Sun God’s Statue: From Dust to Dust

Phidias (ca. 500-430 B.C.E.) (Sculptor) Westermayr, Konrad (1765-1834) (Engraver) Fischer von Erlach, Johann Bernhard (1656-1723) (Artist) Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library.
Phidias (ca. 500-430 B.C.E.) (Sculptor)
Westermayr, Konrad (1765-1834) (Engraver)
Fischer von Erlach, Johann Bernhard (1656-1723) (Artist) Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Der Coloss zu Rhodus ; der olympische Jupiter ; der Dianen-Tempel zu Ephes.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed July 31, 2015.

Colossus of Rhodes’ Dedication
“To you, o Sun, the people of Dorian Rhodes set up this bronze statue reaching to Olympus, when they had
pacified the waves of war and crowned their city with the spoils taken from the enemy. Not only over the seas
but also on land did they kindle the lovely torch of freedom and independence. For to the descendants of
Herakles belongs dominion over sea and land.”

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Reading about the Colossus of Rhodes puts in mind karmic comparisons with today’s destruction of artifacts in Syria, but there is little clear similarity. The Colossus was built from the abandoned military siege equipment of a defeated Syrian army, but that army was really Hellenistic, since it came from the kingdom ruled by a Macedonian nobleman, Antigonus (382-301 BC). The Colossus (of Rhodes) fell to a third century earthquake. Some centuries later, in 654, Arabs, the latest to rule the area, led by the  Muslim caliph Muawiyah I, carried the remains away as scrap metal.

…Barhebraeus, writing in Syriac in the 13th century in Edessa: …’ And a great number of men hauled on strong ropes which were tied round the brass Colossus which was in the city and pulled it down. And they weighed from it three thousand loads of Corinthian
brass, and they sold it to a certain Jew from Emesa’ (the Syrian city of Homs).

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

In 304 BC, the people of Rhodes, who had been under the control of Mausolus of Halicarnassus(1*), the Persians, and then the Macedonian-Greek forces of Alexander the Great, celebrated their victory over the invading forces of Antigonus’ son Demetrius (the Besieger “Polorketes” 337-283). Demetrius had arrived the year before, with more troops than there were people in the commercially important city of Rhodes, so the Rhodians, hoping and waiting for support from Ptolemy(2**) (in Egypt), flooded the area outside their city walls and kept the invaders at bay until their allies arrived. Demetrius’ troops left.

It took the Rhodians twelve years to build a suitable statue to honor their patron god, the sun god, Helios. Note the

 Apollo] With A Cithara And A [Phial] And Diana.
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Apollo] With A Cithara And A [Phial] And Diana.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1844 – 1861.
sun god was one of the Titans, not the Olympian Apollo [Euripides’ Phaethon styles Apollo sun god, according to Mary R. Lefkowitz, this is an example of syncretism (Greek Gods, Human Lives: What We Can Learn from Myths, by Mary R. Lefkowitz)]. Odysseus’ men steal the cattle of Helios’ father, Hyperion, there described as the sun god. In Greek poetry, when you read of the sun daily crossing the sky in his chariot, that is Helios or Helius, not Apollo. Helios was brother of Selene, the moon Titan(ess) [Note: not Apollo’s sister Artemis]. Both were children of Hyperion, Titan god of light; their grandparents, Ouranos (Heaven) and Gaia (Earth).

Designed by the architect Chares of Lindos, the Colossus is said to have used 15 tons of bronze and 9 tons of iron, much of it poured in situ. It probably stood on one side of the harbor — although images and popular imagination show the statue straddling the harbor — roughly 110 feet above a marble pedestal, itself 50 feet high. The Colossus dominated the harbor from about 282?/292? to 226 when it fell to an earthquake. Broken, but still impressively worth visiting, it remained in place for more than 800 years. Strabo (64/63 BC – c. AD 24) [see Greek historians] writes (xiv 2.5):

[5] The city of the Rhodians lies on the eastern promontory of Rhodes; and it is so far superior to all others in harbors and roads and walls and improvements in general that I am unable to speak of any other city as equal to it, or even as almost equal to it, much less superior to it. It is remarkable also for its good order, and for its careful attention to the administration of affairs of state in general; and in particular to that of naval affairs, whereby it held the mastery of the sea for a long time and overthrew the business of piracy, and became a friend to the Romans and to all kings who favoured both the Romans and the Greeks. Consequently it not only has remained autonomous. but also has been adorned with many votive offerings, which for the most part are to be found in the Dionysium and the gymnasium, but partly in other places. The best of these are, first, the Colossus of Helius,1 of which the author2 of the iambic verse says,“seven times ten cubits in height, the work of Chares the Lindian;
” but it now lies on the ground, having been thrown down by an earthquake and broken at the knees. In accordance with a certain oracle, the people did not raise it again. This, then, is the most excellent of the votive offerings (at any rate, it is by common agreement one of the Seven Wonders); and there are also the paintings of Protogenes, his Ialysus3 and also his Satyr, the latter standing by a pillar, on top of which stood a male partridge. And at this partridge, as would be natural, the people were so agape when the picture had only recently been set up, that they would behold him with wonder but overlook the Satyr, although the latter was a very great success. But the partridge-breeders were still more amazed, bringing their tame partridges and placing them opposite the painted partridge; for their partridges would make their call to the painting and attract a mob of people. But when Protogenes saw that the main part of the work had become subordinate, he begged those who were in charge of the sacred precinct to permit him to go there and efface the partridge, and so he did. The Rhodians are concerned for the people in general, although their rule is not democratic; still, they wish to take care of their multitude of poor people. Accordingly, the people are supplied with provisions and the needy are supported by the well-to-do, by a certain ancestral custom; and there are certain liturgies4 that supply provisions, so that at the same time the poor man receives his sustenance and the city does not run short of useful men, and in particular for the manning of the fleets. As for the roadsteads, some of them were kept hidden and forbidden to the people in general; and death was the penalty for any person who spied on them or passed inside them. And here too, as in Massalia and Cyzicus, everything relating to the architects, the manufacture of instruments of war, and the stores of arms and everything else are objects of exceptional care, and even more so than anywhere else.

Strabo XIV.2.5

For more on its construction, see Philo of Byzantium 
"De septem orbis mirabilis" 
 Zenodorus's "Colossus of Nero"
 Fred C. Albertson
 Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome
 Vol. 46 (2001), pp. 95-118

(1*) Associated with a second wonder of the ancient world.
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was a tomb built in the 
mid-fourth century BC at Halicarnassus (present Bodrum, 
Turkey) for Mausolus, a satrap in the Persian Empire, 
and Artemisia II of Caria, his sister-wife, designed by 
the Greek architects Satyros and Pythius of Priene.

(2**) Ptolemy is associated with Alexandria, in Egypt, 
site of the famous lighthouse, another one of the seven 
wonders. It was built between 280-247 BC. It is also known 
as the Pharos of Alexandria, named 'Pharos' for the island, 
off mainland Alexandria, on which the tower was built.

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