Saturday, March 15, 2014

Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was a bronze statue on the Greek island of Rhodes and was one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. The statue was commissioned to commemorate a decisive victory on the island. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC three of his generals divided the empire into three regions and Rhodes was within the region controlled by General Ptolemy. General Antigonus was one of the other generals and he ordered his son Demetrius to invade Rhodes in 305 BC. Demetrius commanded 40,000 troops and 200 warships but could not break through the defenses of Rhodes.

The people of Rhodes determined the victory should be remembered by a statue dedicated in honor of Helios, the patron god of Rhodes. Greek sculptor Chares of Lindos started in 294 BC to cast the giant bronze monument and it took Chares and his laborers 12 years to complete the task. The project was financed by the sale of equipment left behind by the army of Demetrius. The statue was completed in 280 BC.

The most popular theory is that the statue was forged around towers of stone blocks. The bronze sculpture was 110 feet or 30 meters tall and stood on a marble base that was 50 feet or 15 meters tall. It stood at the entrance of the harbor which was at the intersection of the sea-trade routes to Asia Minor and Egypt. Some historians thought the statue of Helios may have been nude while others believed the figure was semi-nude holding a cloak. There were also differing theories whether the statue had the feet together or standing apart.

The statue was severely damaged by an earthquake in 226 BC which broke it off at the knees. Egyptian King Ptolemy III offered to rebuild the statue commemorating his grandfather's victory but an oracle advised against it. The ruins of the Colossus of Rhodes remained on the ground for 900 years to be seen by visitors from around the world. Then in 654 AD Arab Muslims conquered Rhodes and dismantled the remains of the statue and transported the pieces to Syria so they could sell the metal.

Ancient Seven Wonders page

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