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Rhodos

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CITY TOUR

About Rhodos

Born from seismic activities in ancient times, Rhodos was one of the islands contended by Gods, that finally went to Helios, after he discussed with Zeus and convinced him that he had been forgotten to be taken into account during the drawings. Another myth, on the other hand, states that Rhodos was the result of the love between Helios and the nymph Rhode. Whatever happened, the island, thanks to its geographical position, enjoyed an important role for the development of commerce since prehistoric ages, hence assuring its lands a three millenary history (the oldest objects in the island date back to the Neolithic epoch).

Even if the best known city in the island is Rhodos (exactly where you're going to land for the vacations), some other smaller cities have had in the past years equal or more importance, such as Lindos, today part of the Unesco Heritage. Everyday tourists come to visit either the Acropolis or the village, that still retains memories of the VIII and IV century BC. And, if you had been a traveller of those ancient times, you could have met Helen of Troy, Menelaus - his consort - or Alexander the Great stopping by, in order to pay a visit to the temple of Athena Lindia. The maritime importance of Lindos was so high in the past, that the sages wrote a law of navigation that constituted the basis on which Grotius later developed the Mare Liberum. Anyhow, in Lindos, do not miss the chance to swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Bay.

One of the most significative moments in the history of the island was the year 700 BC, when the League of the six cities was founded, hence boosting the importance of Rhodos that, in the III century BC, had the dominion over the Aegean waters. Slightly before that, anyhow, on the northern point of the island the today administrative center of Rhodos (Rhodos...) was founded. The city was built on a circular plant, with walls at its defense and intersecting perpendicular streets, where theaters, gymnasiums and temples were built. The medieval city still retains this plan, visible in the modern topography.

By the way, the island fell under the dream of Alexander the Great and - some time later - under the expansion of the Roman Empire, passing - after its division- under the protection of the Byzantine Empire. Many occupations followed, giving to the island either periods of maritime importance to flourish, or decadence. In 1310 the Knights Hospitaller took over Rhodos, transforming it in a hub of commerce and ideas, expanding the city, making of it one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean, but in 1523 they had to escape, after that Suleiman the Magnificent had attacked and laid siege to the island. Rhodos was hence absorbed by the Ottoman Empire and - only at the end of WW2, after an Italian occupation - was to become part of the Greek republic.

Rhodos has been famous for hosting one of the seven wonders of the world. The construction of the Colossus of Rhodos started in 270 BC, and was erected to celebrate che victory of Rhodos over the Macedonians of Demetrius, in a war that had begun in 305 BC. The winners sold the weapons of the enemy in order to gain the money necessary to build the statue, that was dedicated to their God, Helios. Chares of Lindos, the sculptor that was charged with the project, created a statue that was 33 meters tall. When over, it guarded the seaport of Rhodos during 56 years, before being destroyed by the earthquake of 226 BC. The knees of the Colossus broke and it fell into the water. Even if it could have been rebuilt, the Rhodians refused, after that a consultation of an Oracle stated that, if they would have, calamities would have hit the island. Only in 654 AD the Colossus was disassembled and the Arabs that had conquered the city sold the fragments of the statue. Today, the Rhodos seaport where it was standing doesn't hold any memory of it, but it's a place of high traffic, with ferries that connect the island to many of the other ones scattered in the Aegean Sea. By the way, there is also a second truth...the most probable. it could be that the statue was not standing at the gate of the port, but in the hills around the seaport of Mandraki.

The city of Rhodos is divided into Modern and Medieval (furtherly divided into Kollakio - Castle - and Chora or Burgo) and hosts several marvels. In the modern city you will have the chance to see the medieval windmills on the seaport of Mandraki that were used to grind the grain unloaded from the vessels, or Mount Smith, where the Acropolis of Rhodos is. The name derives from Sir Smith who had placed there a naval observatory, in order to check the movements of Napoleon in the war against Turks. By the way, there you will find a number of ancient monuments, such as the Stadium or the temple of Apollo Pizio. Besides, the view from the Acropolis on the city and on the sea takes the breath away.

Before entering the Medieval city by one of its several gates, pay a visit to the Church of the Annunciation, beside the seaport, either inside, or outside. Today the church is the dome of the city, and it has been built as a copy of the one of St. John that had been erected in front of the Palace of the Grand Master. You can enter into the Medieval city - as we said - by several gates. On of these is the Gate Amboise, that connects to the Ippoton, the street where the Knight Hospitaller lived (today occupied by around 6000 people). In order to understand how the Medieval city was organized, you should remember that the Kollakio (Castle) was occupied and used by the Knights; and the Chora (at the ancient time it was known as Burgo), in the southern sector, was otherwise occupied by Greeks. One of the first things you will see, is the Palace of the Grand Master, once administrative center of the Knights, was built on the temple of Helios with architectural Byzantine influence. Even if the Turkish occupation ruined it, and an explosion in 1865 destroyed it, it was later rebuilt by the Italians in 1940. All the Hostels of the Knights, named after the language they used to speak, were on the Ippoton, the medieval street best maintained in all Europe, that ends in front of the Church of Mary, on place Alexandrou, where the Folklore museum and the Archaeological institute are today. Do not forget to look for Aphrodite's temple, if you wish to ask her a lover. And, exploring the Chora, remember to pay a visit to the Mosque of Suleiman and the Municipal Baths, reminders of the Turkish occupation.

What else? Rhodos is full of wonders either natural or historical. The best way to discover either its treasures, or it's bays - such as Lardos Bay - is by renting a scooter and stopping where the eye is captured...But, if you have a chance, try also a cruise to the nearest islands, such as Symi, Tylos or Chalki.

From the island of Helios, you will come back home relaxed, happy, bronzed...and - if you will have taken the time to go shopping too - with some packages of the famous ceramics of Rhodos...

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