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The Lively Arts: The Mighty and the Fallen
The Lively Arts The Mighty and the Fallen By T. H. Parker These things apparently go in cycles. There we were, holding a lodge of sorrow for our departed brother, the Piltdown Man, when somebody had to go and point the finger at the Colossus of Rhodes. Herbert Maryon, described as a sculptor-archaeologist, is reported in the public prints as having told the British Society of Antiquaries that the Colossus was only "a hollow sham." This buster among statuary really wasn't made of solid bronze, but only thin bronze sheets, Mr. Maryon is quoted as saying. In addition, Mr. Maryon declared that he (not the archaeologist, silly! the Colossus!) was too small to straddle the harbor at Rhodes. This spirit of skepticism among modern scientists is disheartening. In fact, I for one am going to ignore Mr. Maryon's insidious charges altogether. I wouldn't be so mean as to suggest that perhaps Mr. Maryon is jealous because HE couldn't make a statue as big as old Chares the Lindian and his pal Lachos. But I do know this much. I have actually seen pictures of the Colossus straddling the Rhodian harbor. Every year when I was a child, my grandmother used to get an almanac put out. I think, by Carter's Little Liver Pills. It had a pink loop of string in one corner and my grandmother used to hang it under the shelf with the eight-day clock, for ready reference. I often pored over ' it, and among the lore it contained was a list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Not only was the Colossus among them, but he was plainly represented in a drawing, a huge, naked figure of a man with rays around his head to identify him as Helios, the Sun God, his feet on two piers, and a tiny trireme sailing between them. "Give me ocular proof!" Othello demanded. Well, Mr. Maryon, there it is! As for the Colossus being hollow, Mr. Maryon's contention that it was made of thin, bronze plates may be new. But we all knew, of course, that it was not solid bronze. Pliny, in Book XXXIV of his Natural History, has made that plain, with a touch of poetry. "Where the limbs are broken asunder, vast caverns are seen yawning in the interior," he reports. "Within, too, are to be seen large masses of rock by the weight of which the artist steadied it while erecting Pliny's account of the man's man among Rhodians tells the familiar story, how when King Demetrius at last abandoned the siege of Rhodes, 300 talents were raised on the engines of war he left behind. This money was used to build the Colossus. Char.es got the contract, but made some slip in calculations which so chagrined him that he committed ' suicide and the statue was finished by a countryman, Lachos. The completed product was about. 105 feet high, and took 12 years to make. But the mighty are soon fallen, and the earthquake of. 224 B.C. toppled the Colossus. For 900 years it remained on the ground, so fantastically large that "Few men can clasp the -thumb in their arms," Pliny said. Then, in 653 A.D., after the capture of Rhodes, the Saracens sold it for junk. It took 900 camels' to carry Colossus away. . Though this statue of the Sun is "that which is by far the most worthy of our admiration," it was far from being the only super-duper of its day. There were reportedly a hundred other colossi in Rhodes alone. On the general subject of statues, Pliny notes that "As to boldness of design,, the examples are innumerable; for we see designed, statues of enormous bulk, known as colossal statues and equal to towers in size." He lists a number in Rome itself, and throughout Italy. There was at Tarentum, he reports, a statue 40 cubits high (nearly 88 feet) that was so nicely balanced that it could be moved by hand, but which still was never thrown down by a tempest. Though there is not much evidence that the ancients were enamoured of painting, they had an incredible passion for statuary. In addition to the 100 colossi, there were reputedly 3,000 other statues in Rhodes, for example. The Romans were reproached for pillaging the city of Volsinii.for the sake of the 2,000 statues it contained. It is said that in the aedileship of M. Scaurus there were 3,000 statues erected on the stage of what was only a temporary theater, in use hardly more than a month. "I am of the opinion that there is no. one to whom more statues were erected than to Demetrius Phaelereus at Athens; for there were 360 erected in his honor," says Pliny, who also recounts that the first statue in Rome was erected to the goddess Ceres. It was all right for goddesses to be honored with statues, of course, but both Cato and Pliny himself took a dim view of sculptures of Roman females, even Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, or Claelia whose statue was equestrian, "as if it had not been thought sufficient for her to be clad in a toga." The toppling of the Colossus of Rhodes, real in the earthquake, academic in Mr. Maryon's discoveries, has its moral implications. Let Pliny make them: "To man alone, of all animated things has it been given to grieve, to him alone to be guilty of luxury and excess and that in. modes innumerable. Man is the only thing that is prey to ambition, to avarice, to an immoderate desire of life, to superstition. He is the only one that troubles himself about his burial, and even what is to become of him after death. "None among animals is "actuated by rage more -frantic and violent. vOther animals, in fine, live in peace with their own kind. We only see them unite to make a stand against those of a different kind. But with man by Hercules ! moist of his misfortunes are occasioned by man." "- ' 1 And the bigger they are, the harder Ihey fall, these statues; these 'men'!