1. Natural world – environment
Rhodes, with an area of approx. 1400 kms², belongs to the medium sized islands Greece. It is located at the S.E. edge of the Aegean and lays 11 kms. off the Asia Minor coast. Its geographical position made it a crossroads between the Aegean area and the East, influencing its economic, political and cultural evolution. Its long and almost triangular shape influenced its division during early historical times into three independent or autonomous city-states, a factor which also defined the functioning of the later unified state of ancient Rhodes.
The island is mainly mountainous or semi-mountainous – tallest peak, at 1215 metres, is Atavyrios (Atavyros), half-way down the island’s west side – but there are also fertile valleys and planes on both its western and eastern sides. A significant part of the island is, even today, covered by forests, while the earth’s fertility and relative sufficiency of water favoured the development of agriculture, its main produces being grapes, wine, oil and figs.
Its coastline is diverse: soft beaches on the eastern shore and rocky projections and headlands. The island has a moderate climate and rich flora owed to high levels of sunlight and moisture. Rhodes’ fauna is also diverse. The Platoni (Dama dama), a small dear, is the largest mammal to live freely on the island and is the contemporary representative of the dears of the Pleistocene period. Its presence is considered very old, as testified by findings from the Neolithic settlement Kalythies; poaching and forest fires however have caused an important decrease in numbers over recent years, making it one of the most endangered vertebrates in Greece. Certain beaches on Rhodes are important egg-laying sites for the Caretta Caretta turtle. Also of interest is the migration of the Callimorpha quadripunctaria butterfly which is witnessed on Rhodes. To the west of the island, in a small valley near the village Petaloudes, a large number of butterflies gather to avoid the heat and dryness which threatens them. After mating in September, they depart for the island’s interior, near the village Elefsa, where they lay their eggs.
The pine forested Akramytis, the Armenistis peninsular, Atavyros, the marine zone (Karavola – Ormos Glyfada), Prophetis Helias, Epta Piges, and the Butterflies have all been included in the Natura 2000 European Environmental Network.
Regarding the inhabitants’ activities, during periods of boom commerce and shipping were dominant, while in more recent times (after the 1960s and 1970s), tourism forms the main source of wealth and prosperity.
2. 1. Prehistoric years
The oldest, to date, examples of human presence on the island come from the Late and Final Neolithic Period (5300-3400 BC), and were found mainly in caves on the N.E. side of the island (Ag. Georgios at Kallythies, Koumello Archaggelou), while the Early Bronze Age is represented on the whole by the excavation at the “Asomatos” location, between Kremasti and Paradeisi, with large buildings dating from 2400-2300 BC, and movable findings which place the civilization of this period, as well as of the Neolithic, within the broader area of the Aegean and neighbouring Asia Minor. During the Mid and mainly the Late Bronze Age, the neighbouring to the north settlement of Ialyssos (Trianta), seems to have flourished; here was discovered one of the most important towns of the early Late Minoan period in the Aegean (IA, second half of the 16th or according to more recent opinion, the 17th century BC), which bears the traces of the period’s geological disasters and the eruption of the volcano on Thira. One of the island’s three ancient city-states evolved in the same area during the early historical years. After the mid 15th century BC, the presence of Mycenaean Achaeans is testified not only by the name Achaia given to the Ialyssos acropolis during the historical years (nowadays Filerimos), but also by the rich Mycenaean findings mainly from necropolises all around the island.
2. 2. Antiquity
During the Historical Years Rhodes was inhabited by Dorians (one of the main Greek tribes), who spoke and wrote in the Doric dialect. The island was split between Ialyssos, Lindos and Kameiros (or Kamiros), which are mentioned for the first time in Greek literature in the 2nd rhapsody of Homer’s Iliad. These towns, and particularly naval Lindos, participated actively in the Greek colonization of the Mediterranean, with Gela and Acragas (Agrigento) in the West, in Sicily, in the 7th and 6th centuries BC, Phaselis and Soloi on the coast of Asia Minor and Naukrati in Egypt, during the same period. Together with Kos, Cnidus and Halicarnassus they formed the Doric Hexapolis, equivalent to the Ionian Dodecapolis to the north. In the 6th century BC, Lindos experienced its greatest flourishing under the governor Kleovoulos, one of the seven wise men of Greece. The famous sanctuary of Athena on the Lindos acropolis was first fashioned in a monumental manner during this period. After the Persian wars and later the Peloponnesian war, the Rhodians decided to unify in 408 BC and form a new town, Rhodes, to the north of the island. During the Hellenistic years, this town became one of the most important political, naval, economic and cultural centres of the known world, a powerful democratic state among the great Hellenistic monarchies. From the 2nd century BC, historical circumstances brought Rhodes alongside Rome with which it signed a treaty in 164 BC. It remained an autonomous Greek state up to the Roman period, a place of leisure and education for many distinguished Romans, particularly during the 1st century BC, through whom Greek culture and civilization was, to large extent, disseminated to Rome and throughout the West. Rhodes town was partly reconstructed after the destructive earthquake of the 2nd AD and remained the island’s capital to this day.
2. 2. 1. Cultural life on ancient Rhodes
Literature flourished early on Rhodes, which was amongst the seven towns which laid claim to the title of the birthplace of Homer. In the 6th century BC, Peisandros from Kameiros wrote the epic “Heracleia”, while the wise man Kleovoulos was, apart from a politician, a philosopher and poet. His maxim “all in good measure” became celebrated. The lyrical poet Timokreon who came from Ialysos, lived during the early 5th century BC, while the same town was also celebrated for its great athletes Diagoras and the Diagorides. Rhodes’ greatest intellectual flourishing, however, occurred after its unification and particularly during the Hellenistic period, when it attracted apart from locals, a large number of intellectuals and artists from abroad, to whom it extended particular honors. Apollonios from Egypt, who settled on Rhodes and took the name Rhodios, is particularly known for his epic “Argonautica”. Rhodes also cultivated scholarly works, the most important local representative, amongst others, being Timachidas from Lindos, author of the famous “Lindian Chronicle” (99 BC), history, both general and local, rhetoric and philosophy, with Panaitios from Lindos and Poseidonios from Apameia in Syria. The exact sciences, mathematics, physics, geography, astronomy and medicine also experienced a great flourishing. The great mathematician and astronomer Hipparchus from Bithynia lived on Rhodes, which was a centre and starting point for astronomical and geographical observations, for many years.
Rhodes held an important position in the arts both before and after its unification, from the early centuries of Greek history, while its location in the eastern Aegean meant it received influences from Cyprus and the East as well as from mainland Greece and the rest of the Hellenic world. Pottery and the miniature arts have offered many and important examples, while the flourishing and prosperity of the three towns is also testified by the existence of coins from the 6th century. Later, the main type of coin of the unified state of Rhodes was one picturing the head of the god Helios on the front and the rose, on the back. Certain works of the 5th century BC, such as the funerary relief of Krito and Timarista from Kameiros, show the high level achieved by local sculpture workshops.
During the period following the unification, Rhodes developed into an important artistic centre. Already by the 4th century BC, great sculptors such as Vryaxis and Lysippos worked here. Charis from Lindos, was a pupil of the latter; he was the creator of the famous bronze sculpture of Helios, the Colossus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. More generally the Rhodians were excellent bronze artists. But sculpture in marble also flourished and has certain masterpieces to show, especially during the Hellenistic period amongst others. Great painters of the 4th century BC, such as Parrasios from Ephesus and Protogenis from neighbouring Kavno in Karia, also worked here, while the high standards of painting are also revealed by certain mosaic floors found in Rhodes town. Rhodes has been connected to very well known works of Hellenistic sculpture, such as the Nike of Samothrace, the Farnesian Bull and Laokoon, the last great creation of Greek art which, at the same time, signals the end of spontaneous inspiration and the domination of classicism. Laokoon is also connected to the very important findings from the Sperlonga cave in Italy, works by the same artists as revealed by the inscriptions which accompany them. Other important works of Rhodian sculpture now adorn the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes and important museums abroad.
(Tansl. Klio Panourgia)
2. 2. 2. Kamiros
When the Dorians settled on Rhodes in the early first millennium, Kamiros –along with Ialysos and Lindos– was one of the three city-states they founded. The central-western part of the island belonged to Kamiros.
