Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: Colossus of Rhodes

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:03:58
Year Produced: 2009
Description:

Of all the structures counted among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, perhaps the most mysterious is the statue of Helios the Sun God, the Colossus of Rhodes.

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Transcript

Lead: Of all the structures counted among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, perhaps the most mysterious is the statue of Helios the Sun God, the Colossus of Rhodes.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Rhodes is a pleasant island at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, just off the southwestern coast of modern Turkey. In the ancient era it was blessed with fertile soil and an excellent climate, and though traditionally an ally of Egypt, it maintained generally peaceful relationships and significant commercial contacts with its neighbors. In the fourth century BCE, Antigonus, King of Macedonia, set his eyes on Egypt and encouraged the Rhodians to abandon their alliance with Egypt and join forces with him. When they refused in 305 BCE he sent a large force under his son Demetrius, but Rhodes put up such a tenacious resistance that Demetrius abandoned the effort along with his very expensive siege engines. The Rhodians, seeing a bargain at hand, sold the engines for about $2 million in today's money and, in gratitude for their deliverance, erected a statue in honor of their patron deity, Helios the Sun God.

They chose the famous artist Chares (CHAIR ees) of Lindos, to sculpt the statue and selected a figure that was approximately 110 feet tall. The most trusted sources indicate the statue stood upright, was naked, and was shaped like a column. According to Philo of Byzantium, it had an iron framework with a stone foundation. The Colossus of Rhodes took 12 years to sculpt and cost about $6 million. Within 60 years, an earthquake brought it crashing down where it lay for almost a millennium before being broken up and carted away by Islamic invaders.

Various artists have attempted to depict the Colossus. There has been speculation that it straddled the harbor at Mandraki, but the width of the entrance to the harbor and the relatively weak construction material made this impossible. Whatever it looked like, contemporary historians testified that it probably exceeded in size any other similar structure in the ancient world.

Research assistance by Ashleigh Greene, at the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.