The Colossus of…Braavos?

(Warning: contains spoilers for Game of Thrones fans!)

Back in January I started reading the series A Song of Ice and Fire, better known as the Game of Thrones books. Friends had told me that I would enjoy them (even before the show came out), being the fan of medieval Europe that I am. Five months later, I am on the fourth book in the series A Feast for Crows (and on the second season of the show).

Now, like many others, I’ve noticed some similarities between the series and numerous historical persons and events, particularly the War of the Roses. In fact, there are sites dedicated to expounding on these similarities. One of my favorites is History Behind Game of Thrones. One thing I noticed as I was reading Feast was a description of something that was definitely not medieval. After leaving the Hound for dead, Arya makes her way to Saltpans, a port town on the Narrow Sea and from there to Braavos, one of the Free Cities. What she encounters as she enters the stone city is quite incredible:

…and there above the open water the Titan [of Braavos] towered, with his eyes blazing and his long green hair blowing in the wind.

His legs bestrode the gap, one foot planted on each mountain…his legs were carved of solid stone…though around his hips he wore an armored of greenish bronze. His breastplate was bronze as well, and his head in his crested halfhelm. His blowing hair was made of hempen ropes dyed green, and huge fires burned in the caves that were his eyes. One hand rested atop the ridge to his left, bronze fingers coiled about a knob of stone; the other thrust up into the air, clasping the hilt of a broken sword…” [1]

Compare this description to the figure pictured below:

The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Seems very similar, doesn’t it? This is a sixteenth-century depiction of the Colossus of Rhodes by Martin Heemskerck. The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Colossus was a massive statue which stood (and in some accounts, straddled) the Mandraki Harbor on the Greek island of Rhodes. The statue was erected to celebrate the defeat of Demetrius, son of Antigonus (one of Alexander the Great’s generals who took control of the vast empire) in 305 B.C.

Completed in 280 B.C., the 110-foot Colossus was constructed with iron and bronze in the likeness of Helios, the Greek god of the sun. This massive statue stood on a 50-foot tall stone base and must have been quite a sight to see. Unfortunately, as happened with a few other ancient wonders, an earthquake destroyed the structure in 224 B.C., and the remainder of the ruins were transported to Syria when the Arabs invaded Rhodes in 654 A.D.

It seems that this massive statue inspired Martin to create his own version of the Colossus in the Braavosi harbor. Interestingly, it also appears that Martin created his own list of wonders that would appear to correspond to other wonders of the ancient world: a pyramid, roads, and towers. I enjoy all of the different historical connections Martin makes in his books, especially those that are not just based on medieval European allusions.

[1] George R.R. Martin, A Feast for Crows, Chapter 6, Arya.


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