The oldest traces of habitation in the area of Kamiros come from the Mycenaean cemetery at village Kalavarda, north of Kamiros. Kamiros of Geometrical, Archaic and Classical times is mostly known from its cemeteries, which can be found at several locations around the site. They suggest people lived in small settlements. The most important one, with a sanctuary of Athena Kamiras, had already been where the later Hellenistic city was since Geometrical Times. Findings from the waist-duct of Athena’s sanctuary and the cemeteries create the image of a prospering city-state with a robust agricultural production, notable handicraft and commercial contacts with Asia Minor, the Southeastern Mediterranean, Egypt and mainland Greece.
In 411 B.C., on the initiative of Dorieus from Ialysos, son of renowned Olympic champion Diagoras, the three city-states were united into one state with a new capital in the city of modern Rhodes. Nevertheless, the old cities went on living and being reconstructed; a good example is that of Kamiros, which was inhabited up to the early Christian times. In the 19th century, and mostly during the Italian Rule (1912-1943), A. Salzmann and A. Billioti excavated the area uncovering a large part of the Hellenistic/Roman city of Kamiros. Much of it was reconstructed after the great 227/6 B.C. earthquake according to the principles of Hellenistic town planning. The buildings were built in tiers inside a natural valley. Residences were arranged in blocks divided by vertically crossed streets, and the city was divided into zones of public and private use.
At the lowest level of the city, there was some kind of religious agora with sanctuaries dedicated to several deities. At its northwestern part, a Doric temple was built in the late 3rd-early 2nd century BC. It was a distyle amphi-prostyle in antis temple, probably dedicated to Apollo. To the east, the construction of an open-air sanctuary began since the early 3rd century B.C., right where the later classical fountain was located. It comprised of two rectangular squares (a smaller to the south, with a base or altar and a well at its center, and a larger one to the north, with a kind of grate-altar and built benches for those watching the rituals). The two squares were divided by the now reconstructed semi-pier-pillars taken from the façade of the later classical fountain, which had been preserved at their original location. Later on, the façade facing the square of the agora was closed with a wall and a row of semi-pillars. Numerous inscribed bases of votive offerings –including that of the family of Lindian philosopher Panaitios– have been preserved at the sanctuary.
Another outdoor sanctuary, in the form of an enceinte with rectangular altars dedicated to several local deities and heroes in its interior, takes up the northeastern part of the agora. The largest altar was dedicated to god Helios (“Sun”), the protector of the united Rhodian state.
The reconstructed staircase right outside the altar leads to private residences. The main road leading to the acropolis crosses it from north to south. At the beginning of the road there is a small bath structure dating from Roman Times. It had rooms for hot, tepid and cold bath, and a triangular water tank.
The residences of Kamiros, although their current forms date from Roman Times, are believed to have kept the façade of the Hellenistic phase. Their core was a small court-yard with stoae at its three sides, and rarely at the fourth one. The rooms surrounded the court-yard. Those adjacent to the main road were shops. Most residences must have had two storeys.
At the highest place of the city was the acropolis with the sanctuary of city-protector Athena Kamiras. Only the waist-duct with numerous offerings has been preserved from the Geometrical sanctuary. The first temple of Athena is believed to have been built in the second half of the 6th century B.C.. To its north, a contemporaneous large cistern for rainwater collection was constructed. It supplied water to the city and its dimensions were 17.40 X 10.20 m, 3.2 m depth with a capacity of 600 cubics.
After the 227/6 earthquake, the archaic temple was substituted for a new one within a temenos. It was a Doric order peripteral, or according to others amphi-prostyle, temple. In front of that, and along the acropolis, a 200 m long Π-shaped stoa of the Doric order was built. The archaic cistern no longer existed. The stoa was some kind of portico to the sanctuary of Athena, since it had a staircase in the middle leading to the sanctuary. The oblong colonnade crowned the amphitheatrically built city like a theater scene.
2. 2. 3. Ialysos
Along with Kamiros and Lindos, Ialysos was one of the three cities founded by Dorian emigrants on Rhodes in the early 1st millennium B.C.. According to Pindarus, the city was founded by Ialysos, grandson of Helios, the island’s most significant deity. The city controlled the northwestern part of the island.
We draw valuable information from excavations conducted already since the 19th century at the numerous cemeteries surrounding the city (Maritsa, Trianda, Kremasti, Marmaro). Thus, we find out that Ialysos was a significant Mycenaean location during prehistoric times. In the 12th century BC, it was in contact with Attica, as demonstrated by burial customs identical with those of the cemetery of Perati, Attica. In the 1930s, Italian archaeologists excavated systematically the cemetery at Marmaro, where numerous burials dating from the late 8th to 5th centuries were uncovered. From these burials came numerous red- and black-figured vessels from Corinth, Ionia and Attica, which are housed in the Museum of Rhodes.
Little is known about the city’s history: along with Alicarnassus, Kos, Knidos, Kamiros and Lindos it comprised the Doric Hexapolis (“Six Cities”), a federation of religious character. From pseudo-Scylax and other literary sources, we know that Ialysos belonged to the Rhodian tripolis (“three cities”) along with Kamiros and Lindos. In the 3rd quarter of the 6th century, Ialysos came under the influence of Samian tyrant Polycrates. Later on, it came under the control of the Persians along with the rest of the Aegean cities. After 479 B.C., Ialysos joined the Delian League, later called Athenian League. It seems to have been one of its founding members. It was within the zone of Caria and paid quite a high tribute of 10 talenta, later down to 5. It apostatized in 412 B.C. along with the other Rhodian cities thanks to a Peloponnesian fleet. Great athlete and leader Dorieus, descendent of the renowned Diagoras, shone during that period. Dorieus repelled the following democratic revolt. Ialysos thus remained under Spartan control along with the rest of the Rhodian cities. Eventually, in 408-407, the oligarchs decided with residents of Lindos and Kamiros to join politically and form the city of Rhodes. Apparently, many of the residents moved to the new settlement, while those that stayed inhabited Ialysos as members of the Ialysian tribe, divided into municipalities. This political unity did not stop Ialysos from maintaining its connection with other regions of the Greek world. At the same time, 4th century inscriptions refer to the council of Ialysians and a series of other democratic institutions apparently formed after the 395-394 B.C. revolt.
The city has not been systematically excavated. The most significant part of Ialysos is its acropolis, located on mount Filerimos. In inscriptions, it was called Achaia polis. Extant there are the architectural parts of the temples of Athena Polias and Zeus Polieus, dating from the 4th century B.C.. Nevertheless, a nearby waist-duct demonstrates that the sanctuary was already used since the late 9th century. The acropolis was also scattered with fragments of a forerunner of a late archaic temple. Hill Daphni was situated to the northwest of the acropolis. Apparently, Ialysos was rather comprised of a series of interspersed settlements and not a sole urban center. Each had its own cemetery. The location where Classical Rhodes was later built was also within its dominion.
Mintage began very early at Ialysos. They minted coins of silver and amber. The oldest uninscribed series attributed to Ialysos dates presumably from 540 B.C.. A palmette was depicted on the obverse and two concave squares on the verso. The main type of silver stater appeared later, with minor coins of amber. A part of a winged boar was depicted on the obverse, while on the verso was depicted the head of an eagle inside a concave square, also adorned with a floral pattern. Sometimes, we also find the inscription ΙΕΛΥΣΙΟΝ or ΙΑΛΥΣΙΟΝ (IELYSION or IALYSION, meaning “Ialysian”). This type appeared approximately in 520 B.C. and was produced up to the late 5th century.
2. 2. 4. Ancient Lindos
Along with Kamiros and Ialysos, Lindos was one of the three cities founded by Dorian emigrants on Rhodes in the early 1st millennium B.C.. According to Pindarus, the city was founded by Lindos, grandson of Helios, the island’s most significant deity. The city is situated at the southern part of the bay of Megalos Yalos and controlled the greatest part of the western side of the island.
Along with Alicarnassus, Kos, Knidos, Kamiros and Ialysos it comprised the Doric Hexapolis (“Six Cities”), a federation of religious character. It also belonged to the Rhodian tripolis (“three cities”) along with Kamiros and Ialysos. Around 689-588 B.C., Lindians being at the head of other Rhodians built Gela on the southern coast of Sicily, with the help of Cretans. Moreover, Phaselis on the Lycian coast, founded in 691 B.C., was said to have been inhabited by Lindians. This is argued though by historical research. Tyrant Cleobul, who invaded Lycia as well, dominated in the 6th century.
