Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday's Seven Wonders - Colossus of Rhodes

Colossus of Rhodes
This drawing of Colossus of Rhodes, which illustrated The Grolier Society's 1911 Book of Knowledge, is probably fanciful, as the statue likely did not stand astride the harbour mouth.

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek god Helios, erected 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. 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.

The island of Rhodes was an important economic center in the ancient world. It is located off the southwestern tip of Asia Minor where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean. The capitol city, also named Rhodes, was built in 408 B.C. and was designed to take advantage of the island's best natural harbor on the northern coast.


The Colossus of Rhodes, depicted in this hand-coloured engraving - Martin Heemskerck

In 357 B.C. the island was conquered by Mausolus of Halicarnassus (see last week's Sunday Seven Wonders), fell into Persian hands in 340 B.C., and was finally captured by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.. When Alexander died of a fever at an early age, his generals fought bitterly among themselves for control of Alexander's vast kingdom.

Demetrios Poliorketes was the successor of Alexander the Great, in 305 BC. When Demetrios was defeated, he abandoned all his siege machinery on Rhodes. The Rhodians decided to express their pride by building a triumphal statue of their favourite god, Helios. The task was assigned to the sculptor Chares of Lindos, a pupil of Lysippos himself, and twelve years (from 304 to 292 BC) were needed to complete it.


The statue was one hundred and ten feet high and stood upon a fifty-foot pedestal near the harbor mole. Although the statue has been popularly depicted with its legs spanning the harbor entrance so that ships could pass beneath, it was actually posed in a more traditional Greek manner: nude, wearing a spiked crown, shading its eyes from the rising sun with its right hand, while holding a cloak over its left.


The Colossus of Rhodes has been compared to the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

A strong earthquake hit Rhodes at around 226 BC. The city was badly damaged, and the Colossus was broken at its weakest point - the knee. The Rhodians received an immediate offer from Ptolemy III Eurgetes of Egypt to cover all restoration costs for the toppled monument. However, an oracle was consulted and forbade the re-erection. Ptolemy's offer was declined.

For almost a millennium, the statue lay broken in ruins. In AD 654, the Arabs invaded Rhodes. They disassembled the remains of the broken Colossus and sold them to a Jew from Syria. It is said that the fragments had to be transported to Syria on the backs of 900 camels.

1 comment:

Julia Smith said...

I'm incredibly late to your Seven Wonders series - but don't stop, Bobbi! I love them all. Yes, very Statue of Liberty-ish. Everything old is new again.