The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. At over 100 feet tall, it stood far higher than any other statue of its time. Mysteriously, this behemoth disappeared over a thousand years ago and has been missing ever since. So, what happened to it?
The Colossus of Rhodes?
Rhodes was a powerhouse of the ancient world. After the death of Alexander the Great, it joined forces with Ptolemaic Egypt to control trade in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. Unhappy with the situation, King Antigonus I Monophthalmus of Cyprus ordered his son to invade Rhodes. The invasion was turned back. A subsequent siege also failed and the Cyprus army was forced to flee, leaving behind most of its equipment. The leaders of Rhodes decided to celebrate the victory by constructing a mammoth statue dedicated to Helios, the god of the sun.
In 292 BC, the sculptor Chares began work on the statue. He used iron tie bars as framework and giant plates of brass as skin. The Colossus of Rhodes was completed in 280 BC (Chares is believed to have committed suicide shortly before it was finished). It stood close to one hundred and ten feet tall and with the addition of at least one fifty foot high marble pedestal, it reached over one hundred and sixty feet into the sky.
There is some confusion regarding the location of the statue. Medieval historians believed that it straddled the harbor with each foot resting on a giant pillar. However, modern archaeologists and engineers consider this unrealistic, since it would’ve been structurally unsound and forced a long-term closure of the port. Instead, they believe that the Colossus of Rhodes rested on a single pedestal or on a hill overlooking the area.
The Collapse of the Colossus of Rhodes?
In 226 BC, a giant earthquake struck Rhodes, wreaking havoc on the city. And after just 56 years, the mighty Colossus of Rhodes broke at the knees. Afterwards, the ruins lay on the ground for over 800 years, becoming a tourist attraction in their own right. In 654 AD, a Muslim leader named Muawiyah I conquered Rhodes. Supposedly, he sold the ruins to a Jewish merchant who broke them down and transported them back to his home via camel. However, this may be nothing more than a metaphor.
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 – Barhebraeus, 13th Century
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
So where is the Colossus of Rhodes today? If we are to believe the stories, then the Colossus is gone, melted down and repurposed. However, in 2008, German archaeologist Ursula Vedder proposed an alternative explanation. She suggested that the Colossus of Rhodes had originally rested at the top of the Acropolis of Rhodes which sits on a hill overlooking the port. There is a large rock base in the area, situated between a recently discovered stadium and racetrack. If Vedder is correct, then the mystery of the lost Colossus may eventually be solved. For all we know, the giant statue might be lying near these other ruins, buried deep in the sand, waiting for a team of explorers to unearth it.