Temple of Zeus Essay
The Temple of Zeus was a magnificent structure built during the early classical period of Greece. It’s been dated around 470 BC and was most likely constructed to commemorate the victory over the Pisans. One of the most remarkable features of this structure was the eastern pediment, which would have been the first thing visitors would see when entering the structure from that side. The scene depicted on the pediment, layout of the figures, and similarity to other pediments of the day speaks volume to the culture of Greece during that period.
The first noticeable feature of the eastern pediment was the scene for which it depicts. The scene is that of the mythological story of Pelops and Oenomaos. According to the story, Oenomaos, the king of Pisa, held chariot races for suitors to compete for the hand of his daughter in marriage. The king, who had much faster horses, won every race until he raced Pelops. Pelops beats King Oenomaos and takes the hand of his daughter, Hippodameia. The architecture shows two men on either side of Zeus. Zeus is watching the younger man, who is to the left of Zeus and obviously Pelops, as if to show that Zeus is favoring him in the race. To the left of Pelops is Hippodameia. The horses and the chariots are also depicted at either end of the pediment and at the very end are the two gods of the rivers that flowed near by.
The layout and placement of the figures in the pediment was clearly carefully selected to provide the best visual depiction of the story while fitting within the limited amount of space and meeting load-bearing requirements of the structure. Having Zeus as the centerpiece of the image was essential to uphold his power and influence as a deity. Keeping Pelops and Oenomaos close to the center was also essential as they were the main subjects of the story. Further out we see the horses and chariots as spacing becomes limited. At the very end of the pediment, the river gods were inserted as a clever way to fill up the remaining space. The architect also knew what he was doing when he spaced the figures as well. Every other figure in the middle of the pediment is centered directly above a pillar. Not only might this help sturdy the load is withheld by the pediment, it was also needed to keep up symmetry.
While the scene depicted on the eastern pediment is unique, the design and layout show a lot of similar characteristics as others found across Greece during the time period. At the Temple of Aphaia in Aegina, scenes of the first and second Trojan wars are depicted on both its pediments. In these scenes it uses men who grow smaller by crouching down, until ultimately with no room men are depicted dying in lying down positions. This pediment also displays a symmetrical aspect to the layout of the figures. The pediment at the Temple of Artemis, though not as pretty, also carries these special and symmetric characteristics.
It is clear that decorative pediments were a theme in Greece during that time period. A great deal of architecture in that period had a scene depicted above the entranceway. The scene would have most likely held meaning as well. At the Temple of Zeus, the story depicted above the eastern entrance was probably a culturally significant story. Not only does the pediment serve as the decoration to the entrance of the temple, but it is also a window into the culture of the Greeks during the period.