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Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

Wolfson Fellow

Publication details for Dr Ivana Petrovic

Petrovic, Ivana (2010). Transforming Artemis: From the Goddess of the Outdoors to the City-Goddess. In The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations. Bremmer, Jan N. & Erskine, Andrew W. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 209-227.

Author(s) from Durham


One of the most celebrated works of art in antiquity, famous for its artistic qualities, the impression it left on its observer and its technical excellence, was Pheidias' enthroned Zeus made for the sanctuary at Olympia. It is interesting that this particular statue was, according to the tradition, approved by two authorities: Zeus himself and Homer.
According to widespread tradition, Pheidias' representation of Zeus was inspired by the following verses from the Iliad (1. 528–30): ‘As he spoke, the son of Kronos bowed his dark brows, and the ambrosial locks swayed on his immortal head, till vast Olympos reeled.’ The statue, made according to the Homeric description of the god, pleased the deity too. Pausanias relates a tradition according to which Pheidias prayed to the god ‘to show by a sign whether the work was to his liking. Immediately, runs the legend, a thunderbolt fell on that part of the floor where down to the present day the bronze jar stood to cover the place’ (5.11.9).
This story not only emphasizes the status and great artistry of Pheidias' Zeus, but is also an important testimony of the role the Homeric epics played in the shaping of the Greek concept of divine. Herodotus (2.53.2) famously stated that it was Homer and Hesiod who taught the Greeks the ancestry of the gods, gave the gods their epithets, distributed their honours and areas of expertise, and described their outward forms.