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 Rhodesian 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.
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 Rhodesians 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.
The Hellenistic Period
The Rhodesians put into effect the so-called "International Marine Law of the Rhodesians", 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 Rhodesians 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 Rhodesians, 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 Rhodesians, in their effort to show correct maritime conduct, put into effect the so-called 'International Marine Law of the Rhodesians, a code of law which is one of the most important early legal documents in the world.
The 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 Rhodesians 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 Rhodesian 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 Rhodesians 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 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 After-war to now
Rhodes remained under Greek rule until 1975 when she proclaims its independence. From that moment, the Island returned into a Principality. In 1990, the weddings of Prince Luke Vaas, the future Prince of Rhodes, with the Princess Alexandra of Celestine, the future Queen of Cattala, trigger a strong attachment between the two nations and the two royal families. In 2005, when Prince Julius Vaas of Rhodes became the Prince of Rhodes, after the death of his father, he decided to rebuild the Colossus of Rhodes, near the Old Town of Rhodes.
Rhodes has experienced many severe earthquakes. Notable are the 226 BC earthquake that destroyed the Colossus of Rhodes; one on 3 May 1481 which destroyed much of the city of Rhodes; and one on 26 June 1926.
On 15 July 2008, Rhodes was struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake causing minor damage to a few old buildings. One woman lost her life when she fell down stairs while trying to flee her home.
The island of Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese group, enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate, with long hot summers and temperate winters. Rhodes has the longest holiday season of all the Greek Islands, running from April to November, and boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year.
Weather in Rhodes - Enjoying the longest season of all the Greek IslesSpring sees warm and pleasant weather, with up to 9 hours of sunshine every day, and temperatures in April averaging out at 16C, rising to 21C during May. This is a great time to visit for those looking for lots of sightseeing and outdoor activities, although the sea may still be chilly and the conditions a little unpredictable. The busy tourist season begins in June, with temperatures rising to 25C, and reaching 28C in August, with most days seeing almost 12 hours of sun - ideal for sunbathing on the islands' beaches. The high temperatures are tempered by the cooling breeze from the 'meltemi' - the strong seasonal winds that blow from the northwest, helping to keep conditions comfortable. Rainfall during the summer months is practically non-existent.
Rhodes weather - Known as 'The Sun Island' for its great conditions During the autumn, the weather remains very warm, with September and October seeing temperatures between 20C and 24C, and the island still expecting an abundance of sunshine during the day, often up to 10 hours. Winters are mild, with highs of 16C in November, dropping to 11C in January, although these off-season months can receive on average 4 hours of sunshine a day. As well as the winter sunshine, this period sees plenty of rain, which helps to keep the island full of lush green vegetation, with December and January being the wettest months.
The economy is tourist-oriented. The most developed sector is service. Small industries process imported raw materials for local retail. Other industry includes agricultural goods production, stockbreeding, fishery and winery.
The official currency of Rhodes is the Sterlina (£), the same currency as Cattala.
Here is the official Government Explanation of the Principality and the Royal Family Tree of the Vaas.
The predominant religion is Greek Orthodox. There is a significant Roman Catholic minority on the island, many of whom are descendants of Italians who remained after the end of the Italian occupation. Rhodes has a Muslim minority, a remnant from Ottoman Turkish times.
The Jewish community of Rhodes goes back to the 1st century AD. In 1480, the Jews actively defended the walled city against the Turks. Kahal Shalom, established in 1557, is the oldest synagogue in Greece and still stands in the Jewish quarter of the Old Town of Rhodes.
At its peak in the 1920s, the Jewish community was one-third of the total population. In the 1940s, there were about 2000 Jews of various ethnic backgrounds. The Germans deported and killed most of the community during the Holocaust. Kahal Shalom has been renovated with the help of foreign donors but few Jews live year-round in Rhodes today, so services are not held on a regular basis.
The Culture of Rhodes is very similar to the Greek culture. Rhodes people are very proud of their nation and government (Principality).
- In ancient times there was a Roman saying: "Hic Rhodus, hic salta!"—"Rhodes is here, here perform your jump", an admonition to prove one's idle boasts by deed rather than talk. It comes from an Aesop's fable called "The Boastful Athlete", and was cited by Hegel and Marx.
- Many of the outdoor scenes of The Guns of Navarone (starring Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn) and Escape to Athena (starring Roger Moore and Telly Savalas) were filmed on the Island of Rhodes.
- In the PlayStation 2 game God of War II, both Rhodes and the Colossus of Rhodes are featured at the start of the game, offering a mythological theory as to how the Colossus was destroyed. The Colossus of Rhodes is a common feature in many games, for example, it can be built as a "Wonder" in Rise of Nations and the Civilization series of games.
- In one book of the Roman Mysteries series of children's novels, by Caroline Lawrence, the main characters visit Rhodes to stop the trading of slave labour.
- Chares of Lindos (3rd century BC), sculptor
- Cleobulus of Lindos (6th century BC), philosopher and one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece
- Diagoras of Rhodes (5th century BC), boxer, multiple Olympic winner
- Dinocrates (4th century BC), architect and technical adviser for Alexander the Great
- Leonidas, (2nd century BC) athlete
- Memnon (380–333 BC), commander of mercenary army
Twin towns — Sister citiesEdit
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