Return to Home Page Harrys Greece Guide

PeloponneseOlympia Birthplace of the Olympic Games Page 6

The statue has disappeared, except for a few low relief's from the throne, depicting the murder of Niobe's children. Though housed in Rome during the 17th century (and copied by Van Dyck), these sculptures are now in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

the templeThe temple was as large as the roughly contemporary Parthenon. Its sculptures, now in the museum, rivaled the finest in Athens, one of which depicts Pelops in a chariot race, others of the Labors of Hercules/Heraklis, and others of Lapiths and Centaurs.

Beyond the Temple are the central structures of the Altis: the Pelopion and the Temple of Hera. Once believed to be the grave of Pelops, the Pelopion was revealed by excavation to be a sacred precinct to which entrance was gained through the Propylon. The altar seems to have been a raised rectangle of trees, which symbolize the rebirth of the hero. The Temple of Hera (the Heraion) was built in the Doric style around 600BC and was the first temple built in the Altis. Before that there were only open air altars dedicated to Zeus and to other cult gods. It is the most complete building on the site, with around thirty partly intact columns, and a section of inner wall. Originally a joint temple of Zeus and Hera, it was left to the goddess alone after the Temple of Zeus was built. The Hermes of Praxiteles was found here amid the earthquake ruins in 1877, in the very spot noted by Pausanius in his writings, though he didn't seem to deem it worthy of more than a brief comment. This statue is one of the best preserved Classical statues, thanks to the light building materials used in the upper walls of the temple--- sunbaked temple of Herabrick. It was sculpted of Parian marble, with its original polish barely marked by the centuries. Hermes, messenger of the gods, was given the task by Zeus of taking his infant son Dionysos out of the reach of the jealous Hera, and take him to the nymphs who wore raise and educate him on Mt. Nysa. In the statue, Hermes is depicted resting on his journey, standing in a graceful posture, leaning against a tree trunk with his left arm, the folds of a cloak hanging from the arm on the trunk. No doubt the hand held his caduceus (though missing). On his arm sits the baby Dionysos, reaching up towards something held in Hermes' right hand (perhaps a bunch of grapes) and Hermes' head is turned towards the child, the hair in short locks, with traces of the groove of a metal wreath. The hair, lips, and sandal bear traces of paint. The nude figure of Hermes has been extolled for its ideal combination of strength and grace. The statue is usually dated between 363 and 343BC, though some authorities consider it a Roman copy. It is housed in Gallery 6 of the Museum (see below).

More Olympia Birthplace of the Olympic Games Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8