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COLOSSUS (κολοσσός). For the origin of this word, cf. Curtius, Greek Etym. 1.176. It rarely occurs in the Attic writers. (Blomf. Gloss. ad Aesch. Ag. 406.) It is used both by the Greeks and Romans to signify a statue larger than life (Hesych. sub voce Aesch. Ag. 406; Schol. ad Juv. Sat. 8.230), and thence a person of extraordinary stature and beauty is termed colosseros (Suet. Calig. 35); and the [p. 1.488]architectural ornaments in the upper members of lofty buildings, which require to be of large dimensions in consequence of their remoteness, are termed colossicotera (κολοσσικώτερα, Vitr. 3.3; compare Id. 10.4). Statues of this kind, simply colossal, but not enormously large, were too common amongst the Greeks to excite observation merely from their size, and are, therefore, rarely referred to as such; the word being more frequently applied to designate those figures of gigantic dimensions (moles statuarum, turribus pares, Plin. Nat. 34.39) which were first executed in Egypt, and afterwards in Greece and Italy.

Among the colossal statues of Greece the most celebrated, according to Pliny, was the bronze colossus at Rhodes by Chares of Lindus, a pupil of Lysippus. (See Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biog., art. Chares.) In this one island there were more than 100 colossi. Pliny mentions another Greek colossus of Apollo, the work of Calamis (Strabo vii. p.519), which cost 500 talents, and was thirty cubits high, in the city of Apollonia, whence it was transferred to the Capitol by M. Lucullus; and also those of Jupiter and Hercules, at Tarentum, by Lysippus. (Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biog., art. Lysippus.) To the list of Pliny must be added the more important colossal statues of Pheidias, the most beautiful of which were his chryselephantine statues of Zeus, at Olympia (more than 40 feet high, seated), and of Athena, in the Parthenon at Athens; the largest (more than 70 feet high, including the base) was his bronze statue commonly called Athena Promachus, on the Acropolis.

Amongst the works of this description made expressly by or for the Romans, those most frequently alluded to are the following:--1. A statue of Jupiter upon the Capitol, made by order of Sp. Carvilius, from the armour of the Samnites, which was so large that it could be seen from the Alban mount (Plin. l.c.). 2. A bronze statue of Apollo at the Palatine library (Plin. l.c.), to which the bronze head now preserved in the Capitol probably belonged. 3. A bronze statue of Augustus, in the Forum, which bore his name. (Mart. 8.44, 7.) 4. The colossus of Nero, which was executed by Zenodorus, and which is quoted by Pliny as a proof that the taste for bronze statues was lost, for this was adorned with gold and silver. Its height was 110 or 120 feet. (Plin. l.c.; Suet. Nero 31.) It was originally placed in the vestibule of the Domus Aurea (Mart. Spect. 2.1, Ep. 1.71, 7; D. C. 66.15), but was afterwards removed by Vespasian to the Via Sacra, and Hadrian again moved it to a position to the north of the Coliseum, where the basement upon which it stood is still to be seen; from it the contiguous amphitheatre is supposed to have gained the name of “Colosseum.” Vespasian had converted it into a statue of the sun. (Hieronym. in Gab. 100.3; Suet. Vesp. 18; Plin. l.c.: compare Lamprid. Commod. 17; D. C. 72.15.) Twenty-four elephants were employed by Hadrian to remove it, when he was about to build the temple of Venus at Rome. (Spart. Hadr. 19.) 5. An equestrian statue of Domitian, of bronze gilt, which was placed in the centre of the Forum. (Sat. Silv. 1.1, 1; Mart. 1.70, 6.)

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hide References (8 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (8):
    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 406
    • Suetonius, Nero, 31
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 3.3
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 34.39
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 1.6
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 1.70
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 8.44
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 8.7
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