THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek god Helios, erected in the city of Rhodes on the Greek island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos between 292 and 280 BC. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was constructed to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over the ruler of Cyprus, Antigonus I Monophthalmus, who unsuccessfully besieged Rhodes in 305 BC. Before its destruction, the Colossus of Rhodes stood over 30 meters (107 ft) high, making it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world.

When Alexander the Great died at an early age he had not had time to put into place any plans for succession. Fights broke out between his generals, with three of them eventually dividing up much of the empire in the Mediterranean area.

During the fighting, Rhodes had sided with Ptolemy, and when Ptolemy eventually took control of Egypt, they formed an alliance which controlled much of the trade in the eastern Mediterranean.

 

Another of Alexander’s generals, Antigonus, was upset by this turn of events. In 305 BC he had his son Demetrius (now a famous general on his own) invade Rhodes with an army of 40,000. However, the city was well defended, and Demetrius had to start construction of a number of massive siege towers in order to gain access to the walls. The first was mounted on six ships, which blew over in a storm before they could be used. He tried again with an even larger land-based tower, but the Rhodian defenders stopped this by flooding the land in front of the walls so the tower could not move. In 304 BC a force of ships sent by Ptolemy arrived, and Demetrius’s army left in a hurry, leaving most of their equipment.

To celebrate their victory the Rhodians decided to build a giant statue of their patron god Helios. Construction was left to the direction of Chares of Lindos, who had been involved with large scale statues before. His teacher, the famed sculptor Lysippus, had constructed a 60 foot high statue of Zeus.

 Ancient accounts (which differ to some degree) describe the structure as being built around several stone columns (or towers of blocks) on the interior of the structure, sitting on a 50 foot high white marble pedestal near the harbour entrance (others claim on a breakwater in the harbour). Iron beams were driven into the stone towers, and bronze plates attached to the bars formed the skinning. Much of the material was melted down from the various weapons Demetrius’s army left behind, and the second tower was used for scaffolding around the lower levels. Upper portions were built with the use of a large earthen ramp. The statue itself was over 34 meters (110 feet) tall.

Construction completed in 282 BC after 12 years. The statue stood for only 56 years until Rhodes was hit by an earthquake in 226 BC. The statue snapped at the knees, and fell over onto the land. Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but a Rhodian oracle was afraid that they had upset Helios, and they declined to rebuild it. The remains laid on the ground 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.

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~ by ferry1984 on August 6, 2011.

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