Interestingly enough, much of the material found seems to be from earlier eras than the lighthouse. Scientists speculate that they may have been recycled in the construction of the Pharos from even older buildings.
The Great Pyramids of Giza
It’s 756 feet long on each side, 450 high and is composed of 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each averaging 2 1/2 tons in weight. Despite the makers’ limited surveying tools no side is more than 8 inches different in length than another, and the whole structure is perfectly oriented to the points of the compass.
Until the 19th century it was the tallest building in the world and, at the age of 4,500 years, it is the only one of the famous “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” that still stands. It is the Great Pyramid of Khufu, at Giza, Egypt.
Some of the earliest history of the Pyramid comes from a Greek traveller named Herodotus of Halicanassus. He visited Egypt around 450 BC and included a description of the Great Pyramid in a history book he wrote. Herodotus was told by his Egyptian guides that it took twenty-years for a force of 100,000 oppressed slaves to build the pyramid. Stones were lifted into position by the use of immense machines.
In 1638 a English mathematician, John Greaves, visited the pyramid. He discovered a narrow shaft, hidden in the wall, that connected the Grand Gallery with the descending passage. Both ends were tightly sealed and the bottom was blocked with debris. Some archaeologists suggested this route was used by the last of the Pharaoh’s men to exit the tomb, after the granite plugs had been put in place, and by the thieves to get inside. Given the small size of the passageway and the amount of debris it seems unlikely that the massive amount of treasure, including the huge missing sarcophagus lid, could have been removed this way.
Some have suggested that the pyramid was never meant as a tomb, but as an astronomical observatory.
Richard Proctor, an astronomer, did observe that the descending passage could have been used to observe the transits of certain stars. He also suggested that the grand gallery, when open at the top, during construction, could have been used for mapping the sky.
Most archaeologists, though, accept the theory that the great pyramid was just the largest of a tradition of tombs used for the Pharaohs of Egypt.
So what happened to Khufu’s mummy and treasure? Nobody knows. Extensive explorations have found no other chambers or passageways. Still one must wonder if, perhaps in this one case, the King and his architects out smarted both the ancient thieves and modern archaeologists and that somewhere in, or below, the last wonder of the ancient world, rests Khufu and his sacred gold.
The Colossus of Rhodes
The island of Rhodes was an important economic centre in the ancient world. It is located
off the southwestern tip of Asia Minor where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean. The capitol city, also named Rhodes, was built in 408 B.C. and was designed to take advantage of the island’s best natural harbour on the northern coast. In 357 B.C. the island was conquered by Mausolus of Halicarnassus (whose tomb is one of the other Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), fell into Persian hands in 340 B.C., and was finally captured by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C..
When Alexander died of a fever at an early age, his generals fought bitterly among themselves for control of Alexander’s vast kingdom. Three of them, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Antigous, succeeded in dividing the kingdom among themselves. The Rhodians supported Ptolemy (who wound up ruling Egypt) in this struggle. This angered Antigous who sent his son Demetrius to capture and punish the city of Rhodes. The war was long and painful. Demetrius brought an army of 40,000 men. This was more than the entire population of Rhodes.
When Demetrius attacked the city, the defenders stopped the war machine by flooding a ditch outside the walls and mining the heavy monster in the mud. By then almost a year had gone by and a fleet of ships from Egypt arrived to assist the city. Demetrius withdrew quickly leaving the great siege tower where it was. To celebrate their victory and freedom, the Rhodians decided to build a giant statue of their patron god Helios.
They melted down bronze from the many war machines Demetrius left behind for the exterior of the figure and the super siege tower became the scaffolding for the project. According to Pliny, a historian who lived several centuries after the Colossus was built, construction took 12 years. Other historians place the start of the work in 304 B.C..
The statue was one hundred and ten feet high and stood upon a fifty-foot pedestal near the harbour mole. Although the statue has been popularly depicted with its legs spanning the harbour entrance so that ships could pass beneath, it was actually posed in a more traditional Greek manner: nude, wearing a spiked crown, shading its eyes from the rising sun with its right hand, while holding a cloak over its left.
