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Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was a huge statue constructed in Rhodes in the 3rd century BC. It was roughly the same size as the Statue of Liberty in New York, although it stood on a lower platform. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.


The Colussus of Rhodes probably did
not stand astride the
harbor entrance as shown here

When Alexander the Great died at an early age he had not had time to put into place any plans for succession. Fights broke out between his generals, with three of them eventually dividing up much of the empire in the Mediterranean area.

During the fighting Rhodes had sided with Ptolemy, and when Ptolemy eventually took control of Egypt, they formed an alliance which controlled much of the trade in the eastern Mediterranean.

Another of Alexander's generals, Antigous, was upset by this turn of events. In 305 BC he had his son Demetrius (now a famous general on his own) invade Rhodes with an army of 40,000. 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 a force of ships sent by Ptolemy arrived, and Demetrius's army left in a hurry, leaving most of their equipment.

To celebrate their victory the Rhodians decided to build a giant statue of their patron god Helios. Construction was left to the direction of Chares[?], who had been involved with large scale statues before. His teacher, the famed sculptor Lysippus[?], had constructed a 60 foot high statue of Zeus.

Ancient accounts (which differ to some degree) describe the structure as being built around several stone columns (or towers of blocks) on the interior of the structure, sitting on a 50 foot high white marble pedestal near the harbour entrance (others claim on a breakwater in the harbour). Iron beams were driven into the stone towers, and bronze plates attached to the bars formed the skinning. Much of the material was melted down from the various weapons Demetrius's army left behind, and the second tower was used for scaffolding around the lower levels. Upper portions were built with the use of a large earthen ramp. The height of the statue itself was over 110 feet tall.

Construction completed in 282 BC after 12 years. The statue stood for 56 years until Rhodes was hit by an earthquake in 226 BC. The statue snapped at the knees, and fell over onto the land. Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but a Rhodian oracle was afraid that they had upset Helios, and they declined to rebuild it. The remains laid on the ground for over 800 years, and even broken they were so impressive that many traveled to see them.

In AD 654 an Arab force under Muawiyah I captured Rhodes, who sold the remains to a travelling salesman from Edessa[?], according to the chronicler Theophanes[?]. The purchaser had the statue broken down, and transported the bronze scrap 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.


Many older descriptions (from the 1700's) show the statue with one foot on either side of the harbour with ships passing under it. This is an outright fabrication.

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