Saturday, 12 October 2013

Rhodes and a Lost Colossus

Ok yes, I know you've been waiting on tenterhooks. We shall see the site of the Colossus of Rhodes in just a minute.

It's the first of October and we are in Rhodes, having walked along the coast road and through the Gate of St Paul in a quest to find the spot where the giant statue, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World stood.

We are walking along the sea wall on the far side of the Mandraki harbour. We pass a short row of windmills, which you can't help but feel were well placed! This wasn't a gorgeously sunny and calm day! We reach a castle on the corner of the sea wall and there we are - at the site of the Colossus.

We return down the sea wall and walk round the inland end of the harbour and along the landward side, passing this large impressive market... What? You want to see the site of the Colossus? Oh...

Well ok, this is it. The photo from this side is much more impressive than the ones I took from the seaward side. Now the Colossus, as with another five of the Ancient Wonders, has totally disappeared. It was ancient as the title suggests. It predates photographs and everything... No one seems to have drawn the thing either, or at least, no contemporary drawings exist. There are lots of speculative drawings. Some say it stood over the harbour entrance with one foot on either side. If so then the two columns, sporting male and female deer, occupy the spots where the feet stood on top of huge base columns.

Others say this would have been beyond the technical capability of the time and the statue would have collapsed. Actually though, it did... Let's give a brief tale. The Rhodians were suffering one of their many sieges and were overjoyed when the cavalry arrived in the form of Ptolemy's naval ships in 304 BC. He expelled the besiegers and Rhodes melted down their abandoned weapons and built the Colossus in the form of their favourite god, Helios. He faced out to sea and held a torch, much akin to the Statue of Liberty. Ships sailed between his legs and those with tall masts made him anxious...

It stood for not much more than half a century and then Rhodes was hit by a massive earthquake in 226 BC. The statue fell (luckily) onto the land so the harbour could still be used. What to do with the remains was a problem. The statue had broken into pieces. They were so large that even broken and on the ground the Colossus drew sightseers. Pliny the Elder said that the thumb was so large most people could not wrap their arms around it.

It lay on the ground for 800 years. One story says that the Arab force which conquered Rhodes in 653 sold the remains to a Jewish trader who broke it up entirely and carried it off on the backs of 900 camels. We are dealing with very ancient history here. Most of the written sources come from a thousand or more years after the statue fell.

Around this spot a chap barged into me and apologised profusely. When I answered and he recognised a fellow Brit, he started talking to us. He had been working as a guide there for 6 months and was from Wythenshaw, Manchester. He warned us about some African women working along the harbour wall. They were offering to tell fortunes. One chap declined and had his hand grabbed and the woman was dragging him back as he tried to walk away. "They are not nice people..." said our new friend.

We entered the old city by the gate near the ruins of a temple to the goddess Aphrodite and walked along the narrow streets, enjoying the atmosphere and the bustle. "Look Fran, that's a mighty fine bustle over there..." [SMACK]

The shops are many and varied. There are a lot of jewellery shops and I spotted the little music shop where I bought some guitar picks on a previous cruise. It was still there with lutes, ukeleles and tambourines hanging outside.

We considered having lunch and exploring further but then my ultra weather-sensitive sensory system (bald head) felt a spot of rain and we made our way back to the harbour and the Thomson Celebration. By the time we reached it, it was going dark with threatening clouds and was spitting as a prelude to heavier rain.

We had some lunch and made our way up to the Horizons bar where I had a high vantage point view over the city. The sketch pad and pencil came out, though I ignored all the modern building and drew in vegetation where they intruded on the impressive presence of the forts and wall of the Knights Hospitallers.

The rain came and did so in such earnest that it was almost as if a mist came down, there was so much water in the air. People were scurrying from building to building along the harbour trying to get back to the ship. We had considered going out again. We changed our minds!

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