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History of Rhodes island, Greece

The island of Rhodes is found at the crossroad of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. It is also found on the marine routes which connected West with Orient, since the early antiquity. Being such a meeting point, the island attracted various populations and was influenced by several cultures during its long history. Every people who arrived at Rhodes, peacefully or after winning a war, in mass or in small groups, have left their traces on the beautiful island. The result of this diversity has always ended up to this interesting blend that has proved very persistent and still exists today. Rhodes had always been – and still is – a place rich both in natural and in human resources.

Archaeological surveys have shown that the island was inhabited as early as the Neolithic period. The mythological and ancient sources, but also the scientific research, state that the first residents of the island were the Carians, the Phoenicians and the Minoans, who came from Crete. Those latter were settled at the area of Ialyssos during the 15 th century b.C. and led the island to an outstanding cultural and economic flourishing. Following the destiny of Crete, Rhodes surrendered to the Mycenaean power and under the Achaeans continued to be prosperous for more than 350 years. In 1100 b.C. the Dorians, who succeeded the Mycenaeans, founded the three great and famous cities of Lindos, Kameiros and Ialyssos. The evolution of these three cities went along with that of the cities of the coast across (Southwestern Asia Minor), with which they became allies, a fact that pushed forward wealth and prosperity.
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It is the period of the great personalities of the island, as the tyrant of Lindos Cleobulus, one of the Seven Sages of the ancient world and Diagoras, winner of the Olympic Games several times. In 408 b.C., the three cities decide to establish a new capital city of the island; thus the city of Rhodes is founded, a town that still exists and flourishes.

Rhodes has followed the destiny of the rest of Greece and was involved in the disputes and wars with the Persians.

During the period of Macedonians and in the Hellenistic period Rhodes was under the power of Macedonians and afterwards of Ptolemy of Egypt. This period is the peak -period of glory and prosperity for the island. It was so powerful, that it achieved to defeat the famous the Macedonian general Demetrius Poliorkitis (“the besieger”), in 305 b.C. It is in memory of this glorious victory that it was erected the most famous statue of antiquity, the so-called Colossus of Rhodes, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

During the Roman expansion, Rhodes became an ally of the Romans. However, in this period the town and the whole island suffered damages, due to the civil wars of the Roman generals.

Rhodes is one of the first places in Greece where people adopted Christianity; it was Paul who preached Christianity on the island in 57 A.D.
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During the Byzantine times, the island has periods of prosperity and flourishing. Due to its wealth and its geographical position, Rhodes attracts many invaders, who often attack and pillage it. Finally, in 1306, the island, along with the neighboring islands of Kos and Leros are sold to the Knights of the Order of St. John. Under the domination of the Knights Rhodes becomes commercial, economic, military and cultural center of the Eastern Mediterranean. The fruit of this period of glory, wealth and prosperity is the medieval town, this wonderful complex that still exists and gives to the town of Rhodes its unique character and atmosphere. It is in this period of flourishing that are formed the particular features of the collective consciousness and the character of the people of the island, that still survive, up to nowadays.

In 1522, after a siege that lasted six months, the town and the whole island, surrendered to the Ottomans of the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

The island continued to be under the Ottoman domination until 1912, when it passed to the Italians. At the beginning, the population of the island received them as liberators, but soon enough they realized that the Italian domination was only a new domination which did not bring the freedom expected. However, the Italians added a lot to the infrastructures of the island and constructed several interesting buildings, which helped the island to recover soon from the damages it suffered during the World War II, both by the Nazis and by the bombings of the allies. After the end of the war, Rhodes was occupied by the British army, who kept it until March 1948, when it was incorporated to Greece, along with the rest of the Dodecanese.

Ever since, the history of Rhodes goes along with the history of Greece. Today this beautiful island with the fascinating natural environment, the glorious history, the cultural treasures and the friendly people has been developed in a first choice tourist destination. Tourism has contributed a lot to the actual wealth and prosperity of the island.
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Mythology

Rhode

According to Greek Mythology, Rhode was the elder of the Oceanids, one of the daughters of Oceanos (Ocean) and Tythis. Later on, it was thought that she was a daughter of Poseidon (Neptunus) and Alia, or of Poseidon and Amphitritae. She was married to the god Helios (Sun) and gave her name to the island of Rhodes, whose she and her husband were patron gods and where it was situated the center of her cult. It is thought that the name Rhode is owed to the pink hibiscus which was native to island and was similar to a rose, which is also etymologically related to her name (“rodon” in Greek is the rose).

The Telchines, the first inhabitants of the island came to settle here, when Helios created the island of Rhodes and had seven sons and one daughter with Rhode. The girl, called Electryo, died a virgin, whereas the sons reigned in the island and became famous rulers and astronomers.

Rhode was worshipped on the island not only by her own name, but also as Halia and Leucothea.

