- Category: ROUTE 8
Rhodes is the furthest south eastern island of Greece. It is a very popular, cosmopolitan island, where both Venetian and Turkish influences are apparent, giving it an authentic aura. Historically, Rhodes was famous worldwide for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Medieval Old Town of the City of Rhodes has also been declared a World Heritage Site. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Modern Rhodes is an urbane city, complete with scores of hotels, shopping complexes, nightclubs and a casino, making it a bustling hot-spot for both tourists and locals alike!
The island still boasts unspoiled villages, which have kept their original colors despite the high level of tourism, nesting in the foothills of the island's rolling mountains. Settlements such as Kameiros, Ialyssos and Lindos, with their fine architecture and rich history, properly assert Rhodes classical past. Another quality of Rhodes is its rich and varied landscape: arid and rocky around the coastline, creating impressive rocky formations, while verdant forests blossom in its interior where the unique dama-dama deer lives. But the biggest asset of Rhodes is its capital (the City of Rhodes). It is a splendid medieval city, the largest inhabited medieval town in Europe, and its fortifications are considered as the finest example of medieval architecture.
The island was inhabited in the Neolithic period, although little remains of this culture. In the 16th century BC, the Minoans came to Rhodes. Later Greek mythology recalled a Rhodian race called the Telchines, and associated the island of Rhodes with Danaus. In 15th century BC, the Mycenaean Greeks invaded. After the Bronze Age collapse, the first outside contacts were with Cyprus. In 8th century BC, the island's settlements started to form, with the coming of the Dorians, who built the three important cities of Lindos, Ialyssos and Kameiros, which together with Kos, Cnidus and Halicarnassus (on the mainland) made up the so-called Dorian Hexapolis (Greek for six cities). Phoenician presence on the island at Ialysos is attested in traditions recorded much later by Rhodian historians.
The Persians invaded and overran the island, but were in turn defeated by forces from Athens in 478 BC. The cities joined the Athenian League. When the Peloponnesian War broke out in 431 BC, Rhodes remained largely neutral, although it remained a member of the League. The war lasted until 404 BC, but by this time Rhodes had withdrawn entirely from the conflict and decided to go her own way. In 408 BC, the cities united to form one territory. They built the city of Rhodes, a new capital on the northern end of the island. The city plan was superintended by the Athenian architect Hippodamos. In 357 BC, the island was conquered by the king Mausolus of Caria, and then it fell to the Persians in 340 BC. Their rule was also short. To the great relief of its citizens, Rhodes became a part of the growing empire of Alexander the Great in 332 BC, after he defeated the Persians.
Following the death of Alexander, his generals vied for control of the kingdom. Three: Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Antigone’s, succeeded in dividing the kingdom among themselves. Rhodes formed strong commercial and cultural ties with the Ptolemy’s in Alexandria, and together formed the Rhodo-Egyptian alliance that controlled trade throughout the Aegean in the 3rd century BC.
The city developed into a maritime, commercial and cultural center; its coins circulated nearly everywhere in the Mediterranean. Its famous schools of philosophy, science, literature and rhetoric shared masters with Alexandria: the Athenian rhetorician Aeschines, who formed a school at Rhodes; Apollonius of Rhodes; the observations and works of the astronomers Hipparchus and Geminus, the rhetorician Dionysius Trax. Its school of sculptors developed a rich, dramatic style that can be characterized as "Hellenistic Baroque".
In 305 BC, Antigonus directed his son, Demetrius, to besiege Rhodes in an attempt to break its alliance with Egypt. Demetrius created huge siege engines, including a 180 ft. (55 m) battering ram and a siege tower named Heliopolis that weighed 360,000 pounds (163,293 kg). Despite this engagement, in 304 BC after only one year, he relented and signed a peace agreement, leaving behind a huge store of military equipment. The Rhodians sold the equipment and used the money to erect a statue of their sun god, Helios, the statue since called the Colossus of Rhodes.
In 164 BC, Rhodes signed a treaty with Rome. It became an educational center for Roman noble families, and was especially noted for its teachers of rhetoric, such as Hermagoras and the unknown author of Rhetorica and Herennium. At first, the state was an important ally of Rome and enjoyed numerous privileges, but these were later lost in various machinations of Roman politics. Cassius eventually invaded the island and sacked the city.
In the 1st century AD, the Emperor Tiberius spent a brief term of exile on Rhodes. Saint Paul brought Christianity to people on the island. Rhodes reached her zenith in the 3rd century. In 395, the long Byzantine Empire-period began for Rhodes, when the eastern half of the Roman Empire became gradually more Greek. Beginning after 600 AD, its influence in maritime issues was manifested in the collection of maritime law known as "Rhodians Sea Law" accepted throughout the Mediterranean and in use up to Byzantine times (and influencing the development of admiralty law up to the present).
Rhodes was occupied by the Muslim forces of Muawiyah I in 672. In circa 1090, it was occupied by the Muslim forces of the Seljuk Turks, not long after the Battle of Manzikert. Rhodes was recaptured by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus during the First Crusade.
In 1309, the Byzantine era came to an end when the island was occupied by forces of the Knights Hospitaller. Under the rule of the newly named "Knights of Rhodes", the city was rebuilt into a model of the European medieval ideal. Many of the city's famous monuments, including the Palace of the Grand Master, were built during this period. The strong walls which the Knights had built withstood the attacks of the Sultan of Egypt in 1444 and of Mehmed II in 1480. Ultimately, however, Rhodes fell to the large army of Suleiman the Magnificent in December 1522, long after the rest of the Byzantine Empire had been lost. The few surviving Knights were permitted to retire to the Island of Malta. The island was thereafter a possession of the Ottoman Empire for nearly four centuries. The island was populated by ethnic groups from the surrounding nations, including Jews. Under Ottoman rule, they generally did fairly well, but discrimination and bigotry occasionally arose. In 1912, Italy seized Rhodes from the Turks during the Italo-Turkish War. Due to the Treaty of Lausanne, the island, together with the rest of the Dodecanese, was officially assigned to Italy. On the 8th of May, 1945, the Germans surrendered Rhodes, as well as the Dodecanese as a whole to the British, who soon after occupied the islands. In 1947, together with the other islands of the Dodecanese, Rhodes was reunited with Greece.