The Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek titan-god of the sun Helios, erected in the city of Rhodes, on the Greek island of the same name, by Chares of Lindos in 280 BC. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

According to the legend, God Sun saved the Rhodians from the persistent seize of the Macedonian General, Dimitrios Poliorkitis. As an expression of gratitude, they constructed this gigantic statue, which was actually twice as tall as Fidias’ statue of Zeus in Ancient Olympia and was reflecting the sun’s light, bedazzling the visitors as a convincing image of the Olympian God.

Colossus was a brilliant way to promote Rhodes’ prosperity and technology and as many historians point out, Chares –the Lyndian sculptor- achieved something that nobody thought was possible. He turned his God into a “real God”. It was like he created a second Sun that was facing and reflecting the real one!

Oddly enough, we have very limited information about the statue’s accurate figure and face, since the archeological evidence is contradictable. In many ancient Greek coins, the statue appears with sunrays on the head, while in other with no sunrays at all. Additionally some scientists believed that the God was holding in his right hand a torch (like the Statue of Liberty) and others that his right hand was above his eyes and his left hand on his hip.

– See more at: its destruction in the earthquake of 226 BC, the Colossus of Rhodes stood over 30 metres (98 feet) high,making it one of the tallest statues of the ancient world.

Le colosse de Rhodes, selon gravure du XIXè siècle 1880

Equally contradicting were the opinions concerning the statue’s lower body. Some said that since the God was appearing naked, it would be impossible to base this massive body on such skinny legs and ankles. This is why it was believed that maybe Sun was wearing some sort of a cloak that was hanging from his shoulder all the way down to his legs. Finally, some say that it would be impossible for the statue’s legs to be spread, as they would have to be about 100 meters away from one another, in order to allow ships to sail underneath.

Sixty years after the statue’s inauguration, around 226 BC, a massive earthquake that took place brought it to its knees. It is believed that about 30 houses were destroyed by the fall! Despite the awful collapse, the bronze statue never stopped being considered as one of the greatest Wonders of the World. The body was lying on the ground for about 100 years when Antipatros of Sidona, a writer of Greek-Phoenician descent, included it in his list. Plinius the Elder stated that: “Even lying on the ground, it’s still a wonder. Very few people can actually hold the God’s thumb, since his fingers are bigger than most statues”.

The Colossus of Rhodes was not only a work of unparalleled art and aesthetics. It was built as a token of gratitude to God Sun, who was the island’s patron, and symbolized the freedom and independence of the Rhodians. Even though it was destroyed 60 years after its construction, its reputation crossed the borders of Greece and remained in history as one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.


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