The birth of the island of Rhodes

The island of Rhodes is related to several myths, some of them stated in the ancient writers and others surviving in the local tradition. Most of them present a version of the creation of the island. One of the most popular myths in antiquity, has been preserved thanks to the poet Pindarus. According to this myth, when Zeus and the rest Olympian gods came best of their fight with the Titans and Giants, decided to divide the world. When everybody had already taken one’s part, they realized that they had forgotten the god Helios (Sun), who was absent during the division. Thus, Zeus, the king of gods decided to offer him the first land that would emerge from the waters. At this very moment the island of Rhodes, green and beautiful, emerged from the blue sea of the Aegean. Helios, impressed by the breathtaking beauty of the island, sent to it light and heat and eversince became the protector god of the island. As the myth states, it is due to this protection and help that Rhodes achieved to become the famous island we know during the Classical and Hellenistic periods.
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Ancient Monuments and Famous historical persons of Rhodes

Diagoras of Rhodes

Diagoras of Rhodes was a famous Olympic champion and the first ancestor of a family of several Olympic champions. He was descendent from a famous aristocratic family of the city of Ialyssos in Rhodes and from Aristomenes, the hero of Messenian war. According to historic sources, Diagoras won in the 79 th Olympiad of 464 b.C., in box; he also won all the rest Pan-Hellenic games of this period and was declared “periodionikes”, that is to say winner of all four Pan-Hellenic games. In 448 b.C., after he had already retired, he was watching the Olympic games, in which his sons Damagetos and Akousilaos won in box and pancratium. According to tradition, his two sons crowned their father with their victory wreaths, held him on their shoulders and altogether walked the victory lap. Then a man of the public shouted to Diagoras: “Now it’s time for you to die, Diagoras! Do not ask to go to the top of Olympus, too!! ”. And, in fact, it was at this very moment, accompanied by the acclamations of the crowd, that Diagoras died, proud and happy. He was considered as the best boxer in antiquity.

Later on, his younger son Dorieus became also an Olympic champion, as they did his two grand children, Eucles and Peisidoros, sons of his daughters Kallipateira and Ferenike. Kallipateira is said to be the only woman who violated the immunity of the Olympic stadium for women; however, she was not condemned for this action, as, when the judges asked her how she dared to enter the stadium, she replied proudly that his father, brother and son were Olympic champions, so she deserved that.

Diagoras was celebrated in one of the odes of the great poet Pindarus.

Cleoboulos of Lindos

According to Plutarch, Cleobulus was a tyrant of Lindos on the island of Rhodes and was considered as one of the Seven Sages of the ancient world. The famous statement “moderation is the best thing” is attributed to him, along with several others equally wise. He was a son of Evagoras and lived during the 7 th and 6 th century b.C. He died in circa 560 b.C. at the age of 70 years. His fellow-citizens wrote the following inscription on his tomb: “ His country, Lindus, this fair sea-girt city/Bewails wise Cleobulus here entombed”. Cleobulus is said to have written more than 3.000 enigmas and a lot of epigrams. He was very proud of his Doric origin and pretended that he was a descendant of Hercules.

According to the ancient sources, Cleobulus studied in Egypt and travelled much. One of the most important works he undertook when a tyrant, was the restoration of the temple of Athena, which, according to tradition had been built by Danaus. Cleobulus had held advanced views, as to female education. His daughter, Cleobulina used to compose enigmas in hexameter verse; several of them are still in use. The majority of the information we have about Cleobulus come from Diogenes Laertius, who has written a biography of him.

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Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was a construction of unique technical and artistic value.

After they had successfully resisted and repulsed the attack of the Macedonian general Demetrius Poliorkitis (“the besieger”), in 305 b.C., the Rhodian people thought that their old god Helios (sun), had crucially contributed to their victory.

So, they decided to construct a unique statue, similar to which no one would have existed so far, and entrusted the construction to Chares, a sculptor from Lindos, student of the famous sculptor Lyssipos. It took more than twelve years to accomplish the work, which finished in circa 292 to 280 b.C. The sculpture was financed from the spoils obtained after the retreat of Demetrius. As ancient writers cite, the value of the spoils was more than 300 talents, a really colossal amount.

According to ancient sources the sculpture was higher than 32 meters and was erected somewhere in the port of the city of Rhodes (Mandraki), possibly at the entrance. The statue had its legs in either side of the mouth of the port and ships were passing under it. Based upon depictions of the statue on coins, modern scholars try to reconstruct a reliable image of it. The statue possibly held a torch or a sword in his hand.

The proud statue would not stand for a long time; in circa 224 b.C., due to a destructive earthquake, the statue snapped at the knees and fell over onto the land. The Rodhians considered the destruction as a divine sign and refuse to erect it anew. The parts of the glorious statue remained on earth for some 800 years. In 1635 Arab invadors, who pillaged the island, sold the pieces to Arab merchants as scrap. According to the legend, the merchant who bought it , an Arab from Edessa of Syria, had needed 900 camels to transport the statue. It is also said that for many years after, pieces of the statue continued to turn up for sale for years, after being found along the caravan route.

The famous statue kept on stimulating fantasy and influencing Art and writings, up to our times. Several authors and poets, Shakespear among them have written about Colossus, and numerous painters have depicted the statue in various works. The most widely known reference is certainly the poem of the American poet, Emma Lazarus, written in 1883 and inscribed on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty in New York City's harbor, which starts by these words:

«… Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land ;…»

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