The Colossus of Rhodes

the-colossus-of-rhodes The Colossus of Rhodes, painting by Salvador Dali

The Colossus of Rhodes lasted for only 56 years but it earned its place in the famous list of The Seven Wonders of the World. It wasn’t just a giant statue but most importantly a symbol of unity of people who inhabited Rhodes.

The Colossus was a statue of the god Helios, located at the entrance of the harbor of Rhodes, in Greece. It was erected by Chares of Lindos between 292 BC and 280 BC. Compared to one of today’s statues, it was roughly about the same size as the Statue of Liberty (New York, US) but standing on a lower platform.

Who Built the Colossus of Rhodes?

When the Macedonian empire fell to pieces, the Rhodians –their allies- developed close political and trade relationships with the Ptolemy Dynasty of Egypt. The Syrian King Antigonus, sent his son, Demetrius Poliorketes, in the summer of 305 BC to conquer the town of Rhodes. The Rhodians resisted the siege for almost a year and the general was forces to leave in haste, abandoning his famous siege equipment behind. To celebrate the victory, the Rhodians decided to build a statue dedicated to the god Helios. In order to pay for the statue, they sold the siege equipment that Demetrius left behind.

Ancient texts described the Colossus as a structure built around several tower of blocks, standing on a marble pedestal near the Mandraki harbor entrance. Other sources say that the statue was built on a breakwater in the harbor. Iron beams were placed on the stone towers and the bronze plates attached to the beams to form the skinning. The upper part was built with the use of an earthen ramp. The statue was over 34 m tall / 111.50 ft.

Destruction

Rhodes was hit by a major earthquake in 224 BC. The city was badly damaged, while the statue snapped at the knees (its weakest point), falling over on the land. Ptolemy III Eurgetes of Egypt offered to pay for the reconstruction of the magnificent statue but the Rhodians were told by an oracle that rebuilding it would offend Helios and hence the offer was declined. For the next 800 years the remains stood on the ground, attracting crowds.

When the Arab forces captured Rhodes in 654 AD, the remains of the Colossus were sold to a traveling salesman from Edessa. The statue was broken into pieces and 900 camels were used to transport them to Edessa.

What’s in store for the future?

Even today the debates about reconstructing the Colossus continue. If rebuilt, it will definitely boost tourism in Rhodes. However, a lot of funds are necessary for rebuilding the statue (over 100 million Euros).

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