What is the Colossus of Rhodes?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Colossus of Rhodes was a huge statue of the sun god Helios formerly located at the entry of a harbor on the island Rhodes in Greece. The statue, which was over 107 ft (30 m) high, was erected by Chares of Lindos, a Greek sculptor. Constructed sometime between 292 and 280 BC, the Colossus of Rhodes was built to commemorate the victory of Rhodes over the invading Macedonians in 305 BC. At the time, Rhodes was a successful mercantile republic, controlling entry into the Aegean Sea with their large navy.

The Statue of Liberty was based on descriptions of the Colossus of Rhodes.
The Statue of Liberty was based on descriptions of the Colossus of Rhodes.

The siege that led to the construction of the mighty statue is one of the most famous in antiquity. Alexander the Great of the Greek kingdom Macedonia, one of the greatest military leaders of all time, who never lost a battle, spent 13 years between 336 and 323 BC conquering Greece, Egypt, the Near East, and the Middle East, all the way to Punjab, India. He died early after 13 continuous years of military campaigning, leaving his empire in chaos. Fighting broke out among his generals, and the kingdom of Rhodes allied with the general Ptolemy. A major figure at the time, Antigonus, sent his son with 40,000 troops to raid Rhodes.

After a year-long siege, during which the army of Antigonus could not penetrate the harbor or city walls of Rhodes, naval reinforcements sent by Ptolemy arrived in Rhodes, causing the army to flee and leave behind siege equipment worth 300 talents (about $360 million USD in today's money). The kingdom of Rhodes sold the siege equipment and decided to build a huge statue of their patron god Helios, which came to be called the Colossus of Rhodes.

Melting down many of the iron and bronze weapons left behind by the invaders, the statue was built on an iron framework with bronze plates as skin. This would have made the statue a beautiful bronze, topped with a crown with rays. As sections of the statue were completed, the interior was filled with large stone blocks. The entire statue itself sat on a 50 ft (15 m) marble pedestal. Upon completion, the Colossus of Rhodes would have not looked radically unlike the Statue of Liberty, which was built based on descriptions of the Colossus.

The statue was so impressive that it was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, it only stood for 56 years, until an earthquake in 226 BC toppled the statue, snapping it at the legs. It remained on the ground for 800 years, being visited by many thousands of people over the centuries, who considered it awesome despite it being in a broken condition. At some point around the year 650 CE, the Colossus of Rhodes was melted down for scrap.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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