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Πέμπτη, 10 Ιανουαρίου 2013

Rhodes Facts in brief and hisotry of Rhodes island

Rhodes (or Rodos) is an island in the Aegean Sea, the largest of the Dodecanese Island complex. It is located at the southeastern edge of the archipelagos of the Dodecanese, facing the shores of Asia Minor, which are about 9-10 kilometers away. The population of the island exceeds 110.000 and it covers an area of 1398 square kilometers. It is one of the largest and most beautiful Greek islands. Its landscape mainly comprises of hills and low mountains, which in their majority are covered with forests. It's climate is subtropical and healthy. Refreshing westerly winds moderate the summer heat, while the winter is nearly always mild, with long periods of sunshine. 

Rhodes Greece - Facts in brief:
Country: Greece
Surface Area: 1398 sq km
Coastline: 220Km
Population: ~110,000
Capital city: Rhodes or Rodos (pop. ~60,000)
Primary language: Greek
Currency: Euro

Ancient history
Rhodes has been inhabited since the Stone Age. In prehistoric time the island was inhabited by Cretans, who where the first settlers on the island, the Phoenicians and Dorians who must have installed themselves on the island prior to the Trojan War. (1184 BC). After the Trojan war the rapid progress and development of the ancient civilization of Rhodes commences, examples of which can be seen nowadays in the antiquities of the three largest and most powerful cities of the island, Lindos, Ialyssos and Kamiros. At the end of 5th century BC these cities united into a single political force and founded Rhodes, which achieved its acme in the 3rd century BC. During that period, famous artists, philosophers and writers lived here. From 2000 BC it became an ally of Rome and was obliged to have the same friends and enemies as the Romans, but from the 1st century BC it began, slowly but surely, to go into decline. It was Diocletian who dealt its final blow into independence in 297 AD when he joined the Provincia insularum of the Roman Empire.

Byzantine and modern history
After the division of the Roman State, at the beginning of the 4th century AD (314 AD), Rhodes came to the Eastern Empire. In 515 AD the city of Rhodes was destroyed by an earthquake and was rebuilt by the emperor Anastasios. During the Persian Wars against emperor Herakleios it was captured by the Persians (620 AD), in 653 Arab invaders sacked the town and destroyed its monuments. The incursions of the Saracens followed until 718 AD when the Byzantine navy burned the piratical Saracen fleet with "Liquid Fire".

In the 9th century it suffered greatly in the hands of Seljuks of Haroun al Raschid who plundered the island barbarously (807 AD). In the 11th century there was something like a renaissance of its previous commercial activity and Rhodes forged trading relations with the west and, more specifically, with the Crusaders, which Rhodes furnished with ships and mercenaries.
When the Crusaders took over Constantinople in 1204, the leader Leon Gavalas, who originated from Constantinople, declared himself hereditary despot of Rhodes and ruled it until 1246 when the island was captured by the Benoese who where in power until 1261. Then the Byzantine emperors took back Constantinople from the crusaders. Thenceforth Rhodes belonged, officially, to the Byzantine State but was, in reality, in the hands of the Benoese admirals who in 1309 AD sold the island to the Knights of the Ioannites.

The Knights left imposing evidence of their presence in Rhodes, and gave to island the particular character it retains to this day, with its impregnable walls, gates, churches, hospitals, Inns and palaces. Their stay in Rhodes lasted 213 years, until 1522, when, on December 29, the last of the Grand Masters, Villiers de l`Isle Adam, was compelled to surrender the island to Suleiman the Magnificent. Needless to say, it took a siege of six months in the face of strong resistance from the knights, with the aid of the local inhabitants, before the city could be forced to give itself up. After the fall of Rhodes, Charles V. and the Pope were instrumental in finding the knights a new home in Malta. After that time they where known as the Knights of Malta.
The Turks remained on the island until 1912, when it was taken over by the Italians. After the end of the Second World War (1945) Rhodes, together with the other islands of the Dodecanese, was incorporated within Greece.


