The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Statue of Zeus was located within the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece, home of the ancient Olympic Games. Nothing remains of the statue, but the temple ruins are still visible at the site. Descriptions of the statue rely on coins and ancient historic documents, one of which is quoted in The Seven Wonders of the World by John and Elizabeth Romer:
"The god, made of gold and ivory, sits on a throne. There is a garland on his head made as if of olive shoots. In his right hand he is carrying a Victory [figure], also made of gold and ivory, and this figure is holding a ribbon and has a wreath on its head. In the left hand of the god is a scepter decorated with every kind of precious metal. The bird perched on the scepter is the eagle. The sandals of the god are made of gold too, and so is his robe. Embroidered on the robe are figures of animals and white lilies. The crown is ornate with its gold and jewels, ornate with its ebony and ivory." - Pausanias, Description of Greece (c. AD 150).
The sculptor Pheidias built the statue circa 430-422 BC. It was constructed of wooden planks set upon an enormous timber scaffold and overlaid with ivory for the flesh, and gold for the beard, hair, and robe. It was about 40 feet high and stood as a symbol of Greek unity that was never really attained by the city-states of the time. As the Olympic games continued through the centuries, the statue was maintained with olive oil treatments, probably by the descendants of Pheidias. With the spread of Christianity, the Olympic Games were banned in 391 AD by the emperor Theodosius I as Pagan practices, and the temple was closed. The buildings were finally destroyed by earthquakes in the 6th century, AD, and the area became filled with mud and landslide debris from the nearby mountains. The site was discovered in 1776 and archaeologists began excavating in 1829. Excavation continued for many years and eventually Pheidias' workshop, the last major discovery, was unearthed in the 1950s.
The fate of the statue remains a mystery. Basically built of wood, it could have been destroyed by fire or the elements during many centuries of neglect. Some accounts claim it was removed to the Palace of Lausus in Constantinople and destroyed by a massive city fire in 475 AD. Link.