Monday, October 24, 2011

The Colossus of Rhodes

The perception that most people have about how the Colossus looked like. 

Everyone of us has a common image in our mind about the Colossus of Rhodes which was one of the seven wonders of antiquity. When we hear that name we imagine a very tall statue standing with spread legs at the gate of the port and ships passing under it and with one hand raised holding a torch.


This image was consolidated by a lithography of Rotier in 1835.  The contemporary historians though consider this image as fictional and they add that during this period there was no technical knowledge to construct such a large statue in such stance.Historically Colossus was a 33 meters tall statue and it is the second tallest statue in  history only to be surpassed by the statue of liberty in New York which is 46 meters tall.


The version that the archaeologists and engineers accept today is that the colossus had his legs closed and was located somewhere else in the port of Rhodes and not at its gate.The one who built that statue was called Charis of Lindos and it took him 15 years to accomplish it. The money for the construction of this statue came from the selling of the siege machines that Demetrius Poliorcetes had left behind in 307 BC after he failed to storm Rhodes.

the left is a more realistic depiction comparing to the right  one.


This grand statue was constructed between 292 and 280 BC but it stood on its position for only 56 years.Nevertheless the awe that this tall statue caused made it remain in the memories of people for many years.In 222 BC an earthquake struck Rhodes and the knees of the Colossus broke making the  whole statue to collapse.The pieces of the statue remained there for many centuries without being moved. There are written references to a fallen hollow statue which was admired by all visitors.Plinius mentioned that only a few people were able to hug its big finger. He also refers to the technique by which Charis of Lindos build the statue. He says that Charis built the statue just like he would built  a house. He began from the legs by adding pieces of copper while he was also filling the area with dirt to reach the height of the statue to which he was working.When the statue was finished it was all covered by dirt  which was gradually removed.
Demetrius Poliorcetes attempted to conquer Rhodes for  his father Antogonus the one  eyed  who was  at the time the strongest candidate to the vacant throne of the empire of Alexander the great. His defeat lead the Rhodians to built a big statue to thank the god Helios.

In 653 AD during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Constas the Arabs occupied Rhodes. The emir of Damascus in order to repay for the expenses of the campaign ordered the selling of the statue.A Jewish merchant from Edessa(modern Urfa) bought it, cut it into many pieces and he transferred it into Minor Asia to be sold a copper.


Even nowadays the construction of such a tall statue is really difficult.Imagine Charis of Lindos doing it in 292 BC.Colossus of Rhodes represented the god Helios(sun) whose cult was very popular in Rhodes.

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