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Colossus of Rhodes

Colossus of Rhodes. Image ID: 1625151

NYPL Digital Library

7 Wonders of the Ancient World > Colossus

Artists have imagined the Colossus of Rhodes (a statue of the Greek titan Helios), one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, as straddling the harbor with his legs so that ships passed beneath him, but it is more likely that the colossus looked something like the modern Statue of Liberty.

Rhodes is an island [See Bd on map of Asia Minor] near Asia Minor and an ancient trading center that was repeatedly conquered. During the period of relevance for the seven wonders of the ancient world, it was conquered by Mausolus of Halicarnassus -- the king of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus fame -- in 357 B.C., then by the Persians, and then by Alexander the Great in 332.

Following the death of Alexander, the people of Rhodes sided with Ptolemy Soter (367-282 B.C.). Antigonus (382-301 B.C.), one of the other two successors to Alexander, thought he should control Rhodes, so he sent his son Demetrius (known as the Besieger "Polorketes" 337-283) with an army larger than the entire population of Rhodes.

The Rhodians were resourceful and lucky. They flooded the area outside the walls of the capital city (also Rhodes) and kept the invaders at bay for a year until Ptolemy's ships came from Egypt to help. The invaders then left, abandoning much of their military equipment.

In about 304, the Rhodians took advantage of this abandoned material to build a great statue in honor of their patron god Helios and to commemorate their victory. The statue, which may have taken 12 years to complete, stood 110 feet high upon a 50-foot pedestal near the harbor, for 56 years before it was thought to have been struck down by an earthquake.

The Colossus of Rhodes was constructed by the architect Chares, a student of Lysippus, creator of a 60-foot statue of Zeus.

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