Excavations conducted in Rhodes have brought to light a good number of important monuments from the three most cignificant cities of the island: Lindos, Kamiros and Ialysos. Their ruins, especially those of Lindos, are worth a visit by all who come to the island, for they surely will admire the civilisation of ancient Greece.
In antiquity painting and sculpture were highly developed on Rhodes. The most important sculpted work of the "Rhodian School" was the famous Colossus, a bronze statue of the god Helios who was the principal deity worshipped in Rhodes.
On Rhodes one also comes across notable monuments of the early Christian period, Byzantine churches etc.

Rhodes Greece (Rhodos) history

The ancient myths
Pindar and other ancient writers are very detailed in the description of Rhodes in their manuscripts. The origins of Rhodes are connected to a divine myth about Zeus (leader of the ancient Greek gods) and Helios (god of the Sun).

According to this myth, after Zeus's victory against the Giants, he decided to divide the earth among the Olympian gods; The only god who received nothing was Helios.

He, according the myth, was absent and "No one remembered to include him in the draw"! When he came back he demanded his share, but Zeus told him that he was not able to make the cast again because the rest of the gods would not agree. Helios was disappointed but asked Zeus and the other gods to promise that the land that was to rise out of the sea could be his.

As he spoke, a beautiful island slowly emerged from the bottom of the blue sea, Rhodes. Helios bathed Rhodes with his own radiance and made it the most beautiful island in the Aegean Sea.

Rhodes was known in ancient times by several other names, such as Ophiousa (because a lot of snakes lived there), Asteria (for its clear blue and starry sky), Makaria (for its arresting beauty) and Atavyria (after its highest mountain, Atavyros).


Another name for Rhodes was Telchina, because its first inhabitants where said to be the Telchines , gifted metal workers who lived on the island in the Prehistoric Age.

The first known 'human' inhabitants were the Carians, a tribe, which came from Asia Minor . The Phoenicians, great merchants who made Rhodes an important commercial centre, followed them. Their leader Cadmus, who introduced the first alphabet, founded the first Phoenician colony on Rhodes Island.

In the recorded history of the Eastern Mediterranean, Minoans from Crete settled on Rhodes.

Those Minoans lived peacefully on the island for many centuries, until another tribe arrived against them. The newcomers were Greek Achaeans from the Greek mainland.

Around 1400 BC, the Achaeans founded a powerful state that very soon extended its influence. Centuries later, the bellicose Dorians came to Rhodes and developed Lindos, Ialysos and Kamiros. Those three cities finally grew immensely in power and wealth.

Located in such a strategic position, Rhodes quickly gained fame and wealth. Fast Rhodian ships sailed everywhere in the Mediterranean, bringing riches and glory back to motherland. Between 1000 and 600 BC, Kamiros, Ialysos, and Lindos, colonised many areas along the west coast of Asia Minor, Sicily, France and Spain.

Classical Period

Initially, those three cities maintained their administrative independence, but later united with three other Doric cities, Kos, Knidos and Halicarnassus, to form a federation of six cities, the so-called Doric Hexapolis.

In the 5th century BC, Rhodes suffered many changes as a result of warfare. For a short period it came under the influence of the Persians. When the Greeks defeated the Persians, Rhodes became a member of the Delian League under the leadership of Athens.

During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), the Rhodians decided to found a new city by uniting the three largest cities on the island. They were very aware of the meaning of the motto "power in unity". The new city was called Rhodes, after the island itself. Its foundation in 408 BC constitutes a landmark in the history of the island.

Hellenistic Period

The Rhodians put into effect the so-called "International Marine Law of the Rhodians", a code of law which is one of the most important early legal documents in the world.

The new city came under the influence of the two great Greek powers of that time, Athens and Sparta, until Macedonian intentions in that era became clear to all people of the ancient Greek world. The Rhodians lost no time in siding with the Macedonians. Later, during the siege of Tyre, they helped Alexander the Great to conquer it.

