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The Colossus of Rhodes
It was a common practice in the Ancient world to dedicate a magnificent votive statue from the captured booty of a victorious campaign: the colossal bronze statue of Athena Promachos on the Acropolis in Athens was partly made with bronze captured at the Battle of Marathon. In this same spirit, the proceeds from the sale of the weapons and material left behind when Demetrios Poliorcetes lifted his failed siege of the city of Rhodes in 304/3 bc—estimated at 300 talents by Pliny (Hist. Nat. XXXIV, 18, 41/42)— was put to the making of a bronze statue of Helios, the patron divinity of the island. It was ceremonially dedicated to the god with due pomp at the five-yearly celebration of the pan-Hellenic festival of the Halieia. Though later merged in Greek cult with Apollo, Helios long remained an independent divinity in certain geographic areas, especially in the east of the Greek world, as here on Rhodes . Chares of Lindos, a student of Lysippus (who had already created a colossal bronze figure of Zeus for the city of Tarentum) and who was one of the greatest bronze-working sculptors of Antiquity, was given the commission for the work—a task which led him eventually to bankruptcy and suicide, according Sextus Empiricus.
The hollow statue, cast in many sections and laboriously assembled over an armature of metal rods and masonry, stood to a height of around 32m (105ft) and took 12 years to complete. Gilded sun-rays burst from around the god’s head, and, according to some versions, he may have held a flaming torch in his raised arm which functioned as a beacon to mariners. The figure was nude but for a shoulder-cloak. Less than 60 years after its completion an earth quake in 227 bc sundered it at its most fragile point, namely the lower legs. An oracular pronouncement apparently forbad the citizens to re-erect it. It still lay felled almost 250 years later in the time of Strabo and Pliny—sed iacens quoque miraculo est, ‘still a marvel as it lies on the ground’, according to the latter. Pliny says that it was hardly possible for a man to join arms around the thumb, and in the statue’s carvernous interior could still be seen the material used to steady and support it. He goes on to mention that there were 100 other, smaller colossal statues in Rhodes .
The statue’s bronze was eventually sold as scrap metal in the Levant to Jewish traders in the 7th century ad, and no piece verifiably belonging to it has ever been seen since. Because the writer known as ‘pseudo-Philo of Byzantium’ included the Colossus in his ‘Seven Wonders of the World’, the vanished work excited great curiosity in Mediaeval times and was recreated in popular imagination impressively, but improbably, bestriding the entrance to the harbour. The Colossus of Rhodes may indirectly have been a model for the nude, bronze colossus of almost identical dimensions which Nero erected in Rome on the Velian Hill (until it was moved by Hadrian), and from which the Flavian Amphitheatre later was to take its better-known name, the ‘Colosseum’. Nero’s colossus was a portrait of himself as Helios, similarly crowned with sunrays radiating from the head.
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.
By air: With a total of 6–7 daily flights from Athens to Rhodes operated by both Olympic Air and Aegean Airways, Rhodes is easily accessible at all times of year. Its airport is also the hub for local flights within the area to Kastellorizo, Karpathos and Kasos (almost daily), and to Kos, Leros and Astypalaia (three times weekly). There are also daily connections direct to Thessaloniki and to Heraklion (Crete). The airport is 15km southwest of the centre of Rhodes town (€15 by taxi).
By boat: The port of Rhodes is also the principal hub for the Dodecanese Islands, with daily connections to all the principal islands, though the frequency of connections to the lesser islands varies considerably according to season (see entries for individual islands). There are year-round, direct connections by car-ferry to Piraeus (c. 16 hours) every day; and connections to eastern Crete twice weekly. In the holiday season, there are also daily connections (by private carriers) to Marmaris in Turkey. Since the port is large and has several harbours, it is important to ascertain from which part of it a ferry will leave.
The neighbouring island of Chalki is served twice weekly from Rhodes town, but there is a daily service from Kameiros Skala (2 hours). The GNTO office in the New Town (corner of Makariou and Papagou Streets, T. 22410 44335) provides helpful sheets with weekly boat departures, museum opening times, a price-list for taxis and schedules of bus times and fares for the whole island. Its web-site is: www.ando.gr/eot
Rhodes Travel Guide
Rhodes offers some of the best and most varied eating possibilities in the Aegean— although in the city itself, the visitor will need to explore outside the Old Town to sample the best Greek food. Within the walls of the Old Town, unimaginative and often overpriced tourist-fare prevails; we would suggest only: the -Marco Polo (see lodging, above); Dinoris Restaurant (upper medium price) in a tiny alley across from the entrance to the Archaeological Museum— an elegant and traditional taverna of long standing, one of the few in the Old Town regularly frequented by locals; Photis Restaurant (expensive; open all year) in Menekléous Street—also an elegant and well-established fish restaurant, where the undoubted high quality and presentation of its dishes compensates for the hauteur of the reception and service. At lunchtime, -Indigo (medium price), inside the Nea Agorá market building (at no.105/6) beside Mandraki harbour, offers delicious, finely prepared dishes from the cuisine of Greek Asia Minor. Further afield (but without question worth the short taxi-ride) in Zephyros, southeast of the city centre, is the -Paragadi fish restaurant (medium expensive; corner of Klaude Pepper & Australias Streets: reservation recommended, T. 22410 37775) with an exceptional quality of service and of seafood and fish dishes, prepared in the best and simplest manner. This is one of the best fish restaurants in the Dodecanese. Nearby, open all year, and usually packed with locals, is To Steki tou Cheila (inexpensive) at the southern end of Kodringtonou St., on the corner of Hadjiangelou and Dendrinou Sts: the symiakó (tiny shrimps) and the wine are both fresh and delicious.
Around the island: Mavrikos in Lindos (expensive; reservations, T. 22440 31232) is a fine and justly famous restaurant with pleasing setting, serving many homemade products. The excellent and panoramic -To Limeri tou Listí ("The robber"s den") in Prophilía (T. 22440 61578) in the central south of the island, certainly merits the long journey and represents one of the best places to eat on the island: it has imaginatively and care fully prepared traditional dishes of the highest standard, e.g. a light and unforgettable imam bayaldı. Nearby, Petrino in the picturesque plateia of Váti, is a good country taverna with fresh and unaffected cuisine.
Rhodes Travel Guide
Cecil Torr, Rhodes in Ancient Times and Rhodes in Modern Times (first published by CUP in 1885, both now re-issued by Archaeopress ‘3rd guides’, Oxford); Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus (Faber & Faber, London, 1953); H.J.A Sire, The Knights of Malta (Yale, London & New Haven, 1994); Vassilis Colonas, Italian Architecture in the Dodecanese Islands, 1912–1943 (Olkos Press, Athens, 2002); Elias Kollias, The Mediaeval City of Rhodes etc.,(Ministry of Culture, Athens, 1998).
Rhodes Travel Guide
Rhodes Travel Guide
851 00-09 Rhodes : area 1,401sq. km; perimeter 220km; resident population 115,334; max. altitude 1,216m. Port Authority: 22410 22220, 28888, 28666. Travel and information: www.travel-Rhodes .com
Rhodes Travel Guide