The Colossus of Rhodes: Ancient Greek Mega Statue
Silver coins from Rhodes circa 316 – 305 AD with Helios represented on one side, a rose on the other. Was this the face of the Colossus of Rhodes? Wikimedia Commons
An idea of what this statue may have looked like comes down through images depicted on a few coins that survived the era. Accounts from eye-witnesses and story-tellers tell of an enormous and amazing statue. Depictions of the time speak of a naked man with a cloak over his left arm or shoulder proudly facing east to the rising sun, torch in one hand, and spear in the other. Some think the statue was wearing a spiked crown, shading its eyes from the rising sun with its right hand, or possibly using that hand to hold the torch aloft in a pose similar to one later given to the Statue of Liberty. Although we do not know the true shape and appearance of the Colossus, modern reconstructions with the statue standing upright are more accurate than older drawings.
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The Colossus of Rhodes, and its possible stance/appearance. Wikimedia Commons
The statue stood for 56 years until the island of Rhodes was hit by an earthquake in 226 BC, destroying much of the city and causing the statue to break off at the knees and topple over into pieces. It is said that the Rhodians received an offer from Ptolemy III Eurgetes of Egypt to cover all restoration costs for the monument but declined. The Rhodians consulted the oracle of Delphi and feared that the statue had somehow offended the god Helios, who used the earthquake to throw it down. Though it lay in ruins on the ground, thousands came and were astounded at the sight of it. Pliny the Elder wrote:
Even as it lies, it excites our wonder and admiration. Few men can clasp the thumb in their arms, and its fingers are larger than most statues. Where the limbs are broken asunder, vast caverns are seen yawning in the interior. Within it, too, are to be seen large masses of rock, by the weight of which the artist steadied it while erecting it.
The statue would go untouched for 900 years or until the Arab invasion of Rhodes in 654. The remains are said to have been melted down to be used as coins, tools, artifacts and weapons. Legend says that a Syrian junk dealer hauled the bits away on nearly 1000 camels. Many believed it impossible to build such a structure with the technology of the time and doubt grew that it ever existed at all. However, in recent years, new evidence has come to light in and around the harbor at Rhodes. Recent archaeological finds have shown that the Colossus stood on the hill overlooking the bay where a medieval castle now stands. Experts found carved stones dating back to the time of the Colossus. These were later used to build a fort that now stands at the entrance to the harbor. It is believed that these were the very stones used to form the base of the giant statue.
The amazing Colossus of Rhodes towers over all others in the annals of the wonders of the ancient world.
Artist's misconception of the Colossus of Rhodes from the 1911 Book of Knowledge. Public Domain
Featured image: Engraving of the Colossus of Rhodes. Paul K / Flickr
"The Colossus of Rhodes, a Wonder of the Ancient World." Rhodes Guide. [Online] Available here.
Krystek, Lee. "The Seven Wonders: The Colossus of Rhodes." Unmuseum. 2011. [Online] Available at: http://www.unmuseum.org/colrhode.htm
"The Colossus of Rhodes." Seven Wonders of the World. [Online] Available here.
"Colossus of Rhodes Facts." Soft Schools. [Online] Available here.