A significant source on the city is the Chronicle of Lindos, dating from Hellenistic Times. It refers to the remarkable events in the history of Athena’s temple. That also tells us Persian Datis besieged the city in 409 B.C., but it fought back and eventually capitulated with the intruder, who actually gave lavish gifts to the temple. After 479, Lindos joined the Athenian League, with an initial tribute of 8 talenta. It apostatized in 412 with the rest of the Rhodian cities and the help of a Spartan fleet. Some time later, the democrats wanted the city to join Athens, but they failed since Dorieus from Ialysos suppressed the revolt. Along with the other cities of the island, it founded the city of Rhodes. Some of its citizens moved to the new settlement, but the majority remained at Lindos. Thus, the Lindian tribe of the city of Rhodes was formed, where Lindians belonged.
A series of ancient settlements belonged to the territory of Lindos, known now from archaeological research and inscriptions. One of the most important of those settlements was that of Vroulii, an onshore settlement built according to a rectangular town planning approximately in 700 B.C.. It was deserted in the 6th century B.C.. Part of it has now sunk. Other minor settlements have been uncovered at Kiotari, Plimmiti, Yermata, etc.. Already since the 4th century, land of Asia Minor at the so-called Rhodian Perea came under the dominion of Lindos.
Te modern city of Lindos has been built right on top of the ruins of the ancient city. Therefore, little is known about the ancient settlement. Amongst the monuments uncovered, the 4th century theater stands out. It was rock-cut on the southeastern slope of the acropolis, with a capacity of 1800 to 2000. The acropolis, referred to simply as acropolis in inscriptions, dominates the valley where the city lied. Its most significant monument is the celebrated temple of Athena Lindia, excavated systematically in the early 20th century by Danish archaeologists. Most findings have thus been transferred to Istanbul. This cult dates from the 8th century and was transferred in the 7th century by Lindian emigrants to Gela, Sicily. The original temple was a Doric amphiprostyle with four columns on each side. It was surrounded by walls marking the temenos and was accessed through a monumental staircase. After being destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt in the 4th century according to the same design. The monumental propylaea and the 21m wide staircase leading to the sanctuary were added then.
Minting at Lindos began in the 6th century B.C., ending in 408 B.C.. Coins of amber and silver were minted. The head of a lion was depicted on the obverse and two concave squares on the verso. In some cases, we also find the inscription ΛΙΝΔΙ or ΛΙΝΔΙΟΝ (LINDI or LINDION, meaning “Lindian”).
There are inscriptions referring to the city’s constitutions: the archon eponymous was the priest of Athena Lindia, while the demos (the people), the Boule (council), the prytaneis (executives of the Boule) and other officials are also mentioned, demonstrating the city’s democratic government.
2. 2. 5. The ancient city of Rhodes
The ancient city of Rhodes was founded in 408/407 B.C., when residents of the homonym island’s three ancient cities (Ialysos, Lindos and Kamiros) decided to found a common governing and residential center, Rhodes, at an existing settlement of smaller range at the northern end of the island.
The 408/407 B.C. confederation was formed when Rhodes was an ally of the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War. In 395 though, residents revolted establishing democracy. A series of turmoil followed, leading to the banishment of the oligarchs. During that period, Rhodians were also members of a coalition of Aegean cities. They had common coinage inscribed ΣΥΝ (SYN=CON), depicting baby Hercules strangling the snakes sent by Hera. These coins date from the late 5th and the early 4th century. Next, Rhodes was a founding member of the Second Athenian League (378-377 B.C.). It revolted though during the Coalition War (357-355 B.C.) coming under the influence of Mausolus, the satrap of Caria. That is when the democratic government was overthrown.
Rhodian Memnon was the Persians’ main advisor in 334-333 B.C. against Alexander the Great. Rhodes was taken over in 332, but the Macedonian garrison was expelled when Alexander died in 332. The city retained its independence ever since, as an ally both of the Antigonids of Asia Minor and mostly of the Ptolemies of Egypt. In the 3rd century B.C., Rhodes turned into a significant regional force.
Funds were raised in 227 from all Greek cities and kingdoms so that the city could be rebuilt after the devastative earthquake that destroyed numerous monuments, among which the celebrated Colossus of Rhodes designed by Chares. Around 200 B.C., Rhodes allied with Rome against the Macedonians and the Seleucids. Rome won, and Rhodes turned thus into a significant force in the Aegean. After Delos was declared an independent port, Rhodes was deprived of its trade privileges and began to decline. Regarding civilization though, Rhodes maintained its radiance up to the late Hellenistic Era. The city remained autonomous up to Augustus’s times. Ever since, it was a prospering regional center within the Roman Empire.
The city of Rhodes, one of the most significant ones in Antiquity, was built according to Hippodamus’s town planning. According to one source, Hippodamus himself designed it, which is highly improbable since by 408 B.C. he would have been too old. According to geographer Strabo, Rhodes was the most beautiful onshore city in Antiquity. When Demetrius the Besieger besieged the city in 305, the original walls dating from 407 were weak and humble. They were soon enhanced and expanded, probably in the mid-3rd century.
The acropolis of Rhodes is on the hill of Agios Stefanos, dominating the amphitheatrically built city, which also had some good ports. Temples of Athena Polias, Zeus Polieus and Apollo Pitheus have been uncovered. To the east has been excavated and restored the Hellenistic stadium at the place of the older 4th century one.
Walls surrounded the city. Every street was 5m wide intersecting with others. There were two major arteries 16 and 16.5m wide correspondingly to the west and east. From sources, we know that it had nice stone-built residences, sewage system for rainwater, an agora (forum), a series of temples and a gymnasium.
Mintage at Rhodes began when the city was founded. Save the alliance’s coins, silver tetradrachma (4 drachmas) were originally minted with the head of god Helios on the obverse and the rose on the verso inscribed ΡΟΔΙΟΙ (Rhodians). The same patterns were preserved up to the Hellenistic Era. They followed what we call the Rhodian weighing standards, with tetradrachma weighing 12.6 gr. The Attalids and the Ptolemies followed it as well, attesting the prevalent position of the Rhodian trade at these kingdoms.
The Hellenistic city’s wealth came from trade. Democratic constitutions of the Classical Era, such as the Boule (council), the Ecclesia (Assembly) and the Archons (officials), were preserved during Hellenistic Times as well, a time when the city was under the control of rich aristocrats, who managed to attract emigrants with their cleverness. The three founding cities of Rhodes (Ialysos, Kamiros, Lindos) were preserved as regional subdued centers, and their residents came under separate tribes and municipalities. The archon eponymous was the priest of the city’s most important god, Helios.
(Transl. Onoufrios Dovletis)
2. 3. Byzantium – Rule of the Knights
As a port and commercial centre, Rhodes was among the first islands to be inhabited by representatives of the new Christian religion, and already by the 3rd century AD, there existed an organized church headed by a bishop. The flourishing of Christianity on the island during the Early Byzantine Period, is shown by the number and importance of the early Christian churches which have been discovered both in the town and around the countryside. Towards the end of the 3rd century AD, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, Rhodes was administratively included in the Province of the Islands (provincia insularum), while during the Middle Byzantine period (after the 7th century AD), it belonged to the theme of the Kibyrrhaiotai of Asia Minor. It fell victim of raids or temporary conquest by the Persians from the 7th to the 9th century and later, repeatedly by Muslim Arab raiders but remained a fixed part of the Byzantine Empire until at least 1204.
After the fall of Constantinople to the Franks in 1204, the then governor Leon Gavalas took the title of Caesar and temporarily established an independent state which included Rhodes and the neighbouring islands. His successors continued to exercise power but recognized the Emperor of Nicaea (and after 1261 of Constantinople). During the same period there was an important influx and presence of Westerners, particularly Genovese, as much on Rhodes as throughout the Empire. After the Genovese, Rhodes and most of the islands which form the Dodecanese passed, from 1309 until 1522, to the religious Order of the Knights of St. John.
From their new position the Knights continued their military action against the Muslim forces, creating, particularly during the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century, serious problems for the Ottoman Empire. For this reason, their Muslim enemies made repeated attempts to gain control of the islands, two of which were the most important: the siege of 1480 which was defeated and the month-long siege of 1522, headed by Suleiman the Magnificent, at the end of which the Knights, after signing a treaty, abandoned the island. At this time a large percentage of the urban population left and eventually settled on Malta.
