Phidias | Greek Sculptor

Phidias was one of the prominent ancient Greek sculptors, painters and architects, whose works had had a considerable impact on the development of the classical art. Phidias is attributed to as the person, who had found the golden ratio which allowed him to create statues, monuments and other architectural elements being perfectly balanced and harmonious in their almost perfect proportions. At the same time, golden ratio is his great but not the only achievement. Instead, Phidias was renowned for his sculpture, outstanding works of visual art, and his contribution to architecture. In such a way, Phidias was not only a talented artist but also innovator, who, in pursuit of perfection, had reached new heights in the development of his art and had a considerable impact on the development of the ancient Greek art.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia is one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. This outstanding monument was created by Phidias to glorify Zeus, the supreme god of ancient Greek pantheon (Lundgreen, 196). The statue impressed the audience not only with its enormous size with Zeus sitting on his throne with his head up into the top of the temple as if it was reaching the sky high above people down there on the floor of the temple. The statue of Zeus in the temple manifests the power of gods and uncovers the sacred respect of ancient Greeks in relation to their gods. At the same time, such works of art as the one created by Phidias enhanced the piety of people in relation to gods and their worshipping of gods. The huge statue of Zeus impressed the audience of the temple greatly and people could not remain indifferent in face of the enormous god depicted by Phidias. The statue of Zeus created by Phidias is the case, when the role of the god had physical manifestation in the size of the statue, its posture and other elements. In fact, every details of the statue seem to manifest the greatness of Zeus as the greatest of all gods.

On the other hand, the depiction of Zeus sitting on the throne reveals strong connections to the real world of humans since such depiction of Zeus gives implications to the comparison of Zeus to one of earthly kings, who rule their people and so rules Zeus sitting on his throne but unlike mortal kings, Zeus rules gods. However, this detail is very important because it uncovers the essence of ancient Greek art and its attitude to gods. Phidias shows that gods played an important part in the cultural and social life of ancient Greeks but they attributed human traits and models of behavior on gods and the statue of Zeus proves it.

Another monumental work created by Phidias was the enormous statue of Athena Promachus. This huge statue of Athena was seen far from the sea and symbolized the goddess protecting Athens from enemies (Stewart, 122). Symbolically, Athena was depicted with her spear raised in hand as if she was pointing at the unseen enemy that may be approaching Athens from the sea shore. The huge statue had the similar affect on the audience as the huge statue of Zeus at Olympia but, unlike Zeus, Athena Prochamus was erected in the open air and mounted high above surrounding temples and buildings.

At the same time, the depiction of Athena Prochamus with her spear raised high on the shore served as a symbol of the divine defense of Athens. She seemed to threaten any enemy that dares to approach Athens from the sea side. On the other hand, Athens Prochamus uncovers the importance of the military in the ancient Greek society since even gods are involved in wars and they are true warriors, regardless of their gender. At any rate, Athena was traditionally viewed as a divine defender of Athens and military attributes, such as a spear, demonstrate the military power and defense of Athena over Athens.

Another remarkably work created by Phidias was Athena Lemnia which was another depiction of the ancient Greek goddess, Athena. However, this statue was quite different from the monumental work created by Phidias in Athens, Athena Promachus. Unlike Athena Promachus, Athena Lemnia is not a warrior threatening to an invisible enemy. On the contrary, this statue is much smaller and, in its size, is close to the real life size of a woman (Hartswick, 338). The statue depicts Athena pointing her head somewhere and looking slightly downward as if she shows the way to the audience, where to go or look.

In fact, this statue seems to be depicted in the classical style showing Athena with her armors on her. However, Phidias had managed to convey a different message compared to many other statues and works of art depicting Athena. In Phidias’ Athena Lemnia it is possible to trace some calmness which is quite unusual for the goddess-warrior, who traditionally is perceived as a defender of Athens. In such a way, the sculptor had managed to present the goddess in a different way and show her from a different angle. In fact, this statue rather tends to stress her feminine features than her military attributes with her head turn away and slightly down, Athena shows certain submissiveness which was traditionally attributed to women in the ancient Greek society.

The distinct feature of Phidias’ works is their balanced and almost perfect proportions. In spite of the difference in size, statues created by Phidias, either the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, or Athena Promachus, or Athena Lemnia, they are all almost perfect in their proportions. This perfectness of proportions of works created by Phidias is, to a significant extent, due to his Gold Ration which he found and conveyed to his follower and students. This is why the Gold Ratio is one of the major achievements of the Phidias, which he had managed to identify and calculate accurately.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that Phidias was one of the most influential sculptors, architects, and painters of ancient Greece. His outstanding works, such as the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Athena Promachus or Athena Lemnia are just a few to mention which uncover the talent and skills of the artist. At the same time, one of the greatest achievements of Phidias is the introduction of the concept of Gold Ratio which was calculated and identified by Phidias. In such a way, Phidias contributed to the further progress of ancient Greek art based on natural and almost perfect proportions due to the use of the Gold Ratio. However, along with the Gold Ratio, Phidias had managed to make a consistent contribution to the development of ancient Greek visual art, sculpture and architecture. Therefore, his legacy had a considerable impact on the development of ancient Greek art for decades ahead.


Works Cited:

Hartswick, Kim J. “The Athena Lemnia reconsidered”, American Journal of Archaeology, 87(3), July 1983, pp. 335–346.

Lundgreen, Birte. “A Methodological Enquiry: The Great Bronze Athena by Pheidias” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 117, 1997, pp. 190-197.

Stewart, Andrew. One Hundred Greek Sculptors: Their Careers and Extant Works. Oxford University Press, 2009.

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[Accessed: May 24, 2022] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: May 24, 2022]
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