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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 32

Colossus of Rhodes

The chief seat of the worship of Helios was the island of Rhodes, which according to the following myth was his especial territory. At the time of the Titanomachia, when the gods were dividing the world by lot, Helios happened to be absent, and consequently received no share. He, therefore, complained to Zeus, who proposed to have a new allotment, but this Helios would not allow, saying, that as he pursued his daily journey, his penetrating eye had beheld a lovely, fertile island lying beneath the waves of the ocean, and that if the immortals would swear to give him the undisturbed possession of this spot, he would be content to accept it as his share of the universe. The gods took the oath, whereupon the island of Rhodes immediately raised itself above the surface of the waters.

The famous Colossus of Rhodes, which was one of the seven wonders of the world, was erected in honour of Helios. This wonderful statue was 105 feet high, and was formed entirely of brass; it formed the entrance to the harbour at Rhodes, and the largest vessel could easily sail between the legs, which stood on moles, each side of the harbour. Though so gigantic, it was perfectly proportioned in every part. Some idea of [67]its size may be gained from the fact that very few people were able to span the thumb of this statue with their arms. In the interior of the Colossus was a winding staircase leading to the top, from the summit of which, by means of a telescope, the coast of Syria, and also the shores of Egypt, are said to have been visible.[28]

EOS (Aurora).

Eos, the Dawn, like her brother Helios, whose advent she always announced, was also deified by the early Greeks. She too had her own chariot, which she drove across the vast horizon both morning and night, before and after the sun-god. Hence she is not merely the personification of the rosy morn, but also of twilight, for which reason her palace is placed in the west, on the island Ææa. The abode of Eos is a magnificent structure, surrounded by flowery meads and velvety lawns, where nymphs and other immortal beings, wind in and out in the mazy figures of the dance, whilst the music of a sweetly-tuned melody accompanies their graceful, gliding movements.

Eos is described by the poets as a beautiful maiden with rosy arms and fingers, and large wings, whose plumage is of an ever-changing hue; she bears a star on her forehead, and a torch in her hand. Wrapping round her the rich folds of her violet-tinged mantle, she leaves her couch before the break of day, and herself yokes her two horses, Lampetus and Phaethon, to her glorious chariot. She then hastens with active cheerfulness to open the gates of heaven, in order to herald the approach of her brother, the god of day, whilst the tender plants and flowers, revived by the morning dew, lift their heads to welcome her as she passes.


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