Relations with the Greek population mainly during the first period were, as in other areas under Frankish rule, tense, but were greatly improved towards the end in the face of the imminent Ottoman danger. During the early period of rule by the Knights, information provided by the Byzantine author Nikephoros Gregoras about the position of the Greeks is revealing; he notes that the inhabitants retained their byzantine and orthodox identity. The church of Rhodes was severed from the church of Constantinople during the period of rule by the Knights but its position remained unclear until the 15th century. In 1474 a treaty was signed according to which the church of Rhodes support the Union of the Churches, meaning that it was recognized by the Pope but retained its orthodox rituals. The church of Rhodes returned to the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate after the ottoman conquest.
2. 3. 1. Cultural life during the rule of the Knights
A particular characteristic of the period, as in other areas under the rule of the Knights, was the strong Western influence, particularly in urban society, in matters such as moral standards, dress, way of life, intellectual and artistic life. Particularly towards the end of the period of the Knights, Rhodes was a centre with roughly equal status among other areas under Frankish rule, such as Crete and Cyprus.
The most important literary work of the period, which is strongly attributed to Rhodes, is by an unknown but talented poet, with strong byzantine memories but also influences from folk poetry; it is entitled “Katalogia, verses on love and romance” (or “Alphabet of Love”). Of lesser literary value, but very useful for the information it provides on the era and the life of the inhabitants is the “Thanatikon tis Rhodou” (“Death on Rhodes”), by Emmanuel Limenitis, a poem which describes the famine of 1498.
Of the arts of the medieval period there will be a particularly brief mention to painting of the byzantine period and the period of rule by the Knights, as architecture is mainly connected to the medieval town. From the byzantine period, the only obviously monumental painted group created before the rule of the Knights (13th century), is found in the chapel of St. George Vardas in southern Rhodes; examples from this period dating from the 8th or 9th century or later, do however exist elsewhere or in older layers of more recently decorated churches. During the rule of the Knights, recent research has identified three main tendencies in painting: the clearly west European, the late Byzantine, of particular quality during the 14th century, and the eclectic, which emerges mainly in the 15th and the beginnings of the 16th century, and which combines elements of byzantine and western art and is the main expresser of the urban society of Rhodes during the rule of the Knights.
(Tansl. Klio Panourgias)
2. 3. 2. Rhodes’ Medieval City
The Mediaeval city of Rhodes is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved Medieval cities; recently, in 1988, it was proclaimed a monument of World Heritage by UNESCO. Its current form is the result of building projects dating to various historical periods, among which dominant is that of the rule of the Knights Hospitallers (1309/10-1522), when the city acquires its strong defensive walls and the great number of ecclesiastical and secular buildings visitors see today.
Our knowledge on the Early Christian and the Byzantine periods, from the foundation of the Byzantine Empire to the domination of the Knights over the Dodecanese (1309/10), is rather limited. During the Early Christian period and until the middle of the 7th century approx., the settlement roughly overlay the ancient city of Rhodes, one of Antiquity’s largest and most splendid cities, founded in 408 BC on the exact same site. The famous Hippodamean city-plan, with its straight and parallel streets intersecting in right angles and creating square building blocks, was still in use during this period with minor deviations. The remains of the large luxurious residences of the Early Christian period unearthed in archaeological excavations prove that the people of that era had the financial ability to undertake grand building projects, comparable to those of the large and wealthy cities on the opposite coast of Asia Minor. This is supported by the discovery of the architectural remains of three large : these featured elaborate sculpted decoration, they were adorned with wall mosaics and murals, while their floor was covered with marble inlays or marble slabs. Most important of these lay at the convergence of the modern streets of P. Mela and Chimaras, on the modern city’s W side, and, its narthex included, measures over 60 m in length, resembling in terms of its architectural form the church of St John the Theologian in Ephesus (approx. 565 AD).
During the following period (7th– 9th century), which was hard for the Byzantine Empire due to the ascendancy of the Arabs, the city of Rhodes shrinks in size (its exact area remains unknown) and acquires its first post-antique fortification. Recent excavations confirmed the in the late 7th cent., Rhodes was protected only by a wall encircling only the area called Kollakion during the period of the Hospitallers’ rule. On the site occupied today by the Palace of the Grand Master lay the citadel, the last place of refuge in time of a siege. At that period, part of the settlement also stretched over a large area outside the walls, and the population took shelter in the castle only in time of an attack. During the Middle Byzantine era, most likely in the late 11th or during the 12th cent., the 7th cent. fortifications are expanded to enfold the formerly extramural settlement. Thus, the city is now divided in three defensive zones: the citadel, on the site of the Palace of the Grand Master, the kastron (castle, called Kollakion during the Hospitallers’ period) and the Chora, the Burgus of the Hospitallers’ period. The period leading up to the Hospitaller conquest sees the erection of some of the most important Byzantine monuments in the city, like Panaghia Kastrou (Virgin Mary of the Castle), the metropolitan church of the Byzantines (11th cent.) and Agios Fanourios (1st half of the 13th cent.). The number of mural compositions dating to this period is limited; among these prominent are the exquisite murals at the small cruciform church excavated recently in Agisandrou Str (late 12th cent.) and the first pictorial layer in the church of Agios Fanourios (13th cent.).
The period following the island’s capture by the Order of the Knights Hospitallers (1309/10) is considered an golden age for Rhodes. The city’s population numbered seven to eight thousand persons. Of these, two thousand belonged to the knight’s order (300 were knights, the rest were ancillaries, soldiers and servants). The city expands to the east (14th cent.), the south (15th cent.) and is nearly quadrupled in size, shedding the elongated oblong shape of the Byzantine period. It now encompasses a semi-circular area of 800,000 m2, around the main harbour, the Emporion, giving the impression that all of the citizens' activities revolve around it – at this period Rhodes is one of the most important trade posts in the Eastern Mediterranean. Apart from the secured with walls, towers and chains harbour of Emporion, the city features two more harbours, the Mantraki, were there was a dockyard, and the auxiliary harbour of Akantia. The harbour of Mantraki was protected by the strong ‘Tower of St Nicholas’ built by the Grand Master Pedro Raimondo Zacosta (1461-1467).
The three part division of the walled city was maintained during the period of the Knights’ rule. To the NW, at the city's highest point, the palace of the Grand Master was built over the citadel of the Byzantine castle; this palace is an imposing rectangular edifice (80x75 m.). It featured a large inner courtyard, and functioned as a military and administrative centre of the city and as a last line of defence in case of a siege.
An inner wall reinforced with towers and with an E-W direction divided the city into two unequal parts. The north, smaller one, the Kollakion, was the city’s administrative centre and was dedicated exclusively to the activities of the knightly order. The main street of the Kollakion, the modern-day Ippoton Str (Knights’ Str), led off from the Palace of the Grand Master and ended in the aforementioned church of Panaghia Kastrou, the Orthodox metropolitan temple, which now functioned as the Latin cathedral. On either side of this street there stood some of the most important knightly secular and ecclesiastical buildings: the ruined church of Agiou Ioanni of Kollakion, the chapel of Aghia Trias (Holly Trinity), the residence of the Catholic archbishop, the ‘New’ Hospital, the residences of the ‘tongues’ (buildings where the knights used to gather to take meals and to hold meetings) and the residences of eminent persons. The naval dockyard and the armoury of the Hospitallers were situated in the NE part of the Kollakion. This is the area where the ‘First’ Hospital of the city was located – caring for the poor and the sick was considered one of the Order’s principal missions.
The larger, south section of the settlement was the main city, the Burgus (Burgum) of the medieval texts, where the rest of the population resided. Many western Europeans lived and worked in this area as well as Armenians, Syrians or Gypsies – merchants, bankers, soldiers, artisans, artists and others. The Jews resided in the SE section of the city, in the area which was called Ovriaki (Jewish Quarter). The heart of the urban social and economical activities was a long and wide road with an E-W direction, where in Ancient and Byzantine times the marketplace was located, but also the Magna et Communis platea or Marcellus Rhodi.By the 15th century,the shops, the warehouses and the workshops are limited only to the south part of the marketplace, while the defensive wall of Kollakion looms at the northern one, surrounded on the outside by a wide moat. Inside the marketplace, large underground silos for storing cereals were dispersed in regular intervals. This was also the location of the Βasilica Mercatorum, where commercial disputes cases were tried, as well as theCastellania, the penal court, one of the most beautiful architectural heirlooms of Rhodes. The walled city was surrounded by the famous gardens of Rhodes; the Garden of the Grand Master stood apart, featuring fruit-bearing trees and exotic animals, as well as statues gathered from the island’s various ancient monuments.