When Alexander's empire fell to pieces, Rhodes developed close trade and political relations with the Ptolemeus Dynasty of Egypt. This was a 'casus belli' for Antigonus, the King of Syria, who in the summer of 305 BC sent his son, the famous Demetrius Poliorkitis (the 'Besieger') to capture the town of Rhodes.

The Rhodians, protected by their mighty walls, managed to resist capture for a whole year and forced Demetrius to raise his siege.

Demetrius's failure to conquer the island marked the beginning of a new era for Rhodes, during which trade and marine activities reached their peak.

The Rhodians, in their effort to show correct maritime conduct, put into effect the so-called 'International Marine Law of the Rhodians', a code of law which is one of the most important early legal documents in the world.
Roman Years

The intervention of Rome in the affairs of Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean became noticeable from the end of the 3rd Century BC. The Rhodians maintained a friendly stance towards the Romans. However, the Romans wanted to restrict the power of the island. They found a pretext to declare Delos a free port. This strangled Rhodian commerce, and Rhodes was compelled to sign a treaty obliging it to have the same friends and enemies as Rome.

This agreement proved disastrous for Rhodes. Nevertheless, after the assassination of Julius Caesar, the Rhodians refused to aid Cassius against his enemies. He attacked and conquered the Town in 42 BC, destroying a large part of the island and taking away more than 3,000 works of art.
The Middle Ages

Rhodes was often overrun and destroyed by enemies such as the Persians, Saracens and Seljuks.

Rhodes, strategically positioned near the Holy Land, accepted the new ideas of Christianity with ease. According to tradition, St Paul himself preached the new religion at Lindos in 58 AD and converted many of the inhabitants.

As early as the 1st Century, Rhodes had a bishop, Prochoros. When the Roman Empire split in two, Rhodes was often overrun and destroyed by enemies such as the Persians, Saracens and Seljuks.

Rhodes did not have any direct communication with Western Europe until the 11th Century. In 1082, the Venetians where given the right to set up a trading station in the port. A century later, Richard the Lionheart and King Phillip of France arrived with a fleet to enlist mercenaries for their crusade.

The crusaders conquered Constantinople in 1204, and a rich landowner, Leo Gavallas, from the former capital of the Empire, declared himself Despot of Rhodes.

The Byzantine emperors captured their capital back from the Crusaders in 1261, and Rhodes theoretically returned to their control. In fact, the island was under the Genoese admirals whose fleet remained in its harbour. In 1306, one of those admirals, Vignolo Vignoli, sold Rhodes, Kos and Leros to the Knights of St John in Jerusalem, who by force had gained full control of the island by 1309.

The Knights

The Knights left imposing evidence of their presence on Rhodes, and gave the island the particular character it retains to this day.

When the Knights ruled Rhodes, the island became the most powerful in Eastern Mediterranean. They left imposing evidence of their presence on Rhodes, and gave the city the particular character it retains to this day, with its impregnable walls, gates, churches, hospitals, Inns and palaces.

During occupation by the Knights, Rhodes surfaced from the obscurity into which it had sunk after the 7th Century, and acquired considerable strategic and economic importance. It was transformed into a bastion of the West, and an important port of call in trade between Europe and the East.

Caviar, textiles of wool and silk, oil, wine, sugar and perfumes, saffron, wax, pepper - Rhodes was the paradise for merchants! Wheat was brought to Rhodes from Cyprus, Asia Minor and, later, Sicily; wine was brought from Crete and Italy. Disputes among merchants were settled in the Mercantile Court of Rhodes, and three galleys protected the sea-lanes on which the island lay.

While the Knights ruled Rhodes, large Florentine commercial and banking houses established branches on Rhodes Island. This was a proof of the island's power. The Knights remained in Rhodes for 213 years until 1522, when, on December 29th, the last of the Grand Masters, Villiers de l'Isle Adam, surrendered the island to Suleiman the Magnificent.

