PhotoThe island of Rhodes is associated with many wonderful myths. According to one of them, when Zeus defeated the Giants and became Ruler of the Earth, he decided to divide it among the Olympian Gods. Helios, the sun god, was absent during the split and everyone forgot about him. When Helios returned, he complained to his father and made him promise that the land which would emerge from the bottom of the sea would belong to him. While Helios was talking, a beautiful island, full of flowers, emerged from the sea. Helios, content, cast his light upon Rhodes and made it the most beautiful island in the Aegean Sea. According to another myth, Helios fell in love with the Nymph Rhodes, the beautiful daughter of Neptune. Helios cast his light upon his beloved, thus creating the island. The union of Helios and Rhodes, produced seven sons and a daughter, Alektrona, who passed away very early. Three of Helios's grand-children, Kamiros, Ialissos and Lindos built the three major cities of the island, which they named after themselves. According to another tradition, the island was named after the roses which were in abundance in ancient years, while other names of the island were Ofioussa (from the snakes), Asteria (from the stars in the sky), Makaria (from its beauty), Telchinia (from the first inhabitants) and Ataviria, from Ataviros, the island's highest mountain.



PhotoAccording to archaeological findings, Rhodes was inhabited for the first time during the Neolithic Era. In 1,500 BC, the Minoans settled in the area of Ialissos and the Achaians, who came later, spread around the island. The Dorians conquered Rhodes in 1,100 BC and established three major cities: Lindos, Ialissos and Kamiros. During the Dorian years, Rhodes became a significant military and commercial force. In the Mediterranean Sea in 700 BC, the three major cities of Rhodes, along with Kos, Knidos and Alikarnassos, formed the Six Dorian cities and ruled the Dodecanese area. The golden period of Rhodes is estimated between the 5th and 3rd century BC. The island became a powerful naval force, as its trade and economy flourished. In 480 BC, the island was forced to support the Persians in the naval battle of Salamina, while it became a member of the Athenian Alliance two years later. The island's growth began with the union of the three major cities and the establishment of Rhodes in the northwest, in 408 BC. The island expanded, obtained its own coin and emphasized the development of Art and Literature. The famous School of Rhetoric in Rhodes attracted many famous students, Greeks and Romans.


PhotoAfter the 3rd century BC, the decline of Rhodes began. The island first became Rome's ally, then it was conquered by the Romans, yet it had a relative autonomy and it continued to be a naval power. After the Roman Empire's division in 395 AD, Rhodes came under the command of the Byzantine Empire. During the Byzantine Era, the island suffered numerous destructive pirate raids, which led to its desertion. The Saracens occupied Rhodes in the 7th century AD, while the Arabs destroyed it again in the 9th century. In 1082, the Venetians used the island's port as a trade centre. In the centuries that followed, the island was occupied by the Crusaders and the people of Genova, only to end in the Turkish Occupation. In 1203, Rhodes was ruled by Leon Gavalas, who was overthrown by the people of Genova who ruled Rhodes for several years.


PhotoIn 1306, the people of Genova sold Rhodes to the Knights of the Battalion of St John, who inhabited the island in 1309, establishing a hieratic state, the Latin and French language being the formal languages, while the Great Magistrate was appointed governor of the island. Rhodes thrived during their rule. The Knights organized a powerful commercial and military fleet, they built the Medieval City and fortified it with invincible walls. The Knights remained on the island for 213 years, until 1522, when the last Great Magistrate was forced to submit Rhodes to the Turkish Sultan, Souleiman the Grand, after a strong resistance from the Knights and the locals, which lasted six months.


PhotoRhodes remained under Turkish Occupation from 1522 until 1912, when it declined. The island was condemned to darkness and misery, and the Greeks left the town to create small settlements away from it, called "marasia". At the same time, they handled trade skillfully, traveling to distant places, bringing food, clothes, silver and perfumes, thus allowing few townlets to advance. The town of Lindos evolved into a semi-industrial centre. In 1912, the island came under the Italian command, until 1948, when Rhodes was united with Greece in the Treaty of Paris.