The Hospitallers took great care in the city’s fortifications, which following the incessant expansions and repairs carried out throughout the period of their rule rendered the city virtually impregnable and amazed the travellers of the time. The walls of the city of Rhodes had a perimeter of 3.5 km and their thickness was 14 m at places. They were reinforced by sturdy towers and large bastions, with a wide and deep moat, outworks and defensive breastworks in many vulnerable spots – these walls are among the most important fortification works in the eastern Mediterranean.
Today, a multitude of secular and ecclesiastical buildings from the period of the Knights’ rule soar in the old city of Rhodes. The secular architecture can be divided in two building periods. From the first and longest period (1309/10-1481), very few buildings survive; this is due to the destruction brought about by the Ottoman siege of 1480 and the great earthquake of 1481. For example, the older hospital, the guest house of Agia Aikaterini (built for the distinguished visitors to the city) and a large part of the later hospital date to this period. From the second building phase (1481-1522), on the contrary, there remain a large number of private and public buildings (two-storey private residences, the lodgings of the various ‘tongues’, large storehouses, the famous Kastellania a.o.). The buildings of both these periods were constructed using the local fair-coloured limestone, and ashlar masonry was employed. Their facades are naked, as they were not covered with plaster. The Knights built in accordance with the Gothic building techniques, as these were formulated in the southern provinces of France. In the late 15th and the early 16th centuries, the Italian Renaissance art begins to affect the secular architecture of Rhodes.
Ecclesiastical architecture also flourishes during the period of the Hospitallers’ rule. The Medieval city boasted 35 to 37 churches, out of which 29 still stand today, while some were already in use since the previous period. Seven of these were Catholic temples, while the rest 28 to 30 churches belonged to the Orthodox creed. Most of the churches, irrespective of the dogma to which they belong, follow the Byzantine architectural types – the prevalent form is that of the vaulted hall church. Some temples, though, follow western European architectural types, like the large groin-vaulted churches of Agios Ioannis of Kollakion and Panaghia of the Burgus. There were also a further 23 extramural churches. Many of the churches of Rhodes preserve their mural decoration, which largely follows the Byzantine pictorial and stylistic patterns. Apart from these, some monumental arrangements clearly follow west European models or exhibit the so-called eclectic tendency, in which painters combine Byzantine and west European elements.
The appearance of the medieval city of Rhodes remains virtually unaltered until 1912, when the Italians seize the island and a new city begins to be built outside the medieval walls. The long period of Ottoman rule did not substantially affect the form the city had taken under the Hospitallers, for after its capture (1522), there followed a long period of peace, during which the Ottomans mostly made repairs on damaged buildings and fortifications – they did, however, erect some majestic mosques and various public utility institutions (imarets, Muslim theological school a.o.).
Today, the old city of Rhodes is the liveliest part of the town, offering opportunities for a wealth of commercial, sight-seeing and other activities. A restoration project is underway since 1985, aimed at preserving the city’s monuments and fortifications; several medieval buildings have been renovated and now play an essential part in the life of the modern city.
2. 3. 3. Rhodes' Medieval Walls
The medieval walls of Rhodes are among the most noteworthy fortifications from the period of the Knights Hospitallers rule over the Dodecanese (1309/10-1522), and the eastern Mediterranean in general. The stark volumes of the fortifications with their sturdy towers and the large bastions awed medieval travellers, who considered the city of Rhodes to be an impregnable bulwark of Christianity.
The city’s walls lay at the centre of a larger defensive system put in place by the Knights Hospitallers, not only on the island of Rhodes, but also in the other nine islands comprising the Hospitallers’ state in the Dodecanese. This strong defensive system included a dense network of fortified sites, castles and outposts situated in important strategic positions throughout the ten islands; it is estimated that the Dodecanese featured 56 fortified castles, 21 of which were built on Rhodes. Of these castles, only the one on Rhodes constituted a fortified city with a permanently residing population, the rest were only used as refuges in case of an attack.
The Hospitaller walls visitors see today in the city of Rhodes overlay the pre-existing Early Byzantine castle, which was erected, according to the latest excavational evidence, in the late 7th cent. AD, in a period when Rhodes was plagued by constant Arab raids – during the early Christian Era Rhodes was unfortified, and the famous Hellenistic fortifications had already been abandoned since the 1st cent. AD, and used as a place for extracting building material. The 7th-century walls enclosed the city's NW section, called Kollakion during the period of the Knights' rule. The citadel, the defenders' last refuge, lay at the city’s highest spot, in the area occupied today by the Palace of the Grand Master. The early Byzantine defensive wall, 3-3.5 m thick, featured a rampart and an approx. 10 m moat. Orthogonal towers situated at uneven intervals reinforced the city’s fortifications.
In the late 11th or in the 12th cent., there are renewed efforts to reinforce the city walls and the 7th century fortification is expanded to include the settlement that had in the meantime developed outside the walled area, south of the castle. The city, now divided in three defensive zones, acquires the typical form of Byzantine and western European cities of that time. The Byzantine fortifications were exceptionally strong, as can be gathered by the abortive siege of 1233, when the army of Ioannes Vatatzis failed to wrench the city from Leon Gavalas, who ruled over Rhodes as an independent lord since 1204. We are led to the same conclusion by the fact the Knights Hospitallers had to besiege the city for three to four years before finally capturing it in 1309/10.
This three part division was maintained during the period of the Hospitallers’ rule. Situated on the elevated NW part of the city, the palace of the Grand Master was its administrative and military centre. An inner wall with an E-W direction and reinforced with towers divided the city into two unequal parts. The north, smaller one, the Kollakion, was its administrative centre, and place of residence of the Hospitallers, while the rest of the citizens lived in the larger south part, called Burgus in the Medieval sources.
The threatening presence of the Ottomans forced the Hospitallers to take special interest in fortifying the city. In the first years of their rule on Rhodes they made only small-scale modifications and repairs on the pre-existing Byzantine walls. From the 15th century onwards, great care is taken to strengthen and expand the fortifications, in order to protect the extramural districts that had developed in the meantime, but also to modernize the city’s defensive system so as to render it capable of withstanding attacks from the newly-introduced gun-powder artillery – the first such attack was launched against Rhodes in 1444, when the city was besieged for 40 days by the army of the Sultan of Egypt. The fortification works continue with greater intensity in the late 15th and the early 16th cent., for, after an Ottoman siege in 1480 and a strong earthquake in the following year that had laid the city to waste, the walls were in a poor state.
The first fortifications date from the period of the first Grand Master, Helion de Villeneuve (1309-1346). His successors took great care to strengthen the mainland walls and to reinforce the city’s seaside fortifications. Under Antoine de Fluvian (1421-1437) the fortifications are expanded towards the north, and this expansion is continued in the following years, when the city acquires its current size, covering an area of 800,000 m2. Jiovanni Battista degli Orsini (1467-1476), devoted his energy into reinforcing the walls, charging Pierre d’ Aubusson (1476-1503), his successor in the office of the Grand Master, with the duty of overseeing the building works. Pierre d’ Aubusson, an engineer himself and knowledgeable in building techniques, undertook very extensive works aimed at strengthening the city’s fortifications; it is telling that his coat of arms was inserted in at least fifty spots on the fortifications. Pierre d’ Aubusson’s successors, and especially Fabrizio del Caretto (1513-1521), successfully continued their predecessors’ undertaking, in order to render Rhodes’ fortifications able to withstand gun-powder artillery attacks.
