The Temple of Zeus at Olympia, Heroes, and Athletes

by Judith M. Barringer

Hesperia, Volume 74, Issue 2
Page(s): 211-241
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25067954
Year: 2005


The two pediments and twelve metopes adorning the Temple of Zeus at Olympia of ca. 470-456 B.C. have been the subject of scholarly inquiry since their discovery in the 19th century. These inquiries tend to treat the sculptural elements separately from each other, or largely detached from their Olympic context, and to interpret the sculptures as negative admonitions about hubris and consequent justice, or about dike and arete, or as political allegories. The present study examines the sculptures as a programmatic unity intimately connected with Olympia and the activities that occurred there and argues that, contrary to previous interpretations, the sculptures were created to serve as positive models to inspire and exhort Olympic athletes to deeds of honor and glory.