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by Archaeology Newsroom

An interpretation of Pheidias’ statues of Athena and Zeus

The name of Pheidias is related to two exceptionally beautiful and sumptuous statues; that of Athena Parthenos and that of Zeus. Made of gold and ivory, the statue of Athena was housed in the nave of the Parthenon, while the other statue was housed in the temple of Zeus in Olympia. The iconography of these two statues and their pedestals is derived from mythology and is very interesting from a historical, sociological and political point of view. As the forerunner of philosophy and history, Mythology supplied artists with material for the creation of associations necessary to the spectator. The figures depicted on the shield of Athena and on the throne of Zeus, conveyed a message from the creator of the two statues to the visitors to the two ancient sanctuaries, that of the temple of Athena that stood on the Acropolis of the city that was the centre of the Athenian alliance, and the sanctuary of Zeus at the Panhellenic centre of Olympia. Both symbolised a world lost to us today, which left its traces and exerted an influence on Christianity, the new religion. Although these mythical works of art perished in the age of the Byzantine Empire, their fame has remained indelible.