Rhodes’ walls with a perimeter of approx. 3.5 km and measuring 14m in thickness in some parts, were divided into sectors, each of which was defended by the men of one of the eight ‘tongues’ that made up the Order of the Knights Hospitallers. The walls were reinforced by round, semi-circular and polygonal towers placed in regular intervals; until 1450, these had been autonomous and stood at some distance from the walls, with which they communicated via draw bridges, which meant that they could be isolated during a battle. From the middle of the 15th century, however, the requirement to make them strong enough to withstand artillery attacks, led to their attachment to the wall with the use of buttresses. In the corner towers, the introduction of firearms necessitated the addition of strong, significantly protruding bastions which allowed defenders to fire flanking-shots. The walls were transformed into a continuous platform for cannons, the arrow-windows and battlements were replaced by gun-openings protected by strong parapets, in order to withstand enemy mass-attacks. The city’s fortifications were also supplemented by a large moat measuring 20 to 60m in width, a formidable trap for assailants. Strong outworks, i.e. low parapets featuring battlements, were built in many parts of the wall’s outer side, reaching down to the moat and protecting the wall’s base. Several sections of the moat featured strong elongated breastworks, compact earthworks which defended the walls from artillery fire. Outside and around the moat, there existed a zone devoid of buildings and any kind of vegetation, so as to negate the enemy any protection from the defenders’ shots and also to prevent assailants from nearing the fortifications.
The Hospitallers went at great lengths to fortify the city from the seaside. Grand Master Philibert de Naillac (1396-1421) erected a strong tower, the so-called ‘Naillac’s Tower’, in the W extremity of the city’s central harbour, the Emporion (emporium), which up to then was protected by a not so sturdy wall. Soon after, Grand Master Jean de Lastic (1437-1454) built the so-called ‘Tower of the Windmills’ on the harbour’s E extremity. The entrance to the Emporion was barred with a chain fastened on these two towers. Grand Master Pedro Raimondo Zacosta (1461-1467) built the strong ‘Tower of St Nicholas’ in the auxiliary harbour of Mantraki, which was not conquered in the 1480 siege.
During the period of Ottoman Rule (1522-1912), the form of Rhodes’ walls remained largely unaltered, as the Ottomans made only repairs on the ruined sections, without adding new defensive elements or undertaking any fortification modernization efforts. During the period of Italian Rule (1912-1948) the fortifications were systematically preserved and restored. Bombardments during WW II caused extensive damage to the fortifications, which the Archaeological Service of Greece started repairing in 1947. The onerous task of restoring Rhodes’ fortifications has been undertaken by the ‘Office for Repairing and Conserving the Medieval City of Rhodes’ instituted in 1985 by the local government and the Ministry of Culture.
(Transl. Nikolaos Koutras)
2. 4. Ottoman rule
After the conquest of Rhodes, the Greek orthodox population was forced out of the walled town and settled in areas (marasia) in its suburbs. Rhodes was demographically regenerated by the transportation of people from Asia Minor to the island. The population of Rhodes town consisted of Muslims, Christians and Jews, while the countryside remained, in its majority, orthodox. Around the end of the 18th century the population of Rhodes – according to particularly optimistic evaluations – numbered 28-29.000 people, of which 8-10.000 lived in the town. At the end of the 19th century the population fell, due to the demographic decrease of the Muslims, who at one time formed 1/3 of the inhabitants, as well as the migration of the orthodox population to Asia Minor and Egypt. The number of Jews increased and reached 3.600 in 1900.
As far as the communal system was concerned, Rhodes never experienced the autonomy enjoyed by other islands of the Aegean. Head of the Orthodox Greeks was the Metropolitan bishop, while on the islands there existed, continuing an older tradition, a developed local government. Only in the mid 19th century do we see the board of elders become an organized community institution; this falls within the more general developments of this period of reform.
Information and facts relating to the economy for the 16th and 17th centuries are quite sparse, but things appear to change after the 18th century. Rhodes was an important naval and shipbuilding centre while Lindos seems to have flourished both in shipping and commerce. Trading with the Ottoman Empire once again brought a number of Franks to the island; they settled in the Niochori neighbourhood. The foreign travelers, who visited the island from time to time, recorded the important news connected to the place and the inhabitants’ life. Earthquakes, epidemics and piracy, as in older times, continued to trouble the inhabitants throughout this period.
Rhodes, like Kos, could not participate in the Greek Revolution, but many distinguished members of its society had joined the Society of Friends (Filiki Heteria), in contrast to smaller islands of the Dodecanese which temporarily overthrew ottoman domination and contributed, Kasos in particular, to the success of the Revolution at sea. During this period, governor on Rhodes was the notorious Şükür Bey, an ex-Christian from Mani, whom, within the climate of suspicion against the Christians, seems to have protected the latter from violent repercussions.
Many Rhodians fled to revolutionary Greece or assisted the struggle from abroad. Of those known today, Panagiotis G. Rhodios was the most important military and political figure of the first years of Independence; he served as Army Minister during the premiership of I. Kapodistrias and was a noted man of letters.
2. 4. 1. The Jews of Rhodes
The Greek-speaking Jewish community of Rhodes, which was badly treated during the anti-Semitic reign of the Knights at the beginning of the 16th century at which time many were forcefully Christianized, was demographically revived by an influx of Spanish-speaking Jews from Thessaloniki after the Ottoman conquest. The small Jewish community on Kos originated from the Jews of Rhodes. Involved mainly in commercial activities, the Jews of Rhodes formed a flourishing community which played an important role in placing the island at the centre of the financial networks of the eastern Mediterranean. As so many of the same religion, they paid a heavy toll in the Nazi concentration camps during the WW II.
(Transl. Klio Panourgias)
2. 4. 2. The Ottoman architecture of Rhodes
The seizure of Rhodes, the capital of the Hospitalers, by the Ottomans in 1522 was a turning point for the future evolution of the city and its monuments. In the total 390 years of the Ottoman rule the island met no external threat and this is why the city’s medieval fortifications were not significantly changed. Today the city’s medieval fortress survives almost intact since 1522, whereas one can also see remarkable architectural monuments of the Ottoman architecture renovated.
2. 4. 2. 1. The new organization of the city
With the establishment of the Ottomans in the city, the Christians were expelled from the castle, where they dwelled before. After the capture of Rhodes the use of the public buildings was changed according to the conquerors’ new needs. The palace of the Great Master was turned into a prison and the knights’ hospital into a barrack. The castle was divided into two quarters, the Muslim and the Jewish one, the former already existing since the time of the Knights. The Christian quarters, the Marasia, were rebuilt outside the city walls.
In the Knights’ “square”, now covered by the low constructions of a typical oriental “bazaar”, impressive mosques, public baths (hammam), fountains, as well as benevolent foundations, such as imaret (poorhouse), medrese (theological school), library, schools etc. were incorporated.
2. 4. 2. 2. The transformation of churches into mosques
The churches of the Byzantines and the Knights inside the city walls were turned in mosques with the addition of a minaret on the outside and a mihrab (praying niche) in the inside. Other churches were turned into small mosques (mescid) that were abandoned by the early 20th century. Wall frescoes and mosaics of the temples were covered with plaster according to the laws of the Muslim religion.
Some of the churches turned into mosques were:
Panaghia of the Castle: it must have been the Metropolis of the Byzantines and later of the Franks. It was named Enderun Camii or Kantouri. Its inside was not altered at all by the Ottomans.
Saint John of the Knights: according to the tradition, it was the place where Suleiyman made his first prayer and in front of the authorities read the Hatti Sherif (supreme decree of the Sultan). The temple was immediately turned into a mosque.
Ilk Mihrab: it is translated as the first praying niche. That caused the mosque to be wrongly considered as the first Christian church that was turned into a mosque after 1522.
Dolapli Camii: the mosque is in the Jewish quarter near Ilk Mihrab.
Demirli Camii: the mosque with the iron bars. It takes its name from the iron bars that surrounded it. The mosque used to be a Byzantine church. At its S and SE side there used to be the rooms of a Muslim theological school (medrese). It was destroyed during WW II.
Bab-i-Mesdud: the mosque of the closed door, next to the Gate of Saint Athanasios. According to the tradition, the Sultan, after the capture of Rhodes, entered the city through this gate, which had to be blocked so no other conqueror could use it. But the Persian inscription above the gate explains that the doorway was just blocked in the course of repairs of the walls.
Hurmalı Medrese: (the theological school with the date-palms). It used to be the main church of a Byzantine monastery, probably of Saint Mark that in 1457 was given to the Franciscan monks.
Mourat Reis mosque: opposite the building of the Prefecture. It took the name of Suleiyman’s admiral, Mourat Reis, who was killed during the siege of the city and was buried on that spot. His sarcophagus is preserved inside a türbe, a kind of circular mausoleum. In the area of the mosque there are many tombs of important people who died in exile in Rhodes. It used to be the catholic church of Saint Anthony.
