The Statue of Zeus at Olympia: Sweaty, Oily, and Judging You

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia is not well remembered today. But in its time, it seared itself into the minds and memories of all who saw it. An enormous, glowering, formidable statue built into a temple of otherworldly, translucent light, it was as tall as a three-storey building. People said it crouched on its throne as if it was about to stand—and break through the roof of its temple.

Zeus’ skin glistened. Made of yards and yards of priceless hippopotamus ivory, it had to be oiled down each day so it wouldn’t crack in the heat. Yes, this was truly the sweatiest, oiliest, stickiest of all the wonders. And there’s more: curses. Lovers’ names engraved in secret places. So much daytime sex. So many naked, athletic men. THE OLYMPICS. Join us on a slightly unhinged deep dive into this truly unique wonder that once held the entire Hellenic imagination in its grip.

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