Turkish and Italian occupation

The Turkish occupation of Rhodes was the darkest period in its history, as it was for the whole of Greece. The island was under the control of Kapudan Pasha (a full Admiral). The city itself was capital of the Vilayet (Province) of the Aegean and was the seat of the General Administrator.

The Greek inhabitants of the city were forced to leave the walled Town and settle outside it, forming new suburbs which they called 'marasia'. The Turks never managed to attain complete dominance over the island, and the Turkish part of population was always a small minority. During those dark days of foreign occupation, many towns - and especially Lindos - were able to flourish thanks to their stock and production in foodstuffs, clothing, silverware, household utensils and perfumes.

Turkish occupation of the Dodecanese lasted until 1912. In that year, the Italians, with the help of the local Greek, occupied the island. At first they treated the local residents well, and hopes of a speedy union with Greece flourished. However, the raise of Fascism led to more expansionist policies, and Italy denied Rhodes the right to self-determination. This was the signal for the beginning of armed resistance.

After the defeat of the Axis powers, Rhodes and the other Dodecanese islands came under British military administration until March 7th 1948, when the Greek flag was finally raised over the Governor's Palace.

The Colossus of Rhodes, a wonder of the ancient world

The colossus of Rhodes, as it was - incorrectly - imagined standing at the entrance or Mandraki harbour.

The Colossus of Rhodes is familiar to almost everyone. Its history begins with the siege of Demetrios Poliorketes, successor of Alexander the Great, in 305 BC. When Demetrios was defeated, he abandoned all his siege machinery on Rhodes. The Rhodians decided to express their pride by building a triumphal statue of their favourite god, Helios. The task was assigned to the sculptor Chares of Lindos, a pupil of Lysippos himself, and twelve years (from 304 to 292 BC) were needed to complete it.

From its building to its destruction lies a time span of merely 56 years. Yet the Colossus earned a place in the famous list of Wonders. "But even lying on the ground, it is a marvel", said Pliny the Elder. The Colossus of Rhodes was not only a gigantic statue. It was a symbol of unity of the people who inhabited that beautiful Mediterranean island of Rhodes.

To build the statue, the workers cast the outer bronze skin parts. The base was made of white marble, and the feet and ankle of the statue were first fixed. The structure was gradually erected as the bronze form was fortified with an iron and stone framework. To reach the higher parts, an earth ramp was built around the statue and was later removed. When the Colossus was finished, it stood about 33 metres (110 ft) high. And when it fell, "few people can make their arms meet round the thumb", wrote Pliny.

A strong earthquake hit Rhodes at around 226 BC. The city was badly damaged, and the Colossus was broken at its weakest point - the knee. The Rhodians received an immediate offer from Ptolemy III Eurgetes of Egypt to cover all restoration costs for the toppled monument. However, an oracle was consulted and forbade the re-erection. Ptolemy's offer was declined.

For almost a millennium, the statue lay broken in ruins. In AD 654, the Arabs invaded Rhodes. They disassembled the remains of the broken Colossus and sold them to a Jew from Syria. It is said that the fragments had to be transported to Syria on the backs of 900 camels.

Let us clear a misconception about the appearance of the Colossus. It has long been believed that the Colossus stood in front of the Mandraki harbour, one of many in the city of Rhodes, straddling its entrance. Given the height of the statue and the width of the harbour mouth, this picture is rather impossible than improbable. Moreover, the fallen Colossus would have blocked the harbour entrance. Recent studies suggest that it was erected either on the eastern promontory of the Mandraki harbour, or even further inland. In any case, it never straddled the harbour entrance.

Although we do not know the true shape and appearance of the Colossus, modern reconstructions with the statue standing upright are more accurate than older drawings. Although it disappeared from existence, the ancient World Wonder inspired modern artists such as French sculptor, Auguste Bartholdi, best known by his famous work, the 'Statue of Liberty' in New York. Today, the Colossus is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a masterpiece of art and engineering.

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