2. 4. 2. 3. Muslim temples
Apart from turning churches into mosques, the Ottomans also built new mosques or small mosques (Mescid) that are splendid examples of Islamic architecture, such as:
The complex of Suleiyman’s mosque. It is on the highest part of the bazaar and it included an “imaret”, that until recently functioned as the municipal mess, the famous Muslim library of Ahmet Hafuz and the clock tower. The imaret, the seminary and the library, that preserves many Persian, Arabian and Ottoman manuscripts, still survive. The mosque’s form of today dates back to 1808.
İbrahim paşa mosque: at the centre of the walled city, near the Bazaar. It was built in 1531 and it was the oldest religious building of the Ottomans.
Receb paşa mosque: it was built in 1588 and it is the most important Ottoman building. On the outside, some Persian brightly coloured ceramics are still saved inserted on the wall. Its interior is lavish. The verses of the Qur’an that decorate it are of enamel, whereas on its east side there is the türbe with the sarcophagus of the mosque’s founder Receb paşa.
Mustafa Sultan mosque: it was built in 1765 and it lies in the courtyard of the baths of Suleiyman.
2. 4. 2. 4. Ottoman public baths (hammam)
Out of the two great complexes of Ottoman public baths, only one is still preserved today, the Yeni Hammam (New Hammam) or Baths of Sultan Mustafa III, built most probably in the same time as the nearby mosque, i.e. the second half of the 18th century. It was erected at the square of the mosque of Sultan Mustafa. It is also known as “Suleiyman’s baths” and it is considered to be one of the most important provincial baths of the Ottoman Empire. After renovation works that were completed, it still houses the Municipal Baths.
The oldest central public bath, known as Eski Hammam, built right after the seizure of the city by the Ottomans, was severely damaged and demolished, after being judged as crumbling during the first years after the annexation of Rhodes by Greece.
2. 4. 2. 5. Ottoman public buildings and private houses
Outside the city walls, the Ottomans erected some public buildings, such as the High School, today used as the courthouse, and the Konak (Ottoman prefecture), today used as the post.
The streets and the houses were preserved, in the same form as in the Knights’ era, with some new additions. In their ground floor a great arched portico is opened, while on the first floor there is a veranda, where the doors of the house’s rooms are opened. Windows are covered by wooden lattices and by the protruding stone balconies and the shahnishin, wooden covered balconies that face the street and allow the women to look outside without being seen.
The inside of the houses is divided in two rooms: the harem, a small room where women live, and the selamlik, a reception room, where visitors are welcomed by the men only, since women are not allowed to appear. Rooms are decorated with coloured carpets, wood-carved elements, while the wooden or stucco ceilings are elaborately decorated.
The Villagurt knight building on the Street of the Knights that was turned into a palace during the 19th century is a characteristic example of a house of the Ottoman period. It should be noted that today it functions as a monument that can be visited, while its west wing is about to house Rhode’s Prehistoric Museum.
2. 4. 2. 6. Destructions and salvage work
During the second half of the 19th century the monuments of the medieval city were severely damaged due to an explosion of gunpowder in the temple of Saint John at Kollaki and mostly due to a series of destructive earthquakes.
It was, however, the bombings of the Allies against the Italians and the Germans during WW II that caused one of the biggest destructions in the history of the medieval city, since it destroyed many of its more important monuments. The great earthquake of 1957 made things worst for any historical building that was still preserved.
The efforts to renovate and conserve important medieval buildings started already during the years of the Italian occupation. In 1988 Rhodes was enlisted in UNESCO’s catalogue of cities of Universal Cultural Heritage with the aim to protect and elevate the medieval city. From 1985 until today a program of intervention on the monuments, the fortifications, houses, neighbourhoods and open spaces at the points that were hit by the bombing is taking place. In the near future works of even bigger scale are about to start for the further elevation of the monumental space.
(Transl. Ioannis Nakas)
2. 5. Italian rule
Another important milestone in the history of Rhodes and the Dodecanese was the occupation of the islands by the Italians in 1912 and the end of Ottoman domination. The Italian presence which lasted for roughly thirty years could, today, be considered a parenthesis between ottoman domination and unification with Greece, as it was for other Greek areas; it is however unknown how long it would have lasted if the WW II hadn’t happened and if the powers of the Axis had not been defeated. The Greek population initially greeted the Italians with enthusiasm, as liberators, but they quickly realized their true intentions and began to react; this reaction culminated in the “bloody Easter” of 1919, during which demonstrations took place, followed by clashes, loss of life and exile.
The Italians, with the prospect of a permanent stay on the island and driven by modernizing pursuits and the nationalistic projection of Italian history and culture within the political framework of Fascism, executed important works of road-building, urban planning, elevation of natural beauty, archaeology and protection of monuments. These interventions left an indelible mark on the island’s physical appearance, particularly in Rhodes town. Italian occupation, ended essentially in 1943 with Italy’s defeat, and officially in 1948 with the island’s unification with Greece. This was preceded by short periods of occupation by the Germans (1943-1945) and the British (1945-1947).
2. 5. 1. Italian architecture on Rhodes
The period of Italian rule left its mark on Rhodes, as on the rest of the Dodecanese, with a series of public buildings constructed on the island and the town’s urban planning enforced in 1935.
The Italians showed particular interest in the capital of the Dodecanese where they created large streets and avenues, built impressive buildings and adhered to strict regulations for the uniform construction of private houses within the town’s medieval walls, which they kept untouched.
Examples of Rhodes’ Italian architecture are the Foro Otalico, the wide coastal avenue at Mantraki and buildings such as the Government House, the Casa del Fascio, the Albergo delle Rose (Hotel of the Roses), the custom house, the port office, the del Fiore library, the Casa Balilla, the churches of Saints John and Francis, and others.
A variety of styles has been used in these buildings, such as eclecticism with combined renaissance and baroque elements (Government House), a mixture of “orientalist” and “arabesque” elements (Fish market), a combination of the two aforementioned styles (Girl’s School), and the “fascist Style” (Justice Palace).
2. 6. Unification with Greece – the situation today
Administratively, the Dodecanese were organized into the Dodecanese Prefecture, with Rhodes as its capital. Immigration was rife until the 1950s and 1960s but decreased later and stopped completely with the growth of tourism, which brought unprecedented prosperity. This growth was further strengthened by the stability of the postwar years, occasionally disrupted by short and sporadic crises in Greek-Turkish relations.
Many Greeks from the rest of Greece have settled here, while in recent years there is also an influx of economic immigrants from abroad. The island’s multicultural diversity, visible in its numerous historical monuments, is also reflected in the existence of a small number of Jewish and Muslim Rhodians.
The island’s northern triangle experienced an impressive growth in population. Quickly, however, the negative consequences of uncontrolled growth and the one-sided promotion of tourism became clear. Today, the island is trying to turn towards higher quality tourism or / and to encourage other areas of employment, such as agriculture and other professions, but a permanent and satisfactory solution has not yet been found.
3. Traditional and modern architecture
3. 1. Settlements on Rhodes
The island’s main settlements extend a few kilometers outside Rhodes town, roughly along the axes which connected the three ancient towns of Lindos, Ialysos and Kameiros. Apart from Rhodes town and Lindos, which have a continuous historical presence as seaside settlements and were always fortified, the other settlements were inland and always agricultural.
The existence of certain settlements near the sea which date from the early Christian years, from the 7th to the 9th century, were destroyed by pirate raids and their inhabitants found shelter either in existing inland settlements or built new ones, away from the sea, many of which were fortified.
On Rhodes, there is a direct relationship between the shift in economic conditions and the geographical position of its settlements. So, the growth of tourism, particularly in the postwar years, and the resulting economic growth of settlements neighbouring Rhodes town led to the gradual abandonment of the hinterland and the expansion of the settlements located near the large urban centre.
The settlements of Rhodes, from antiquity to this day, can be divided into three categories, according to shape, organization and location:
Settlements until the 7th century were of a naval or agricultural nature with closed building structure and a normal urban planning organization (Vroulia, Kameiros and ancient Rhodes town).
The settlements established between the 7th and the 16th century, when pirate raids and wars forced settlements either to be fortified (medieval Rhodes town), or to be near a fort (Lindon, Asklipeios, and others), were of central, multi-central or linear urban planning and composition. The largest of these, with narrow, labyrinthine roads present a purely medieval picture. Many of these survive to this day.
