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Museum of Classical Archaeology Databases

Great Altar of Zeus at Pergamon, Zeus

Torso of Zeus, from the east side of the Large Frieze.

The Altar, high on a mountainside, was a huge staple-shaped colonnaded structure on a large stepped podium. It was decorated with a frieze 113 metres long depicting the favourite subject of the battles of Gods and Giants, which was no doubt intended by the Pergamene king Eumenes II, who built it, to commemorate his triumphs in Asia Minor and the eastern Aegean. It was seriously damaged in the first century CE, and again in the tenth.

The verve of the figures and composition, and the sheer size, make the frieze one of the landmarks of Hellenistic art. The reliefs are so deep as to be almost freestanding. Today, the sculptures that remain are incorporated into a reconstruction of the altar in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin

Location of Original: 

Berlin, Pergamon Museum


Purchased in 1884 from Berlin Museum


Lippold: Griechische Plastik, 354-, pl. 128
Richter: Sculpture & Sculptors of the Greeks (1950), ?
Winnefeld: Altertümer von Pergamon III.2, 51, pl. XI
Kähler: Der Grosse Fries von Pergamon, pl. 2
Reporter: 19 June 1885, 894, no.489
Pollitt: Art in the Hellenistic Age, 97, pls. 97-109
Webb: Hellenistic Architectural Sculpture (1996), 61

Probably constructed between 180 and 159 BCE

Found on site

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