The Colossus of Rhodes

Michael Lahanas

Ο Κολοσσός της Ρόδου

Der Koloss von Rhodos

And so you shall; ascend, therefore, in imagination with me to the Moon, and consider the situation and appearance of the earth from thence: suppose it to seem, as it did to me, much less than the moon, insomuch, that when I first looked down, I could not find the high mountains, and the great sea; and, if it had not been for the Rhodian Colossus, and the tower of Pharos, should not have known where the earth stood.

After the death of Alexander the Great fights broke out between his generals. During the fighting Rhodes had sided with
Tower of Demetrius Poliorcetes During The Siege of Rhodes in 305 Bc
Reibisch, Friedrich Martin Von
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At the siege of Rhodes Demetrius employed an Helepolis of still greater dimensions and more complicated construction. Besides wheels it had casters antistrepta, so as to admit of being moved laterally as well as directly. Its form was pyramidal. The three sides which were exposed to attack, were rendered fire-proof by being covered with iron plates. In front each story had port-holes, which were adapted to the several kinds of missiles, and were furnished with shutters that could be opened or closed at pleasure, and were made of skins stuffed with wool. Each story had two broad flights of steps, the one for ascending, the other for descending (Diod. xx.91; cf. Vitruv. x.22). This helepolis was constructed by Epimachus the Athenian; and a much esteemed description of it was written by Dioeclides of Abdera (Athen. v. p206d). It was no doubt the greatest and most remarkable engine of the kind that was ever erected. The outlook for the island was grim.

However the city was well defended, and Demetrius had to start construction of a number of massive siege towers in order to gain access to the walls. The first was mounted on six ships, which blew over in a storm before they could be used. He tried again with an even larger land-based tower, but the Rhodian defenders stopped this by flooding the land in front of the walls so the tower could not move. In 304 BC offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but the Rhodians declined to rebuild it after an oracle suggested that this would upset the god Helios. The remains laid on the ground for over 800 years, and even broken they were so impressive that many traveled to see them.

The greatest marvel of all, however, was the colossal figure of the Sun at Rhodes, made by Chares of Lindos, a pupil of Lysippos mentioned above. This figure was 70 cubits in height, and after standing 56 years was overthrown by an earthquake; but even as it lies prostrate it is a marvel. Few men can embrace its thumb : its fingers are larger than most statues, there are huge yawning caverns where the limbs have been broken, and within them may be seen great masses of rock, by whose weight the artist gave it a firm footing when he erected it. The story runs that twelve years were occupied in its construction, for which the artist received 1300 talents, produced by the sale of Demetrios' siege- train, which the king abandoned when he raised the siege of Rhodes through disgust at its protraction. Pliny the Elder

In 654 AD Rhodes was invaded by the Arabs under Muawiyah, who sold the remains of the statue. The purchaser, a Jew from Syria, had the statue broken down, and transported it on the backs of 900 camels back to his home. Pieces continued to turn up for sale for years, after being found on the caravan route.

Putti measuring the Colossus of Rhodes. Peter Paul Rubens designed the engravings for the illustrations of Aguilon's major work, Opticorum libri sex philosophis juxta ac mathematicis utiles (Anvers, 1613), "Six Books of Optics, useful for philosophers and mathematicians alike", concerns geometrical optics, which in the Jesuit schools was taught under the heading of Geometry.

The origin of the word Colossus is not known, the suggestions of the grammarians being either ridiculous, or imperfect in point of etymology. It is, however, very ancient, probably of Ionic extraction, and rarely occurs in the Attic writers (Blomf. Gloss. ad Aesch. Agam. 406). It is used both by the Greeks and Romans to signify a statue larger than life (Hesych. s.v.; Aesch. Agam. 406; Schol. ad Juv.Sat. viii.230), and thence a person of extraordinary stature is termed colosseros; and the architectural ornaments in the upper members of lofty buildings, which require to be of large dimensions in consequence of their remoteness, are termed colossicotera. Statues of this kind, simply colossal, but not enormously large, were too common among the Greeks to excite observation merely from their size, and are, therefore, rarely referred to as such; the word being more frequently applied to designate those figures of gigantic dimensions which were first executed in Egypt, and afterwards in Greece and Italy. Among the colossal statues of Greece, the most celebrated, according to
The Colossus of Rhodes, from a Series of The 'Seven Wonders of The Ancient World'
Knab, Ferdinand
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Ancient Greece

Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire

Modern Greece