Few settlements established after Ottoman domination, when the need for fortification ceased to exist, were of multi-central, central or linear urban planning (Embonas, Masari, Kalavarda, Agios Isidoros, and others).
3. 2. Houses on Rhodes
Houses on Rhodes have particular characteristics connected to their shape, function, method of construction, interior layout and decoration, formed by a variety of external and internal factors. External factors include the influences from foreigners, Franks, Ottomans, Arabs, which were incorporated with local traditions in a variety of shapes, while internal factors were the evolution of social structure as well as the inhabitants’ decent. As far as traditional architecture is concerned, the building materials come from the immediate environment. The interior decoration of the Rhodian house is rich, a sign of financial prosperity, and includes embroideries, woven textiles, plates and jugs on shelves along the walls. On many occasions the plates occupy the entire surface of the long wall which is thus called piatelotoichos (plate wall).
3. 3. Types of houses
Agricultural or folk single room. Formed by a single room with an entrance along one long wall, it can be seen in almost all the villages on Rhodes. The spread of this type of house throughout the Dodecanese has its roots in the period of the Jesuits and the system of family and inheritance rights, according to which the first born daughter inherited her mother’s property. This resulted in the breaking up of the building into many small single-roomed houses. Here the family performed all its activities.
The semi-urban house. Appears early on in areas in which the population’s economic prosperity came from the cultivation of large expanses of land and involvement in shipping and commerce. It is usually a variation of the traditional agricultural house, with strong influences from foreign elements and is opulently decorated both internally and externally.
Lindos Mansions. Because of Lindos’ peculiarity, a particular type of mansion house can be seen here, which combines insular, Byzantine, medieval and Arab influences. Most of these were constructed at the beginning of the 17th century and survive in good condition. Those built at the end of the 18th and the beginnings of the 19th century are less splendid, at least in their decoration, with clear neoclassical influences.
Towers. Apart from the public buildings which survive in old Rhodes town and date mainly from the era of Jesuit domination, there is a series of medieval buildings throughout the island’s countryside. These are two-storey rectangular buildings of an older fortified style which were gradually developed and influenced by folk and, later, by neoclassical architecture.
The Turkish house. After Ottoman domination, the picture of Rhodes town changed to a degree. Public buildings and houses in Kollakio were turned into ottoman dwellings and Bourgo was divided into two sections/neighbourhoods, one for the Ottomans near Kollakio and one for the Jews on the other side. New elements were added to existing buildings, balconies, terraces, etc, while new buildings of an entirely eastern type were also constructed.
Marasia. These are peculiar, long rectangular buildings found in Marasia and present Ottoman influences.
Traditional settlements on Rhodes are Agios Isidoros, Arnitha, Archaggelos, Asklipieio, Afantou, VAti, Gennadi, Eleousa, Kattavia, Kiotari, Koskinou, Lindos, Mesanagros, Monolithos, Rhodes town, Profilia, Siana and Psinthos.
4. 1. The Archaeological Museum
The Rhodes Archaeological Museum is housed in the Hospital of the Knights, with exhibits which, chronologically cover the period from the Mycenaean to the early Christian era. The museum’s collection contains funerary findings from ancient Ialysos and Kamiros and statues from the archaic, classical, Hellenistic and roman period, amongst which the Grave stele of Krito and Timarista from Kamiros (end of the 5th century BC). Of interest is the Rhodian amphora of Fikellura style which dates from the 6th century BC, while also on show are mosaics of the Hellenistic period from Rhodes town and the early Christian period from Karpathos, as well as funerary slabs from the period of the Knights.
(Transl. Klio Panourgias)
4. 2. The Municipal Art Gallery of Rhodes
The Municipal Art Gallery of Rhodes was founded in 1959 in the medieval town of Rhodes. The idea for its establishment was inspired by Andreas Ioannou, a distinguished scholar of Modern Greek art and prefect of the Dodecanese in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In a period when Greek art blossomed and gained international distinctions, the need for the foundation of a museum dedicated specifically to the 20th century painting occurred. Ioannou undertook the responsibility to coordinate artists, critics, sponsors and politicians, aiming to create a representative collection in Rhodes, which would be housed in a independent building in the centre of the town.
During the following years the Municipality of Rhodes continued the enrichment of the museum. Thus, the collection of the Municipal Art Gallery of Rhodes, which was recently renamed into Museum of Modern Greek Art, is today considered to be exemplary and complete. It includes artworks of the pioneer masters of the beginning of the 20th century (K. Parthenis, K. Maleas and others) and of artists known as "The generation of the ‘30s" (such as F. Kontoglou, Y. Tsarouchis, Sp. Vassiliou, N. Engonopoulos, N. Hadjikyriakos - Ghikas, Theofilos). There are also exhibited paintings of the Greek artists with international orientation and career (G. Bouzianis, G. Spyropoulos, A. Kontopoulos, A. Akrithakis, G. Gaitis, Pavlos, P. Tetsis, V. Kaniaris, N. Kessanlis, K. Tsoklis, D. Mytaras, A. Fassianos, Th. Stamos etc). Finally, the collection of artworks by recently established artists is particularly interesting.
In the central building of the Art Gallery part of the engravings collection is on display and periodical exhibitions are organised regularly, mainly about contemporary Greek artists, but also about foreign artists as well. At the same time, the Museum of Modern Greek Art of Rhodes expands to two more areas. Since 2002 the painting and sculpture collections have been transferred to a three-storey new building. Moreover, the Centre for Modern Art, which functions in a separate space since 2001, undertakes initiatives for the appointment of modern artistic tendencies. Some of the most interesting attempts towards this direction are the "Art Interventions in the Medieval City of Rhodes" from artists such as Theodoros, Steven Antonakos and Kostas Tsoklis, as well as "MoTeR 1" and "MoTeR 2", a project including performances, exhibitions, lectures and cultural events which aim at promoting the work of contemporary artists.
Most of the Museum of Modern Art of Rhodes activities are supplemented by publication activities, namely exhibition catalogues, monographs of the artists, studies on Modern Greek art issues and educational booklets.
(Transl. Georgia Kalogeropoulou - Panagiotis Karioris)
4. 3. Folk Art Collection
The island’s Folk Art Collection is housed in the Knight’s Armoury, on Argyrokastrou square. The museum contains objects of everyday use, costumes, furniture, etc, which represent the folk art of Rhodes but also the rest of the Dodecanese.
4. 4. Rhodes Aquarium
The building of the Hydrobiology Station at Akra, Myloi, on the island’s northernmost tip, was built between 1934 and 1936 as the Reale Istituto di Ricerche Biologiche di Rodi (Rhodes Royal Marine Biology Institute) and is an example of the island’s Italianate architecture. The Ministry of Culture has described it a historically important monument, a distinguished example of the International Style of architecture.
Today, it functions as a Museum-Aquarium and research unit and belongs to the National Centre for Marine Research. Visitors can admire various species of fish, mollusks, urchins and marine turtles.
5. Folk culture – folk art
Finally, it is worth making a brief mention of the island’s folkloric richness, which has preserved to this day many very old elements of tradition in all its forms: the folk Rhodian house, which presents variations from the town to Lindos and the Koskinou village and the most simple farmer’s house found in entirely agricultural villages. Dating mainly from the early 20th century there are also fine examples of neoclassical houses found in Rhodes town and in Trianda (Ialysos), while opulent houses dating from the island’s Italian rule survive, to an extent, in the then new town (Niochori). Unfortunately, wrong types of development and modernization in its worse sense have largely destroyed most of the traditional buildings in both towns and villages; however, some have survived as have the traditional settlements of the old town and Lindos. Of folkloric interest are local costumes, folk arts, the sperveria (embroidered covers for the wedding bed), and pottery with its famous lindian plates, now considered imports from Anatolia. This art was continued during the period of Italian rule and the postwar period with the Greek ICARO industry which manufactured plates, earthenware and other objects. Folk poetry and other elements of folk life have, thankfully been recorded and preserved by worthy researchers in all their richness.
The island’s most recent dialect which remains strong amongst the elders, particularly in the countryside, belongs to the southern modern Greek idioms and presents similarities with Crete, the rest of the Dodecanese, Asia Minor and, mainly, Cyprus.
(Transl. Klio Panourgias)