Estátua de Zeus em Olimpia, Antiga Grécia
Presiding over the Olympic Games
Zeus presided over the Olympic games, a great Panhellenic festival that took place once every four years. Protected by a sacred truce, athletes from cities throughout Greece journeyed to Olympia to compete in the festival's contests of strength, endurance and skill.
Only Greek men and boys were allowed in the games, and athletes had to swear a solemn oath before the altar of Zeus that they had trained for at least ten months and would compete fairly. Events included footraces, chariot and horse races, the discus and javelin throw, boxing, wrestling, and the broad jump. Combination events were popular, such as the pancration, a violent free-for-all that combined wrestling and boxing, and the pentathlon, which included running, wrestling, and javelin throwing. Runners were judged not only by their place at the finish line but also by their form, and thus the second or third place finisher often won the event. The athletes covered their bodies with oil, and competition was in the nude. Married women were excluded from watching—under penalty of being hurled from the Typaeon rock.
Victors received only a simple laurel of wild olive and the right to erect a statue at Olympia; by the time of Pausanias over three thousand such statues crowded the site. But Olympic champions were hailed as heroes: poets sang their praise, sculptors reproduced their image, and in their home cities, walls were torn down to make way for their triumphant return. Athletes from Athens even enjoyed free dinners in the state dining halls for the rest of their lives.
Fate of the Statue of Zeus
At its height in the 5th century BC, the Olympic games drew crowds of over 40,000 from all across the Greek world: Athens, Sparta, Syracuse, Rhodes, and a hundred other cities. The statue of Zeus presided over the games until 393 AD, when they were abolished by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I because of their pagan associations. The fate of the statue is unknown. Theodosius II ordered the destruction of the temples in 426 AD, and the statue may have perished then or been carried off to Constantinople, to be lost in the great fire that engulfed that city in 475 AD...