Alexander the Great did not leave a plan to divide his great empire when he surprisingly passed at the age of 32, so his top generals fought on how to divide Alexander’s Empire. With much of Alexander’s Empire divided and his generals still fighting over the empire, Rhodes sided with Ptolemy who controlled Egypt. Together, Rhodes and Ptolemy controlled most of the eastern mediterrean sea trading.
The agreement between Rhodes and Ptolemy angered Antigonus I Monophthalmus, so in 305 B.C., he commanded his son Demetrius Poliorcetes take 40,000 macedonian men and attack the island of Rhodes. Demetrius attempted to bring a seige tower to over take the high defensive walls of Rhodes, but the ship carrying the siege tower over turned in rough waters. In a second attempt, Demetrius built a larger land based seige tower, but the Rhodes army flooded the location where the seige tower was going to be placed denying Demetrius and his army again. Before a third attempt could be made, Ptolemy had arrived with re-enforcements, turning away the macedonian army.
To celebrate the victory over the macedonians, the people of Rhodes decided to build a statue to their sun god helios. The Colossus Statue was made of iron, stone and bronze. Some of the bronze was from left over weapons and equipment left by Demetrius and his macedonian army, while the rest of the bronze was purchased from all around the Mediterrean Sea. The people of Rhodes turned to Chares of Lindos to design and build the statue. He learned from Lysippus, who built the Statue of Zeus, another Wonder of the Ancient World. Accounts from travelers and scholars of the time stated the Colossus’s feet were carved into the white marble base and covered in bronze plates. The abandoned siege tower was used as scaffolding around the lower sections of the Colossus of Rhodes. Other accounts state the Colossus of Rhodes carried a flaming torch reaching to the sky. Once completed, the Colossus of Rhodes stood at over 100 feet tall. It was the tallest statue around the Mediterrean Sea far passing the Statue of Zeus. The Colossus of Rhodes’ location has been debated over time. Most accounts state the statue stood at the entrance of the protected port entrance. Around the middle age time, accounts state the statue straddled over the port entrance. Modern engineers have debunked the latter idea as the statue would have needed to be larger than the original specifications.
Construction on the Colossus of Rhodes took over 12 years, concluding in 280 B.C. Unfortunately, the mighty Colossus only stood for 56 years as a massive earthquake destroyed the city of Rhodes along with the colossus. Ancient accounts say the statue snapped at the knees, falling to the ground. After the earthquake, the people of Rhodes decided not to rebuild the colossus. It is believed they feared the sun god helios was angry at them for building a likeness of him, so he destroyed the statue and the city. Ancient accounts say people would travel to Rhodes and attempt to wrap their fingers around the fingers, feet, ankles of the statue. One account stated a person could barely wrap their arms around the finger of the statue. It remained on the ground for over 900 years until Rhodes was invaded by the Arabs in 654 A.D. The Arabs sold the Bronze as it was still a highly sought after commodity. The story says over 900 camels and hundreds of ships were used to carry the bronze pieces away.
The Statue of Liberty was said to have been designed after the Colossus of Rhodes. From the base of the Statue of Liberty (not foundation) to the top of the torch, it stands over 151 feet high.
Quick Facts & Figures
Construction Start: 292 BC
Construction Ended: 280 BC
Destroyed: 224 BC
Height: over 100′ tall