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Colossus of Rhodes: Facts & History

Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

Learn about the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. When you finish the lesson, take the quiz to see what you've learned.

A Little Background

The Colossus of Rhodes as it probably stood, both feet on one pedestal near the harbor
Colossus proper

The last two decades of the fourth century B.C.E. were a mess in the eastern Mediterranean and all the way east to India. Alexander the Great died in 323, leaving his generals to fight amongst themselves for control of his empire.

In 305 B.C.E., Antigonos, who controlled Asia Minor and parts of Greece, attempted to conquer the nearby island of Rhodes. He laid siege, but Ptolemy, another general who had taken over Egypt, sent relief and broke up the attack. Antigonos had to leave so quickly that most of his equipment was left behind. In celebration, the people of Rhodes decided to sell all of the spoils of war and use the money to build a statue in honor of their patron god, Helios.

How Was it Built?

With the 300 talents they received, the people of Rhodes hired Chares of Lindos. He began work in 292, using iron tie bars to build a frame, with stone blocks to fill out the body and brass plates attached to give the structure a skin. It was said that the workers built mounds of earth on both sides, which probably were necessary to fit the brass skin on the statue. They were removed as the top levels were finished off. The Colossus of Rhodes was finished in 280 B.C.E.

How Did it Look?

A few people have thought that the Colossus of Rhodes straddled the entrance into the harbor, but that's not possible. For one thing, any ship with a sail would have had a hard time fitting through. For another, the harbor would have been unusable while construction was going on.

The Colossus as it is popularly believed, straddling the harbor
Popular Colossus

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