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The Story of the Greeks by  H. A. Guerber


 

 

THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES

[262] WHEN Perdiccas died, Antigonus ("the one-eyed") was named his successor, and became governor of all the Eastern province. He no sooner heard that Cassander had murdered Alexander's family, than he marched westward, intending to avenge the crime.

On his way, Antigonus passed through Syria, the land governed by Seleucus, and asked that ruler how he had spent the money of the kingdom. Seleucus, who had a bad conscience, instead of answering, ran away to Egypt, where he became a friend of Ptolemy.

Then, fearing that they would not be able to fight against Antigonus successfully, these two generals persuaded Cassander, ruler of Macedon, and Lysimachus, ruler of Thrace, to join them.

For several years the war was kept up between the four allies on one side, and Antigonus and his son Demetrius on the other. The field of battle was principally in Asia Minor. The fighting continued until the generals became weary of warfare, and concluded to make peace.

A treaty was then signed, settling the claims of all parties, and providing that all the Greek cities should have their freedom. This done, each went back to his own province; but it soon became evident that the peace would not last, for Cassander did not keep his promise to make the Greek states free.

When Cassander's wrongdoing became known, the generals called upon Demetrius to bring him to terms. The [263] Athenians were so pleased when they heard of this, that they received Demetrius with great joy.

Demetrius was such a good general that he soon managed to defeat Cassander at Thermopylæ; and when he came back to Athens in triumph, the happy people gave him the title of "The Preserver," called a month by his name, lodged him in the Parthenon, and worshiped him as a god. Some time after this, Demetrius conquered Ptolemy, who had shown that he would not abide by the treaty either. This victory was so great, that Demetrius' soldiers said he deserved a reward, and named him King of Syria.

When the other generals heard that Demetrius and his father had accepted the title of kings, they too put on royal crowns. Then, as each was still jealous of the rest, and wished to obtain more land for himself, war soon broke out among them once more.

Demetrius, who had been very lucky in all his wars, now planned to take the Island of Rhodes from Ptolemy, King of Egypt. It proved, however, a far more difficult thing than he had expected, and after besieging the principal city for a whole year, he gave up the attempt.

But he had invented so many machines to try to subdue the city of Rhodes, that every one thought he deserved much credit, and they therefore gave him the title of Poliorcetes ("the city taker").


[Illustration]

Demetrius Poliorcetes.
(Coin.)

Peace was agreed upon, and Demetrius retreated, giving up to the Rhodians all the mighty war engines he had brought with him. These were sold for three hundred talents (something over three hundred thousand [264] dollars), and the money thus obtained was used in erecting a colossal statue in honor of Apollo (or Helios), the patron god of the island.

This marvelous brazen statue, which was so fine that it was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, represented the sun god, with his head surrounded by rays, and with his feet resting one on each side of the entrance of the port.

We are told that the Colossus of Rhodes, as this statue was generally called, was so tall that ships under full sail easily passed under its spreading legs in and out of the harbor.

It stood there for about sixty years, when it was overthrown by an earthquake. After lying in ruins for a long time, the brass was sold as old metal. It was carried off on the backs of camels, and we are told that nine hundred of these animals were required for the work.

Thus vanished one of the much talked of wonders of the ancient world. The others were Diana's Temple at Ephesus, the Tomb of Mausolus (which was so fine that any handsome tomb is sometimes called a mausoleum), the Pharos or Lighthouse of Alexandria or Messina, the Walls and Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Labyrinth of Crete, and the Pyramids of Egypt. To these is often added the Parthenon at Athens, which, as you have seen, was decorated by the carvings of Phidias.


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