The most celebrated artistic work of all that Rhodes produced was the Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, made between 304 and 292 BC. The statue was constructed of bronze plates over an iron framework (very similar to the Statue of Liberty which is copper over a steel frame). According to the book of Pilon of Byzantium, 15 tons of bronze were used and 9 tons of iron.
The Colossus, which relied on weaker materials, must have weighed at least as much and probably more. Ancient accounts tell us that inside the statue were several stone columns which acted as the main support. Iron beams were driven into the stone and connected with the bronze outer skin. Each bronze plate had to be carefully cast then hammered into the right shape for its location in the figure, then hoisted into position and riveted to the surrounding plates and the iron frame.
The architect of this great construction was Chares of Lindos, a Rhodian sculptor who was a patriot and fought in defense of the city. Chares had been involved with large scale statues before. His teacher, Lysippus, had constructed a 60-foot high likeness of Zeus. Chares probably started by making smaller versions of the statue, maybe three feet high, then used these as a guide to shaping each of the bronze plates of the skin. It is believed Chares did not live to see his project finished. There are several legends that he committed suicide. In one tale he had almost finished the statue when someone pointed out a small flaw in the construction. The sculptor was so ashamed of it he killed himself. In another version the city fathers decide to double the height of the statue. Chares only doubles his fee, forgetting that doubling the height will mean an eightfold increase in the amount of materials needed. This drove him into bankruptcy and suicide.
The name Colossus derives from the Greek word Colossal meaning something extraordinarily great in size, extent, or degree; gigantic; huge. The Colosseum theatre in Rome also inherited its name from this word which perfectly emphasized the substantial size of the building.
'The Colossus statue was facing east for two reasons: Firstly, because the sun rises from the east to whom the statue was dedicated to. Secondly, it's was wiser to expose the sides of the statue which had the least surface -rather than expose the chest and the back- against the strong Northern and Southern winds which would most likely have endangered the possible collapse of the masterpiece.
The Colossus stood proudly at the harbour entrance for some fifty-six years. Each morning the sun must have caught its polished bronze surface and made the god's figure shine. Then an earthquake hit Rhodes and the statue collapsed. Huge pieces of the figure lay along the harbour for centuries. 'Even as it lies', wrote Pliny, 'it excites our wonder and admiration. Few men can clasp the thumb in their arms, and its fingers are larger than most statues. Where the limbs are broken asunder, vast caverns are seen yawning in the interior. Within it, too, are to be seen large masses of rock, by the weight of which the artist steadied it while erecting it.'It is said that an Egyptian king offered to pay for its reconstruction, but the Rhodians refused. They feared that somehow the statue had offended the god Helios, who used the earthquake to throw it down.
In the seventh century A.D. the Arabs conquered Rhodes and broke the remains of the Colossus up into smaller pieces and sold it as scrap metal. Legend says it took 900 camels to carry away the statue. A sad end for what must have been a majestic work of art.