Colossus of Rhodes was a statue that stood tall as it watched over a harbor at the entryway of Rhodes town. It was wearing a crown as it gazed at the sky above to the sun and his right hand kept his eyes protected from the rays of the sun. The bronze statue of a man was extremely tall and became a symbol of victory and unity that stood more than 2,000 years ago. The Colossus of Rhodes was also among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Even though the statue was already destroyed and the remains are no longer available today, you can still imagine the structure if you look at the Statue of Liberty that stands at New York’s harbor. The Colossus was truly a one of a kind piece of art and even though it didn’t live that long, the construction techniques used for it and the colossal structure itself continue to amaze the whole world to this day and age.
After the great victory of the Rhodians against Demetrius’ army, they decided to built a memorial in honour of it. This task was assigned to a Rhodian sculptor, called Chares of Lindos. Chares began building this spectacular figure back in 294 B.C. There were lots of complications during its construction that it was only completed after 12 long years. Even Chares himself wasn’t able to see the final completion of this statue that he started.
There is a longtime archaeological debate about where Colossus was located. The ”commercial” opinion shows it at the harbor of Rhodes town. The ”scientific” and most prevalent one though is that he stood on the hill overlooking the bay, where Grand Master Palace now stands. Τhe main argument is that his remains, after the collapse, would had blocked the entrance of the port for centuries. Something that is not referred in any ancient script.
The Colossus of Rhodes was 34 meters high and stood over the base that was 15 meters tall. Helios, the sun god, was sculptured using the bronze gathered from Demetrius’ war machines. This crowned sculpture of Helios was naked while his left hand held a clock. The face was turned to the sky with his right hand covering his eyes as if shielding them from the sunrays while guarding the harbor.
The massive size of the statue was the first thing that caught everyone’s attention. Back then, no other statues were able to beat its incomparable size. You can say that the statue was something that no one ever saw or even imagined at that time.
But, it was not only the size of the Colossus of Rhodes that made this earn the spot as among the ancient world’s seven wonders. It was actually the techniques used to construct this monstrous replica of a god that put it right there with the rest of the wonders.
Chares, the sculptor, used iron beams and frames within the statue to help it stand and support it at the same time. During the construction of the statue, Chares’ major concerns were the location, visibility as well as the foundation that must be strong and solid enough for the statue to be held to the ground securely. The construction used the bronze gathered from those war machines that Demetrius used. Siege towers served as the scaffoldings.
The Colossus of Rhodes was fabricated using large amounts of bronze and iron. Chares even cast bronze in various shapes for every part of this statue. Even if the island was popular for its bronze casting, only a tiny part of the statue can be fitted with the bronze sheet that was casted in ordinary pits. Chares decided to make a large casting pit that became the largest pit that was ever utilized for the purpose of bronze casting. Huge clay blocks filled up this pit. These blocks of clay were spread or smeared with wax to cover them all over. Chares molded the wax into the specific shapes that he needed for the different parts of this statue.
This also shaped the block of clays at the same time accordingly. The clay was heated from below with the strong fire flames. Thanks to the heat, it allows the clay to set properly in the desired shape and wax was drained out. The bronze was also simultaneously liquefied and heated. Once the wax was drained out, the liquid bronze was then poured from above into a gap.
After cooling down, the bronze already took the specific shape of Chares’ required piece. With this, you can just imagine how such a huge statue was created and formed gradually from one piece to another. Due to the enormous height and huge size of the statue, when the construction reached the upper portion of its body, reaching it became more difficult.
Chares decided to mount earth surrounding the statue then created a ramp that the workers can climb to continue with the construction. While this statue grew little by little, the earthen ramp surrounding it also continued to grow higher and covered the statue in the process. The statue’s finished parts remained concealed and Chares himself proceeded with the work with blind faith.
This continued for years and completion finally happened after 12 years. After fixing the crown and the final touches were done, the surrounding earth was then removed to reveal the tallest and most spectacular statue of the time that stood and overlooked the bay area. Today, the Colossus of Rhodes remained to be remembered as among the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.
Unfortunately, the statue didn’t last that long. After it stood strong and tall for around 56 years, the statue was shattered into pieces because of an earthquake that hit the island in 226 B.C. This massive bronze statue was destroyed as it wasn’t able to survive the earthquake. This fell to the ground and laid there in pieces for several hundreds of years.
Several years after its destruction, the king of Egypt Ptolemy the 3rd, offered to fund the Colossus’ reconstruction. The Rhodians refused though as they believed that god Helios being angered by the construction of the statue. In result, he was the one who caused the earthquake that destroyed it. So, no one else attempted constructing it again.
Since no one used the remains of the statue or tried reconstructing it, the broken pieces of the Colossus made from bronze stayed there for almost 800 years. Some tourists visited the site all these years. But, then Arab traders arrived on the island in 654 A.D. They took and started trading the broken pieces of bronze. The metal scraps were brought to and sold in the trading markets.
Sadly, the huge and tall Colossus of Rhodes that symbolized victory and unity only ended up in the trade market for metal scraps. But, despite the destruction of the statue with its remains no longer found these days, one thing remains certain – this unique ancient work of art will remain to be a true work of a genius.
Nowadays, a collective initiative of young european archeologists, architects and civil engineers has proposed to build a modern version of the statue, considering 21st century standards.
The aim of this project is not to rebuilt the original copy of the 40 meters high bronze structure. But to stir the same emotions that guests felt, more than 2200 years ago. So, this version of Colossus would be five times taller than the original. Also, it would host a exhibition hall, a library and a cultural museum as well as serve a lighthouse!
The only sure thing is that if ever the Colossus is resurrected, sailing into island’s harbor would be the experience of a lifetime!
Check out some interesting facts about Colossus in our previous article ”49 Facts you may didn’t know about Rhodes island”
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