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The Colossus of Rhodes: Six Facts About the Wonder of Ancient World

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Artist’s depiction of the Colossus of Rhodes (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World). Credit: Public Domain.

Most people today know the Colossus of Rhodes as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but there are many little-known facts about the masterpiece that may surprise you.

The ancient island of Rhodes, the kállistin (best) of the Greek cities as historians like to call it, has long attracted the attention of the world due to its beautiful beaches, rich history, and advanced civilization that stretches far back in time.

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Rhodes was a city with philosophical and other schools, conservatories, markets, stadiums, harbors, and at least 3,000 public statues.

The masterpiece of all, though, was the Colossus of Rhodes — built from 292-280 BC, the huge bronze statue, about 30 meters (98.4 feet) tall, portrayed the god of the Sun, Helios.

The construction of the Colossus lasted for 12 years, but the statue was later destroyed a few decades later, in 226 BC, because of an earthquake.

Lesser known facts about the Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes and the Statue of Liberty

Both monuments were built as symbols of freedom, and people have made the connection between both statues since the Statue of Liberty was created.

The Statue of Liberty has been referred to as the “Modern Colossus” and stands just a little bit higher, at 34 meters (111.5 feet) tall.

There is also a plaque inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty that is inscribed with a sonnet title “The New Colossus, not like the brazen giant of Greek fame.”

The debate about the statue’s feet

There has been a debate among historians about whether the statue was standing with one foot on either side of the Rhodes harbor.

Some have discounted this theory and believe that he stood in a more usual Greek statue pose, on one side of the harbor.

If the Colossus of Rhodes was built with its legs straddling the harbor, then the harbor would have had to been closed for 12 years for the initial construction — and then it would have been again blocked for years when the statue fell.

The statue has an iron skeleton

The statue was actually built with an iron frame like a skeleton, over which the Rhodians placed carved and sculptured brass plates to create the outer structure of Helios, creating his muscle and skin.

Chares of Lindos designed the Colossus of Rhodes

We owe the design of the Colossus of Rhodes to Chares of Lindos. Chares was a student of the famous sculptor Lysippus, who had previously created a 19-meter (62 foot) tall statue of Zeus.

The metal used to construct the statue later scrapped, sold

In the 7th century A.D., the Arabs conquered Rhodes and dismantled any remnant of the Colossus of Rhodes after it was toppled by an earthquake, and later sold the once beautiful statue as scrap metal.

It took approximately 900 camels to carry away all the scrap metal.

Was the destruction of the Colossus the will of the gods?

Finally, Ptolemy III, the king of Egypt, offered to pay for the Colossus’ reconstruction, but the Rhodians refused because they believed that Helios; being angered by the construction of the statue, was the one who caused the earthquake that destroyed it.

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