Olympia – the sanctuary of Hellas (part 3)
The sculptor shows the moment before the start of the competition. Heroes are presented before the main events unfold. In each image, the outcome of this drama is read. Researchers of ancient art, analyzing the ideological and artistic concept of the sculptural pediment, emphasize the depth with which the tragedy of the vanquished is revealed in it. Enomai is doomed to die for his wrong, and such a death is considered fair. The eastern pediment of the temple is often called the “Aeschylus tragedy embodied in stone”, emphasizing the purifying meaning of the impact of ancient tragedy – the punishment of evil, the affirmation of justice, humanity.
On the western pediment is a scene of the battle of the gods and heroes with centaurs. His plot was a myth about how the leader of the Lapif tribe Peyrifoy invited gods, heroes and a neighboring tribe of centaurs to his wedding. Drunken, centaurs tried to abduct women and youths, including the bride of Peyrifoy – Dedamia. The moment of a fierce battle of Greek heroes and centaurs is depicted. In the center, the sculptor placed the figure of Apollo, who with his gesture announces the victory to the Lapiths. All of it is the personification of restrained strength and confidence. The faces of the Greeks are calm and courageous, the faces of the centaurs are distorted by rage and anger. The main idea of centauromachy is the victory of the rational principle over all the base, animal. The themes of the two pediments reflected the moral ideals of the time – the glorification of the bright, high principle in man, the assertion of his dignity and greatness.
The twelve marble metopes of the temple depicted the exploits of Hercules. This mythological hero was unusually popular – because he embodied valor, courage, strength and fearlessness. Thus, the themes of compositions on metopes and pediments seemed to precede the contemplation of the main shrine of the temple – the statue of Zeus, performed by the greatest sculptor of Ancient Greece, Phidias. Unfortunately, the statue was not preserved, but we can present it according to the descriptions of ancient historians. God sat on a throne crowned with a wreath of olive branches. His figure is made of gold and ivory. In his right hand, resting on the throne, he held Nika, also made of gold and ivory, in his left – a scepter crowned with an eagle. Zeus’s cloak and sandals were of gold, on the cloak – an ornament with images of animals, field lilies. The throne is decorated with gold, precious stones, ebony and ivory. Around each leg of the throne, four Niki danced, the crossbars connecting the legs of the throne are decorated with images of Olympic competitions. The floor in front of the statue is lined with black marble and bordered by a strip of light Parosian marble. The strip is slightly elevated to delay the oil that merges here, which protected the ivory from damage. The base of the statue of blue-black stone was decorated with a golden relief depicting the birth of Aphrodite from the sea waves in the presence of the gods.
Of course, even a detailed description is not able to convey an artistic image. Therefore, the testimonies of ancient authors are so important, which speak of the great impression made by the creation of Phidias. They allow us to conclude that Phidias managed to convey the special spirituality of the lord of Olympus. “If a person who has experienced a lot of misfortunes and worries in his life, with a soul full of bitterness, appears before the statue of Zeus, then he will forget about all the difficult and terrible things that human life brings with it,” – wrote Dion Chrysostom. No wonder this work was ranked among the seven wonders of the world.
Phidias performed the statue in a workshop located in the western part of the sanctuary. In 1954, archaeologists, digging this site, found fragments of bronze, ivory, small pieces of gold and precious stones, a hammer, sculptural tools, as well as a black-lacquered jug, on the bottom of which the inscription “I belong to Phidias” is scratched.