The Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was a huge statue of the Greek God Helios, erected on the Greek island of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos between 292 and 280 BC. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Before its destruction, the Colossus of Rhodes stood over 30 meters high, making it the tallest statue of the ancient world.

The statue stood for only 54 years until Rhodes was hit by an earthquake in 226 BC. The statue allegedly snapped at the knees and fell over on to the land. Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of the statue, but the oracle of Delphi made the Rhodians afraid that they had offended their God Helios, and they declined to rebuild it. The remains lay on the ground for over 800 years, and even broken, they were so impressive that many traveled to see them.

In 654, an Arab force captured Rhodes, and according to the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, the remains were sold to a traveling salesman from Odessa. The buyer had the statue broken down, and transported the bronze scrap on the backs of 900 camels to his home. Pieces continued to turn up for sale for years, after being found along the old caravan route.

Today, the alleged site of the Colossus is a major tourist destination and to me it is very cool. It makes you wonder whether the giant actually existed or not. It is marked by two statues straddling the harbor entrance as was alleged by ancient accounts. The statues are marked by antlered deer at the top of each statue.

Conflicting reports have surfaced over the past few decades as to whether or not it was even possible for the statue to have been erected in the spot everyone sees. In my opinion, nobody can ever know for sure and the ancient people declared it a wonder of the ancient world based upon their travels and sightings.
I choose to believe that regardless of whether it lived up to the hype of being over 100 feet high or not, there was certainly something very impressive there and it was destroyed by the documented Earthquake in 226 BC. Second, a lot can change in 2000 years. Third, if we cannot imagine these ancient stories to be true, then what fun are they. Besides, who has ever seen any of the ancient wonders of the world except for the Pyramids and last time I was there, they actually existed.

Perhaps the most famous reference to the Colossus of Rhodes is in the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, written in 1883 and inscribed on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty in New York City’s harbor:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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  1. Cool article, that would have been great to see when it was standing back in the day

  2. I don’t see how they can prove or disprove the existence of the Colossus. There is no real way to determine if it existed. I don’t even understand how they can say it didn’t exist in the harbor. How can anyone know that? Because they couldn’t find any remains? If the accounts are true then they were sold if they were made of a precious metal, plus over a millenium or two things just vanish

  3. Great story. What is the significance of the deer?

  4. My understanding is that deer apparently are the modern symbol of the island of Rhodes.

  5. I am doing a project on the Colossus of Rhodes, your information helped a lot.
    Ps. I like the poem

  6. i for one, say that it existed, for if it did not,why would a holder for it be made? to trick us? i think not! i heard that it is going to be rebuilt…so i hope it looks good!

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