May 2, 2011

Will The Colossus Of Rhodes Rise Again?

As many of you know, there are, officially, "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World."  Among those seven was the giant statue to the sun god, Helios, known as the "Colossus of Rhodes."  Below is a picture rendered long after the Colossus' demise in 226 BCE:

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nat507/8638372021/">nathanh100</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

The Colossus was designed by Chares of Lindos who was given the challenge in 305 BCE of building a statue nearly twice as tall as any ever built up to that time.  Construction took twelve long years of hard labor and two hundred tons of bronze.

As the pictures above depict, the Colossus is most often shown as standing astride the harbor at Rhodes, but most historians and other experts now agree that it did not stand in that position.

Whatever the case, there is no dispute that, in 226 BCE, a powerful earthquake toppled the statue.  Since that time, it has never been rebuilt.  Why not?

According to one historical account, the Rhodians consulted an oracle who prophesied that the people would come to great misfortune if the statue was rebuilt.  This explanation is plausible, as it would not have been uncommon for the Rhodians to have consulted an oracle to guide them in the wake of a catastrophe toppling so great a monument, especially one dedicated to a god.

More recently, however, many Rhodians have desired to rebuild the statue in some form, most notably around the time of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.  This movement was not successful at that time.

It now appears that the Colossus of Rhodes may be re-built and re-imagined after all.  In late 2008, word began surfacing of a possible re-building of the Colossus.  Progress on the project, though slow, apparently, continues.  Unlike its ancient namesake, which was built to commemorate the Rhodians unlikely success in fending off siege, the modern-day wonder will be dedicated to celebrating peace.  Plans include building it, at least in part, out of melted-down weapons from around the world.

The ancient Colossus, which stood 34 metres high, would be dwarfed by the plans for the modern replacement.  A Cologne-based design team is determined to make the new Colossus much taller, bigger - while simultaneously avoiding replication.  How does one do that?


One of the ideas that has surfaced is that the modern Colossus will be, in part, a light sculpture.  Visitors to the harbor at Rhodes will be able to inspect the statue by day.  However, by night, the innovative light elements will make it -- in the words of one member of its design team -- "a structure that has never before been seen in any place of the world."

How do you feel about such plans?  Is this a good idea?  Or, does it somehow denigrate the earlier work?  Should we undertake plans to reconstruct other monuments that have either been lost or damaged due to nature or man?  For example, visitors to the Colosseum in Rome are shown walls deeply pitted, scars caused by the "borrowing" of stone from the Colosseum to build later Christian churches.  Should we re-make such monuments and restore them to the way they looked originally?  Why or why not?

You can read more about the plans to re-build the Colossus here and here.

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