If we lived in 280 BC, the authors of the article fantasize, we would not know the statue more than Helios of Rhodes, the ancient Greek god of the Sun. What is the history of this majestic 33-meter giant, unparalleled? And where did he disappear to?
We came close to the Mandraki port. Your journey from Alexandria was easy and you were able to reach the island of Rhodes. Now look up at the majestic statue of Helios of Rhodes, the ancient Greek sun god. The world has never seen a statue again!
“Helios protected us from Demetrios and his soldiers, so we erected a huge statue to express our gratitude to our protector and patron of Rhodes,” the captains say. If we lived in 280 BC, we would not know the statue more than Helios of Rhodes. What is the history of this magnificent statue? And where did she go?
Rhodes, Helios and Alexander the Great - an island, God and ruler
Before we tell the story of the statue, we need to know about the island on which it was erected. Rhodes is located 18 kilometers off the coast of Asia Minor. It is the gateway between the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. Due to its geographical position, the island of Rhodes throughout its history has played an important role as a link between the islands of Greece, Egypt and Asia.
According to ancient Greek myths, this island was created by the sun god Helios, who named it after his wife Rhodes. Therefore, the inhabitants of the island worshiped Helios and considered him the protector and patron of the island.
In 408 BC. NS. the capital was founded - the city of Rhodes. By the end of the 4th century BC, Rhodes was a major trading and maritime power in the region with immense wealth. This helped him avoid conflicts erupting around him in the region.
Rhodes entered the political arena of the ancient world after the death of Alexander the Great. As you know, Alexander the Great left no heir behind him, so his gigantic empire plunged into the abyss of civil wars that went down in history as the wars of the Diadochi.
As a result of these wars, three great kingdoms arose:
1. Egypt ruled by Ptolemy I;
2. The Seleucid Empire in Persia, ruled by Seleucus I Nicator;
3. Territory of Asia Minor, ruled by Antigonus I One-eyed.
And also the autonomous island of Rhodes remained.
Although Rhodes chose to remain neutral without forming an alliance with any of these three great states, he developed a close relationship with the ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy I, which angered Antigonus I One-Eyed. He believed that if Ptolemy became an ally of Rhodes, then he would receive a fleet and all the power of the island, which he, Antigonus, could not cope with. Therefore, he decided to try to capture the island of Rhodes.
In 305 BC. NS. Antigonus sent his son Demetrius I at the head of an army of forty thousand to capture Rhodes. It should be noted here that the inhabitants of the island gathered only 7 thousand fighters against the army of Demetrius.
The siege of the capital lasted for a long time. Nevertheless, Demetrius was never able to break through the fortifications and interrupt the supply of food, which allowed the city to hold a long siege. Then he ordered siege weapons to be made to destroy the city walls. By his order, a siege tower was built, called heliopolis, the likes of which the ancient world had never seen. Its height reached 40 meters, and it itself was sheathed with iron sheets to protect it from arson by enemy shells. Catapults were installed on the turret, throwing shells of different masses. The tower was set in motion with the help of a capstan and three thousand people pushing it from behind. But this was not enough to turn the tide in favor of Demetrius and his troops. After keeping the main city of the island under siege for a whole year, Demetrius was forced to retreat due to the approaching fleet of Ptolemy I to Rhodes.
The Colossus of Rhodes is a majestic giant that has no analogues
Demetrius retreated, leaving his siege weapons behind. In an entrepreneurial spirit, the people of Rhodes sold weapons and siege weapons, including Heliopolis, which they scrapped, adding to their wealth. Then they wondered how best to spend their wealth? Exactly! We must build a giant statue of the patron god of the island, who protected him from the soldiers of Demetrius!
This statue should be unlike anything else, and more than all the statues that have ever been erected to thank the god who saved them from invaders.
The inhabitants of the island turned to a local sculptor named Hares to build this giant statue. Hares is a student of the famous sculptor Lysippos, who enjoyed the favor of Alexander the Great himself. He agreed to erect a statue of Helios, which turned out to be a very difficult task.
According to sources, the construction of the statue took 12 years. The bronze sheets of the outer shell were fixed to an iron inner frame. The base was made of white marble. First, the legs were installed, and then the statue itself.
The statue was built gradually. The bronze form of the deity was fortified with iron and stone structures, and the upper part was built using towers and scaffolding. The Greek philosopher Philo of Alexandria wrote: "The sculptor gradually poured a huge hill of earth around the still unfinished Colossus, which hid the already completed tiers and made it possible to make the next at ground level." At the end of the work, the ground was cleared, and the statue itself reached a height of about 33 meters.
The exact location of the Colossus remains unknown to this day, although ancient evidence places it at various points around Mandraki Harbor.
At first it was believed that the statue stood at the gates of the Mandraki port, but in this case, if destroyed, it would completely block the entrance to the port due to its large size. Recent research indicates that the statue was erected either on the eastern promontory of Mandraki harbor, or elsewhere on land.
The main source of factual data about the legendary bronze giant was the work of Pliny the Elder, written in the 1st century AD, that is, about 200 years after the erection of this statue. He explains why then the Colossus caused such surprise for its size.
“The statue of Helios, which previously stood in Rhodes, was the work of Hares of Linda; Few people can grasp the thumb of a statue with both hands,”he writes about this ancient wonder of the world.
Pliny and others spoke only of size, but no one described the appearance of the statue itself. Thus, everything we know about her is based only on poetic descriptions.
Unfortunately, the "second sun of Hares" was not destined to hold out for centuries. The colossus, along with many other structures in Rhodes, was destroyed by an earthquake in 225 or 226 BC, that is, half a century after its construction.
Most sources agree that during the earthquake, the statue broke at the knee level. The ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy III, allocated huge funds to repair the monument, but the oracle forbade the inhabitants of Rhodes to restore the Colossus, so the fragments remained where they fell.
Ptolemy III's interest in Colossus shows the close ties between Rhodes and Egypt, as well as the fear of Helios that reigned in the region. It is curious to note that Ptolemy III depicted himself as Helios wearing a crown of sunbeams on coins.
Incidentally, the fragments of a giant bronze statue have lain on the ground for eight centuries.
Many people have visited this place over the years. The statue, despite its position, continued to amaze everyone who saw it. But after the Muslim conquest of the island in 654 AD, a Jewish merchant from the city of Edessa (Upper Mesopotamia) bought bronze fragments of the statue. The Colossus of Rhodes was melted down and the metal was reused for domestic purposes. According to sources, it took the merchant 900 camels to transport the wreckage of the Colossus to the East.
It is worth noting that in 2015 there were proposals to restore the old statue. Young European archaeologists, architects and civil engineers proposed to build the "modern Colossus of Rhodes" taking into account the standards of the 19th century.
The goal of this project is not to recreate a replica of the 33-meter bronze structure, but to evoke the same feelings experienced by people who saw this statue over 2,200 years ago. It is proposed to erect a statue of Helios five times the height of the original, inside which an exhibition hall, a library, a cultural museum and a lighthouse will be located. Will we see the day of the resurrection of the Colossus of Rhodes? What about the other seven ancient wonders of the world?