Colossus of Rhodes

Greek: Κολοσσος της Ροδου
What: A statue built in ancient Greece.
Built: 292 – 280 BC
Located: Rhodes, Greece
Height: 30 meters (107 ft)
Material: Iron tie bars and brass plates
Destroyed: 226 BC by an earthquake

Colossus of Rhodes by Martin Heemskerck (16th century).

Colossus of Rhodes by Martin Heemskerck (16th century).

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek god Helios that was built on the Greek island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos sometime in the early part of the 3rd century BC. It was a masterpiece for its time and was thus considered one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. It stood over 30 meters (107 ft) high, making it one of the tallest statues in the ancient world. It was built with iron tie bars with brass plates covering the skin. Much of the iron and bronze was reforged from the various weapons Demetrius’s (King of Macedon) army left behind, and the abandoned second siege tower was used for scaffolding around the lower levels during construction. During the building, workers would pile mounds of dirt on the sides of the colossus. Upon completion all of the dirt was removed and the colossus was left to stand alone. After twelve years, in 280 BC, the statue was finally completed.

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 on to the land. Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue but the oracle of Delphi made the Rhodians afraid by suggesting that they had offended Helios and they decided not to rebuild it. The remains lay on the ground, broken, for the next 800 years and were so impressive that many traveled to Rhodes to see them. Pliny the Elder remarked thatfew people could wrap their arms around the fallen thumb and that each of its fingers was larger than most statues.

In November 2008, it was announced that the Colossus of Rhodes was to be rebuilt. The new structure will be a, “highly, highly innovative light sculpture, one that will stand between 60 and 100 metres tall so that people can physically enter it.” The project is expected to cost up to Û200m which will be provided by international donors and the German artist Gert Hof. The new Colossus will adorn an outer pier in the harbour area of Rhodes, where it will be visible to passing ships. Koutoulas said, “Although we are still at the drawing board stage, Gert Hof’s plan is to make it the world’s largest light installation, a structure that has never before been seen in any place of the world.”

Interesting facts:

  • The Statue of Liberty was modelled after what the Colossus of Rhodes was thought to have looked like.
  • The word ‘colossus,’ which means ‘a very large or important person or thing,’ is derived from the Colossus of Rhodes’ name.
  • When the statue was finished it was dedicated with a poem: To you, o Sun, the people of Dorian Rhodes set up this bronze statue reaching to Olympus, when they had pacified the waves of war and crowned their city with the spoils taken from the enemy. Not only over the seas but also on land did they kindle the lovely torch of freedom and independence. For to the descendants of Herakles belongs dominion over sea and land.

The Colossus of Rhodes by the Discovery Channel:

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