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Rhodes Travel Guide

History of Rhodes

The origin of Rhodes is related with a amazing myth which Pindar and other ancient writers liked to say in their works. According to the myth, Zeus decided to apportion the islands of Greece to the other Gods. The Sun God Helios selected Rhodes, whereas it emerged from the azure blue sea, swamped it with his eternal light and made it the most amazing island. Helios named the island after the nymph Rhode, with whom he felt in love. She was the daughter of the god of the sea, Poseidon. However, Rhodes was known in ancient times by several other names, among them, Ophioussa, for the many snakes that lived there; Elaphousa, because the Rhodians brought dears to kill the snakes that were there ; Asteria, for its clear blue and starry sky; Makaria, for its arresting beauty; Telchinia, because its first inhabitants were said to be the Telchines; and Attavyria, after its highest mountain, Attavyros.

From the Stone Age, Rhodes has been attacked and manipulated to a greater or lesser degree by several eastern Mediterranean civilizations, including the Minions (1700-1600 BC), coming from Crete, Telchines Heliades, Phoenicians, Archeans and Dorians under the leader Tlepolemos, who according to tradition shared the island between the three towns of Kamiros, Ialissos and Lindos in 1100 BC. In approximately 700 BC those three cities, together with the island of Kos and the cities of Cnidus and Halicarnassus on the coast of Asia Minor, founded the Dorian Hexapolis, and alliance which was called the Pentapolis, when Halicarnassus with drew from it. This alliance survived till 408 BC. The three ancient town states of the island, united and concentrated their power into a new settlement, a new city state was founded (Rhodes). It was erect from the plans of Hippododammos from Milos.

After the fall and fragmentation of the Empire of Macedonia, the island of Rhodes fought for its freedom and, after a long siege, triumphed in 305 BC. It was during this period that the statue of the Colossus , one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was constructed and straddled the harbour. During this period, Rhodes became an important naval power where art and literature flourished. Their activities in trade and in the founding of colonies were unparalleled for the time. The fast rhodian ships sailed to almost every corner of the Mediterranean, bringing home wealth and glory. In order to ensure that navigation was properly ordered, the Rhodians introduced a system of international maritime law which was one of the most important early legal texts and was still used through the Roman period.

Because of its strategic position, Rhodes was dominated successively by Turks, Persians and Saracens; then the Venetian and the Genovese took the island, followed by the Knights of Saint John who fortified the City of Rhodes, leaving their marks on the island. In 1523, after a long siege, they were pursued away by the Ottomans, who took direction of Rhodes. The island remained under Ottoman regime till 1912 (despite the Greek War of Independence). During the First World War, Rhodes was taken by the Italians who only left the island when they capitulated to the Allies in 1943. Then, the Germans took it over for a short period, followed by the English who maintained their regime till 1948, the year during which the island of Rhodes, and all the others islands of the Dodecanese, became a part of the newly erected Greek State.

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