Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Colossus Of Rhodes (Happy Birthday John Mendelssohn)

Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (I,ii,135–38)

To you, o Sun, the people of Dorian Rhodes set up this bronze statue reaching to Olympus, when they had pacified the waves of war and crowned their city with the spoils taken from the enemy. Not only over the seas but also on land did they kindle the lovely torch of freedom and independence. For to the descendants of Herakles belongs dominion over sea and land.

Dedication inscription for the Colossus of Rhodes (from the Anthologia Graeca 4, 171 H. Beckby, Munich, 1957)


Upper:  Colossus of Rhodes, constructed c. 294–282 bc, wood engraving reconstruction by Sidney Barclay, c. 1875.

Center:  Mandraki Harbor, where the Colossus of Rhodes stood, at sunrise.

Lower:  Colossus of Rhodes, imagined in a 16th-century engraving by Martin Heemskerck, part of his series of the Seven Wonders of the World.


  1. "His legs bestrid the ocean; his rear'd arm
    crested the world."

    -- Cleopatra mourning Antony

    "Their very fund of strength,
    Satan, bestrides the globe.
    He stalks its breadth and length,
    and finds out even Job."

    -- Anthony Hecht, "It Out Herods Herod; Pray You, Avoid It."

    When I was a kid I loved the Italian epic The Colossus of Rhodes, starring Rory Calhoun. On re-watching it recently, alas, I was disappointed. For one thing, my adult eyes could see clearly that Rory was past his prime. And his prime was all Rory had to offer.

    (That movie was the directorial debut of Sergio Leone. It was the last Leone movie I watched from beginning to end, despite giving them all, or most of them, a college try.)

  2. I'd love to have seen the Leone film. I used to really like Rory C., but I am sure you're correct in your assessment. The birthday tributee is a person currently visiting Rhodes to celebrate a major anniversary. I've never been there, but it looks really lovely from the photos. We're planning on traveling to Crete next year. I can't wait. I've never been to Greece or its islands. Beautiful day in the Hudson Valley. Hope it's fine in CT. Did you hear about the arrest of the radioactive fireman in Washington Depot? Curtis