Colossus of Rhodes: One out of seven ancient wonders
- Published: Thursday, 26 June 2014 08:37
It was constructed to celebrate Rhode's victory over the ruler of Cyprus, Antigonus. In 304 BC a relief force of ships sent by Ptolemy arrived, and Antigonus's army abandoned the siege, leaving most of their siege equipment. To celebrate their victory, the Rhodians sold the equipment left behind for 300 talents and decided to use the money to build a colossal statue of their patron god, Helios. Construction was left to the direction of Chares, a native of Lindos in Rhodes, who had been involved with large-scale statues before. His teacher, the sculptor Lysippos, had constructed a 22 meter (70 ft) high bronze statue of Zeus at Tarentum.
Before its destruction by the earthquake of 226 BC, the Colossus of Rhodes stood over 30 meters high, making it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world. Modern engineers have put forward a plausible hypothesis for the statue construction, based on the technology of those days, and the accounts of Philo and Pliny who both saw and described the remains.
The base pedestal was 18 m in diameter and either circular or octagonal. The feet were carved in stone and covered with thin bronze plates riveted together. The interior of the structure, which stood on a 15 meter (50 foot) high white marble pedestal near the Mandraki harbor entrance, was then filled with stone blocks as construction progressed. Other sources place the Colossus on a breakwater in the harbor.
The statue stood for 56 years until Rhodes was hit by the 226 BC earthquake, when significant damage was also done to large portions of the city, including the harbor and commercial buildings, which were destroyed. The statue snapped at the knees and fell over onto the land. Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but the oracle of Delphi made the Rhodians afraid that they had offended Helios, and they declined to rebuild it.
The remains lay on the ground as described by Strabo for over 800 years, and even broken, they were so impressive that many traveled to see them. Pliny the Elder remarked that few people could wrap their arms around the fallen thumb and that each of its fingers was larger than most statues. In 653, an Arab force under Muslim caliph Muawiyah I, captured Rhodes, and according to the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, the remains were sold to a "Jewish merchant of Edessa".
The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven ancient wonders, has been an everlasting inspiration for famous composers, writers, poets, sculptors and painters along history. Among the modern ones, Salvador Dali has winded off the sublimeness of his fantasy and talent on canvas in 1954.