The architect of this great construction was Chares of Lindos, a Rhodian sculptor who was a patriot and fought in defence of the city. Chares had been involved with large scale statues before. His teacher, Lysippus, had constructed a 60-foot high likeness of Zeus. Chares probably started by making smaller versions of the statue, maybe three feet high, then used these as a guide to shaping each of the bronze plates of the skin.
The Colossus stood proudly at the harbour entrance for some fifty-six years. Each morning the sun must have caught its polished bronze surface and made the god’s figure shine. Then an earthquake hit Rhodes and the statue collapsed. Huge pieces of the figure lay along the harbour for centuries.
It is said that an Egyptian king offered to pay for its reconstruction, but the Rhodians refused. They feared that somehow the statue had offended the god Helios, who used the earthquake to throw it down.
In the seventh century A.D. the Arabs conquered Rhodes and broke the remains of the Colossus up into smaller pieces and sold it as scrap metal. Legend says it took 900 camels to carry away the statue. A sad end for what must have been a majestic work of art.
Statue of Zeus
In ancient times the Greeks held one of their most important festivals, The Olympic Games, in honour of the King of their gods, Zeus. Like our modern Olympics, athletes travelled from distant lands, including Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and Sicily, to compete in the games. The Olympics were first started in 776 B.C. and held at a shrine to Zeus located on the western coast of Greece in a region called Peloponnesus. The games, held every four years, helped to unify the Greek city-states. Sacred truce was declared during the games and wars were stopped. Safe passage was given to all travelling to the site, called Olympia, for the season of the games.
The site consisted of a stadium (for the games) and a sacred grove, or Altis, where temples were located. The shrine to Zeus was simple in the early years, but as time went by and the games increased in importance, it became obvious that a new, larger temple, one worthy of the King of the gods, was needed. Between 470 and 460 B.C., construction on a new temple was started.
The designer was Libon of Elis and his masterpiece, The Temple of Zeus, was completed in 456 B.C.. This temple followed a design used on many large Grecian temples. It was similar to the Parthenon in Athens and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. The temple was built on a raised, rectangular platform. Thirteen large columns supported the roof along the sides and six supported it on each end. A gently-peaked roof topped the building. The triangles, or “pediments,” created by the sloped roof at the ends of the building were filled with sculpture. Under the pediments, just above the columns, was more sculpture depicting the twelve labours of Heracles, six on each end.
Though the temple was considered one of the best examples of the Doric design because of its style and the quality of the workmanship, it was decided the temple alone was too simple to be worthy of the King of the gods. To remedy this, a statue was commissioned for the interior- a magnificent statue of Zeus that would become one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The sculptor chosen for this great task was a man named Phidias. He had already rendered a forty-foot high statue of the goddess Athena for the Parthenon in Athens and had also done much of the sculpture on the exterior of that temple. After his work in Athens was done, Phidias travelled to Olympia to start on what was considered his best work, the statue of Zeus. On arriving he set up a workshop to the west of the temple.
The first archaeological work on the Olympia site was done by a group of French scientists in 1829. They were able to locate the outlines of the temple and found fragments of the sculpture showing the labours of Heracles. These pieces were shipped to Paris where they are still on display today at the Louvre. The next expedition came from Germany in 1875 worked at Olympia for five summers. Over that period they were able to map out most of the buildings there, discovered more fragments of the temple’s sculpture, and located the remains of the pool in the floor that contained the oil for the statue.
In the 1950’s an excavation uncovered the workshop of Phidias which was discovered beneath an early Christian Church. Archaeologists found sculptor’s tools, a pit for casting bronze, clay moulds, modelling plaster and even a portion of one of the elephant’s tusks which had supplied the ivory for the statue. Many of the clay moulds, which had been used to shape the gold plates, bore serial numbers which must have been used to show the place of the plates in the design.
Today the stadium at the site has been restored. Little is left of the temple, though, except a few columns. Of the statue, which was perhaps the most wonderful work at Olympia, all is n