Colossus of Rhodes – Wonder 6/7 (ca. 280 BC)

By: The Scribe on Saturday, May 19, 2007

Painting of the Colossus by Salvador Dali

Standing near the harbor entrance of the island of Rhodes, construction of the Colossus began after the small island was attacked by the Antigonids of Macedonia – rivals of the Ptolemies in Egypt, with whom Rhodes had a strong trade alliance. Incredibly, the Macedonians were unable to take the Rhodian capital, and instead were forced to make a peace treaty in 304 BC. When they left the island, the Macedonians left behind a substantial amount of military equipment – which the Rhodians promptly sold, and then used the money to create a giant statue of their sun god, Helios.

Although the Colossus only lasted for 56 years, from building to destruction, the statue likely stood at the eastern promontory of the Mandraki harbor, or possibly even further inland. While it has been long believed that the statue stood straddling the harbor entrance, due to the height of the statue, width of the harbor mouth, and the fact that the fallen Colossus would have blocked the entire harbor, the idea is simply not conceivable.

The Colossus

The outer skin of the statue was cast in bronze, while the base was made of marble. Using an iron and stone inner frame, the structure was gradually erected, making use of an earth ramp to reach the upper sections. Its final size was around 33 meters high.

Construction of the statue took 12 years, until an earthquake around 226 BC shook the island and shattered the Colossus’ knee. Although Ptolemy III of Egypt offered funds to cover restoration of the statue, an oracle forbade any reconstruction work and thus the offer was declined. Despite this, the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder still remarked that “even lying on the ground, it is a marvel.”

Want to read more?

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Tomorrow: The Pharos


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